From Conspirators to Contactees, Part 3. Conspiracy Now

Roger Sandell
Magonia 8, 1982

In March 1967 Luis Castillo, an American petty criminal, was arrested in the Philippines under suspicion of conspiring to assassinate president Marcos. Under interrogation he told a strange story, which he adhered to even under hypnotic questioning. Over a period of years, he claimed, his mind had been controlled by some mysterious agency.

He said that he remembered being taken to a ‘factory’ outside Chicago where he met a woman he did not know. She assigned him tasks that he carried out in a trancelike state. In 1963 while performing one of these tasks he was driven to Dallas in a black car, accompanied by a man with ‘oriental eyes’, who ordered him to shoot President Kennedy from a high building. [1]

There was a brief contact between Philippine and US law enforcement agencies but there was no evidence to support Castillo’s story, which he soon retracted. The incident was forgotten except by some of the American underground press who, with a faith in hypnotic regressions paralleled by some ufologists, continued to claim that the Kennedy assassination had been solved. [2]

Although this story was told in the context of the legends and rumours of international conspiracies controlling political events, such as have been discussed in the previous parts of this article, Magonia readers will surely have noted many similarities to UFO reports. The black car and oriental-looking men feature in many Men-in-Black reports, while the hypnotic regression reveals a dreamlike experience which recalls many close encounter and abduction cases, as do the subsequent charges of official cover-up.

This case provides a considerable insight into why, as previously documented, conspiracy theories have exerted a surprising influence in the UFO field. Both ufologists and conspiracy theorists believe in forces of superhuman power capable of controlling the human mind. At the same time the activities of these forces are being covered up by governments, who may also be under their control. [3]

The idea of the zombie assassin carrying out missions for some hidden conspiracy is only one of a gamut of similar stories in conspiracy lore, such as the idea, common amongst US ultra-rightists, that the fluoridation of water supplies is a device for drugging entire populations.

UFO cultism has many parallel features, from Ray Palmer’s ‘Dero’ controlling the human mind via ray machines to the Earl of Clancarty’s speculations that aliens are kidnapping humans and returning them with their minds controlled. Some of the most enlightening tales of this nature were to be found in the pages of the defunct American newsstand magazine, Official UFO. Early issues of this magazine maintained a fairly high standard, but it descended through numerous changes of editor and publisher, to become an exponent of the most bizarre cultist ideas. In one issue of the magazine [4] are to be found article advocating the ideas that aliens posing as summer-camp counselors are brainwashing children, and that some psychiatrists are really aliens controlling the minds of their patients. These ideas closely reflect fears on the US Right that education is turning out ‘Godless’ children, and that mental-health programmes are a communist plot.

From whence do these ideas spring? Rather surprisingly, a clue comes from Milan in the year 1630. While the city was being ravaged by a plague, a witch scare developed. It was started off by a man who claimed to have been picked up by a stranger in a black carriage driven by black horses. The stranger took him to a house full of ghosts and demons who were preparing poisons to spread the plague. He was offered large sums of money to help administer the poisons to his fellow citizens. [5]

This story combines several UFO archetypes, such as the black vehicle and the meeting with conspiratorially minded supernatural beings. Indeed it is strongly paralleled by claims made by more recent conspiracy-mongers, such as the nineteenth century French hoaxer, Leo Taxil. Taxil claimed that an alleged Masonic-Satanic laboratory under the Rock of Gibraltar was busy manufacturing diseases to spread throughout Europe. [6. See also part one of this article] More recently, Hugh McDonald, former director of security for Barry Goldwater, has claimed that Soviet aircraft are releasing disease germs into US air space [7]; and from the other side of the political fence Castro has alleged that the USA has been releasing diseases to destroy the Cuban sugar harvest.
It is hard to resist the conclusion that conspiracy theorist and UFO cultists are purveying modern versions of mediaeval and renaissance ideas that saw humanity at the mercy of powerful, evil beings

When we look at parallels like these, it is hard to resist the conclusion that both conspiracy theorist and UFO cultists are purveying modern versions of the mediaeval and renaissance ideas that saw humanity at the mercy of powerful, evil beings. Nor is there anything very surprising about such an identification. Ufologists such as keel, Vall?e and Creighton have all noticed parallels between UFO reports and demon-lore. When the American playwright Arthur Miller wished to find a metaphor for the US during the McCarthy era, he wrote his play The Crucible depicting a seventeenth century witch-hunt, a parallel which a recent anthropologist has portrayed in more detail. [8] Several theorists link today’s alleged conspiracies with groups accused of Satanism in the Middle Ages, such as the Jews and the Knights Templar. [9]

It is interesting to note in this context that supporters of the born-again Christian groups in the USA have been disseminating both theories interpreting UFOs in demonological terms, and conspiracy theories involving Satanism. Hal Linsey, the best-selling US evangelical writer, in his most recent book sees the trilateral commission (an American think-tank which features in many conspiracy theories) as preparing the way for the Antichrist. [10] Other writers in a similar vein have denounced rock music as being controlled by conspirators, who incorporate into records sound patterns to control the mind. [11]

If evil conspirators gifted with superhuman power and near omnipotence do control human affairs, what hope is there for the world? It is hardly surprising that some conspiracy believers have looked to supernatural assistance for deliverance. In the previous part of this article we saw how George Adamski believed that the futuristic science of his Venusians would save the world from evil conspirators whose power was based on the monopoly of raw materials; and how the Mankind United group believed that the plans of the hidden rulers would be frustrated by a secret group of wealthy but benevolent supertechnologists.

