A Universe of Spies. Part 1.

Martin Kottmeyer
Magonia 39, April 1991
Is Another World Watching? (1951)(1; Why Are They Watching Us? (1967)(2); Are We Being Watched? (1980)(3). Three titles culled from the UFO literature introduce us to a dominant anxiety fuelling the UFO mythos. Once the existence of UFOs is accepted, their purpose must be addressed. The possibilities number in the neighbourhood of two dozen, but thinking tends to gravitate to the idea of secret, stealthy, or covert observation. (4)

Ufologists have preferred the terms reconnaissance or surveillance to describe these operations. Some, like Keyhoe, are more precise and call it spying. Spies evoke connotations of furtiveness, moral ambiguity, and psychological complexities which the other terms skirt.

It is my feeling that no psychohistory of the UFO mythos will get very far without an understanding of how the aliens-are-watching-us anxiety came to occupy a central place in ufological thought. A review of the concept seems a logical starting place in this exploration. Explaining it all will be deferred to till after we prove there is something here that really does need explaining.

The flying saucer era opened in an atmosphere of deep intrigue. Kenneth Arnold saw nine objects brush by Mount Rainier at speeds far beyond that of anything then being tested by the US Air Force. Arnold believed they were unconventional craft being tested by the government. The public was fascinated. The Pentagon was, however, confused. It wasn’t anything of ours, they were fairly sure. Was it something of the Soviets? They got a lot of German scientists from World War II and we knew the Nazis had a lot of wild ideas. But why fly it here? It set a lot of heads scratching in the intelligence community.

One of the cuter ideas to get kicked around was that the Soviets were trying to stir up a hysteria to make us fear the A-bomb was not the ultimate weapon. The FBI was asked to do background checks of saucer reporters to see if they had Communist leanings. By late July of 1947 it was determined that notion at least was wrong. (5)

Arnold said a woman rushed
into room, took one look at him,
then dashed out shrieking:
“There’s the man who saw men from Mars!”

The linking of flying saucers to extraterrestrials happened very quickly. Within four days of his sighting, Arnold said some woman rushed into a room, took one look at him, then dashed out shrieking: “There’s the man who saw men from Mars!” (6) Hal Boyle, an Associated Press columnist, spoofed going on a trip in a flying saucer with a green Martian named Balmy. (7) DeWitt Miller spoke of the objects being not just possibly from outer space, but from other dimensions of time and space. (8)

On 8 July, the Army issued a statement expressing assurances that the devices were neither bacteriological devices of some foreign power nor secret Army rockets, and they were NOT from outer space. (9) On 10 July, Senator Taylor expressed the wish that saucers would turn out to be from outer space so as to unify Earth. (10) This idea was apparently common coin for it had been satirised already two years earlier in a favourite Fritz Leiber story 'Wanted-An Enemy'. The plot consisted of an earthling trying to convince peace-loving Martians to make a token invasion and looting of the Earth. He explains wistfully that mankind needs an enemy to unify him. The discussion convinces the aliens that they should reconnoitre the Earth and verify that our psychology was as the visitor claims. If true, they would exterminate us. Why take chances? (11)

Amid these extraterrestrial speculations can be found an early expression of the idea that aliens are watching us. Loren Gross has found a little news article dated 8 July bearing the headline ‘Eyes from Mars’. In it R.L. Farnworth, a Fortean and President of the US Rocket Society, noted that spots in the sky were nothing new and opined, “I wouldn’t even be surprised if the flying saucers were remote-control eyes from Mars.” (12)

Despite the talk of Martians in the air, few took the idea seriously. Of 853 cases collected by Ted Bloecher for his Report on the Wave of 1947, only two witnesses openly expressed the opinion that the objects they saw were space ships. Kjell Qvale was first and dates to 5 July. (13) The other one was by John H. Jannsen and is of a rather special nature. To begin with, he is one of the few witnesses who took a photograph of the saucers. He states: “I really believe these craft to be operated by an intelligence far beyond that developed by us earth-bound mortals and am inclined to agree with the theory they are space craft from outer space.”
He theorises about magnetic and antigravity propulsion methods, then continues: “In all probability these are reconnaissance craft and as they have been seen all over the world and not only in this country, are probably making a thorough study of us and our terrain and atmosphere before making any overtures.” It is all reminiscent of Keyhoe, but undeniably precedes him by two years. Several weeks after this sighting, Jannsen has another encounter. His plane is stopped in mid-air for a number of minutes while being scrutinised by a pair of discs hovering nearby. Since this makes Jannsen a repeater, Bloecher counsels suspicion. The case is, however, an instructive microcosm of reconnaissance beliefs generating reconnaissance experiences in a period when practically no one had such expectations. (14)

A Gallup poll in August showed 29% of the public thought the saucers were optical illusions or imagination. Ten per cent thought they were hoaxes. A fair percentage, 15%, agreed with Arnold that the saucers were a US secret weapon. Only 1% thought they were Russian secret weapons. If anyone volunteered the opinion that the saucers were extraterrestrial, the pollsters did not bother to tally them. (15)

The intelligence community continued to ponder the mystery in the months following the 1947 wave and was less inclined to dismiss it as imagination. A letter between General N.F. Twining and Brigadier-General George Schulgen in September demonstrates belief by the intelligence community that the phenomenon was real and either a domestic high-security project or a foreign nation had developed a new form of propulsion, possibly nuclear. (16) Sometime in this period a school of thought grew which held that the phenomenon was probably interplanetary. A Top Secret Estimate of the Situation by some of these people allegedly exists which recommended the military be put on an alert footing. The Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt Vandenberg, however, vetoed any such drastic official action. (17)

An Air Intelligence Report dated 10 December 1948 concluded that the flying objects were probably Soviet and pondered the reasons for the flights: 1) Negating US confidence that A-bombs were the ultimate defence; 2) Photographic reconnaissance; 3) Testing US defences in advance of a one-way all-out attack by strategic bombers; 4) Familiarising their pilots with our topography. The report expressed doubts about each of these ideas. With regard to the reconnaissance notion the report pointed out that sightings rarely involved areas we considered strategic. Maybe it was an effort to fill in gaps that were left from intelligence the Soviets gathered in liaisons with American industry in World War II. Some sites like Oak Ridge, Las Cruces, and the Hanford works which had sightings would not have been accessible to them. (18)

Almost simultaneously, in a report for Project Sign dated 13 December 1948, James E. Lipp offered the first thoughtful analysis of the notion that extraterrestrials were involved. From the text it is evident that various people had begun taking the possibility seriously. One paragraph dealing with the reconnaissance concept is particularly notable.

One other hypothesis needs to be discussed. It is that the Martians have kept a long-term routine watch on Earth and have been alarmed by the sight of our A-bomb shots as evidence that we are warlike and on the threshold of space travel. (Venus is eliminated here because her cloudy atmosphere would make such a survey impractical.) The first flying objects were sighted in the spring of 1947, after a total of 5 atomic bomb explosions, i.e. Alamagordo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Crossroads A and Crossroads B. Of these, the first two were in positions to be seen from Mars, the third was doubtful (at the edge of the Earth’s disc in daylight) and the last two were on the wrong side of Earth. It is likely Martian astronomers with their thin atmosphere, could build telescopes big enough to see A-bomb explosions on Earth, even though we were 165 and 153 million miles away, respectively, on the Alamogordo and Hiroshima dates. The weakest point in the hypothesis is that a continual defencive watch of Earth for long periods of time would be dull sport, and no race that even remotely resembled man would undertake it. We haven’t even considered the idea for Venus or Mars, for example.

Lipp didn’t foresee the possibility that the watch could be turned over to computers and photoelectric sensors and other monitoring devices like remote satellites which would leave Martians free to consider more exciting pastimes and still be alerted to special developments when they happened. Still,the paragraph was not the sort that could be dashed off in a couple of minutes. Determining the visibility of A-bomb blasts from Mars is no simple matter. Lipp also cited problems which rendered the saucers being space ships inconsistent with known physical principles. He also remarked on the lack of purpose apparent in various cases. (19)