For some, the revelation of the existence of the conspiracy comes directly from superhuman forces. John Day, the British contactee, has recently been informed by telepathic means that John Lennon was assassinated by the CIA – using Mark Chapman as a programmed zombie killer – to prevent him using his influence and money to set up a massive peace movement [12]. Some underground papers in America have advanced similar ideas. [13]

A very interesting combination of UFO reports, supernatural visions and conspiracy mongering is provided by the cult which has arisen around Veronica Leuken, a New York housewife who has been seeing visions of the Virgin Mary since 1970/ Crowds, mostly of working class, Catholic women, have gathered to keep vigils with Mrs Leuken, and have had their faith confirmed by the appearance of lights and discs in the sky above them. In her visions Mrs Leuken is told by the Virgin, of evil and corruption within the Church itself. Pope Paul VI was kidnapped by evil cardinals and an impostor substituted, she is told, and John Paul I was poisoned.

Even those conspiracy theorist who do not consider themselves possessed of a supernatural revelation frequently act as if they are part of some mighty struggle in which absolute good confronts absolute evil. The Black Hundreds, the antisemitic group which first disseminated the Protocols of Zion took as their emblem a picture of the Angel Michael fighting a dragon. This is an image taken directly from the Book of Revelation, an apt comment on the apocalyptic concept of their own role. This emblem was later adopted by the fascist Romanian Iron Guard. Variants on the theme of the warrior knight fighting the evil monster are still in common use as visual images of groups believing in conspiracy theories. (Similar images appear in the unpublished political cartoons, allegedly prepared under extraterrestrial guidance, by the British contactee ‘Norman Harrison’.) [15]

What functions do beliefs like these fulfill for their advocates? Science fiction has frequently illuminated the mythic significance of contemporary legends and belief, and in this context the 1979 BBC-TV serial and associated novel Quatermass is enlightening. It takes place in England of the 1990s, ravaged by economic collapse and urban violence. The story reveals that this is the effect on the human mind – especially that of youth – of a malignant forcefield surrounding the earth. In the climax this forcefield in neutralised, and the final image is that of a traditionally idyllic rural scene. [16]

Conspiracy theorists and some cultists appear to inhabit an extremely similar world, in which crises in society are not seen as a result of any flaws within that society, but simply as the product of pure evil operating from outside. If these forces and conspiracies can be unmasked and destroyed, a vaguely defined utopia can be brought about without any need for further social change. In a similar fashion contactees often give glowing descriptions of utopian societies on distant planets, without giving any description of the politician and economic arrangements of these societies.

In 1975, Jimmy Hoffa, a US labour racketeer whose web of intrigue extended into American administrations, the Mafia and possibly the CIA, mysteriously vanish, probably murdered by his associates. Shortly afterwards, a retired Georgia auto-dealer described the landing of a UFO, from which a voice cried out, “I am Jimmy Hoffa … I am Jimmy Hoffa … ” As so frequently happens, the message coming from the UFO is not from a distant planet but from our own minds, our own times and our own society. [17]

  1. Waler Bowart, Operation Mind Control, Fontana, 1978
  2. D. Russell, ‘I Know Who Killed JFK’, Village Voice, 1 September 1975
  3. For the facts on mind control experiments, see Marks and Marchetti, The CIA and the Search for the Manchurian Candidate
  4. Official UFO, June 1978.
  5. Charles Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, (repr.) Wordsworth Reference, 1995. Quoted in Roberts and Gilbertson, Dark Gods, Spearman, 1980.
  6. Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide.
  7. Macdonald and Broca, Appointment in Dallas, Zebra Books, 1975
  8. New Society, 8 October 1981
  9. See for example: Nesta Webster, Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, and Roberts and Gilbertson, op. cit.
  10. Hal Lindsay, Countdown for the 80s
  11. New Musical Express, November 1981
  12. The Supernaturalist, no. 1, autumn 1981.
  13. New Musical Express, op. cit.
  14. Fortean Times, no. 28, 1979.
  15. Nigel Watson, ‘Stranger in the City’ MUFOB, spring 1979.
  16. Nigel Kneale, Quatermass, Arrow, 1979.
  17. Moldea, The Hoffa Wars, Paddington, 1978.