In another appendix to Project Sign, G.E. Valley did a little brainstorming of the various possibilities. He astutely remarked of Soviet secret weapon theory: “It is doubtful a potential enemy would arouse our attention in so idle a fashion.” He toyed with the idea of space animals explaining saucer behaviour. He junked notions about ships propelled by rays or magnetic fields on straightforward physical considerations, but held out the possibility of an antigravity shield. The notions that seemed to be left were mass psychology or extraterrestrial visits prompted by A-bomb development. (20)

The public knew little more than the fact that saucer sightings kept popping up from time to time. The Mantell case, in particular, in January 1948 seemed to remove the possibility it was all some kind of joke. The Air Force seemed to be taking it seriously, but it still downplayed the materiality of the phenomena as well as the Soviet or outer space notions about their origin. The editor of True magazine thought their behaviour was “damned queer” and called in Donald Keyhoe to snoop around aviation circles to see if he could turn up anything. (21) Keyhoe thought the Air Force’s treatment of the Mantell case looked like a cover-up. he was also unimpressed by their handling of the Gorman and Chiles-Whitted cases. A former intelligence officer provided Keyhoe with a scenario in which saucers were remote-control “observer units with television eyes sent from an orbiting space base”. This would be a prudent preliminary step to determine if we were a “fiercely barbarous race” before exploring the world in person.

These contentions formed the basis of Keyhoe’s infamous article for True magazine 'The Flying Saucers are Real'. Its conclusions included:
  • 1. For the past 175 years, the planet earth has been under systematic close-range observation by living, intelligent observers from another planet.
  • 2. The intensity of this observation, and the frequency of the visits to the Earth’s atmosphere by which it is being conducted have increased markedly during the past two years.
  • 3. The vehicles used for this observation and for interplanetary transport by the explorers have been identified and categorised as follows: Type I, a small nonpilot-carrying disc-shaped aircraft equipped with some form of television or impulse transmitter; Type II, a very large (up to 250 feet in diameter) metallic disc-shaped aircraft operating on the helicopter principle; Type III, a dirigible-shaped, wingless aircraft which, in the Earth’s atmosphere, operates in conformance with the Prandtl theory of lift.
  • 4. The discernible pattern of observation and exploration shown by the so-called “flying disks” varies in no important particular from well-developed American plans for the exploration of space expected to come to fruition within the next fifty years. There is reason to believe, however, that some other race of thinking beings is a matter of two and a quarter centuries ahead of us. (22)
The True article was one of the most widely discussed magazine articles of its time. It was discussed by prominent newsmen like Walter Winchell and Frank Edwards. The article was expanded into a book bearing the same title later that same year. In May 1950 the Gallup poll showed the American public was leaning to Arnold’s view. Twenty-three per cent now believed saucers were an American secret weapon. Those who believed they were illusions or hoaxes had dropped to 16% of the sample. The Russian secret weapon idea now garnered 3% of the public. The pollsters had to add a new category called “comets, shooting stars, something from another planet” and placed 5% of the public into it. (23)

Keyhoe’s book contained material from documents in the intelligence community which had been released. Keyhoe saw contradictions which he thought indicated a cover-up, but which are more simply explained by the fact that intelligence had not come to any consensus. Keyhoe claimed many scientists had come to believe the saucers contained “spies from another planet”. Even Nazi scientists believed were were being observed by space observers, according to Keyhoe, and their conviction had led to their experimentation with aerofoils. (24)

Keyhoe bolstered his observer unit theory by pointing to what he perceived as a pattern of focused interests. In the 19th century, interest was on the most advanced part of the globe – Europe. It shifted to America in the late 19th century as industry and cities sprang up. Then came surveys on both continents as aircraft were developed. Observation increased in response to the V-2s during World War II. Still more increases followed our A-bomb explosions and a second spurt followed Soviet A-bomb testing. Recent interest had focused on our Air Force bases and atomic testing areas. Encounters like the Gorman incident were viewed as a test of our aircraft capabilities. Keyhoe concluded that observation had become intermittent and that the long-range survey would continue indefinitely. Their plans concerning us were incomplete so no contact seemed evident. (25)

Three years later, Keyhoe came out with a sequel, “Flying Saucers from Outer Space”. He articulates in greater detail the clustering of saucer sightings over various locales. These are: 1) atomic energy plants at Oak Ridge, Hanford, but most frequently over Los Alamos; 2) Air Force bases; 3) Naval bases; 4) the high-altitude rocket base at White Sands; 5) aircraft plants; 6) major cities. The repetitive nature of some of these saucer visits leads to the speculation “it looks like they’re getting ready for an attack”. The dominant theme, however, remains that this is a new phase of “surveillance by some planet race” prompted by radio and television signals. Keyhoe unmodestly quotes a friend as saying: “But one thing’s absolutely certain. We’re being watched by beings from outer space. You’ve been right from the very start.” (26)

The Robertson Panel looked at the same clusterings and was not so sure. Yes, they saw the cluster round Los Alamos. Maybe it had to do with the over-alertness of security at such a secret installation. In counterpoint, it was noted that similarly sensitive atomic energy establishments showed no saucer clusters. They also noted that many of the sightings were over areas with no strategic worth whatsoever. They concluded that the evidence of any direct threat from these sightings was wholly lacking. Concern that these sightings might clog emergency channels with false information or be used by the enemy for purposes of psychological warfare led to the recommendation that a programme of education be set up “to reduce the current gullibility of the public”. Aime Michel would also speculate that Keyhoe’s clusters resulted from the atmosphere and hyper-alertness present at secret atomic and military facilities. People end up fearful of many things in such establishments. (27)

Keyhoe’s thesis in these early books was impressionistic and airy speculation. He cites no evidence of downed saucers with TV cameras. He cites no alien informants explaining their missions. We don’t even see talk of glints of sunlight off telescopic lenses. If Keyhoe heard of the Janssen case, which seems doubtful, he never used it. Janssen was the only person in the 1947 wave who had the impression the saucers were scrutinising him. Everyone else more or less described saucers going along just being amazing. A couple describe them making alarming swooping motions. Loren Gross points to five cases of UFOs making circling motions which he felt could be indicative of spying, but such behaviour is also consistent with birds getting navigational bearings or travelling on thermals. (28) There really wasn’t any evidence to build on. Some of the cases even argue against it. Keyhoe expresses the opinion: “The Mantell case alone proves we’ve been observed from space ships”, yet the object was nonsensically huge from a reconnaissance perspective. Why utilise a thousand-foot craft if they possess speedy, manoeuvrable devices only 6 to 8 inches wide as supposedly proved by the Gorman case? (29)

Whatever their faults in retrospect, Keyhoe’s writings were seminal in directing the future course of the UFO mythos. Keyhoe was read by many, heard in the media by many more. Ufologists adopted his thesis sometimes explicitly, often implicitly.

Albert Bender in the first issue of his fannish publication Space Review (1952) spoke of the Earth being “under observation of some greater power in space”. (30) Harold T. Wilkins wondered aloud if the saucermen had terrestrial spies and spoke of small observation discs sending information to half-mile wide “brain ships”. (31) Morris K. Jessup referred to some UFOs as “small, agile observers” which are sent out on exploratory missions from larger vessels dwelling in the “earth-sun-moon gravitational neutral”. (32) Aime Michel, despite his doubts over Keyhoe’s clusters, nevertheless believed that aliens have been watching us for some time. (33)

Gavin Gibbons followed Keyhoe in some detail. In The Coming of the Space Ships he reported on a pattern of sightings in his vicinity in England which led him to believe there was little doubt saucers represented a “reconnaissance preparatory to a landing in force”. He offers a fourfold typology of saucers in place of Keyhoe’s threefold typology. His consists of: I) vast metallic discs; II) cigar-shaped craft; III) scout craft; and IV) unmanned scanners, small spheres, remote-controlled, non-metallic and maybe liquid or vaporous. One notable feature of this forgotten book is its bringing into play a report that genuinely supports the aliens-are-watching-us concept. A person named Roestenberg witnessed strange men who gazed down at him and his family from a saucer tilted at an angle for detailed viewing. (34)

The Lorenzens of APRO added new intensity to the reconnaissance concept as the UFO mythos entered the sixties. They asserted saucers adhere to a pattern indicating the Earth is subject of a geographical, ecological and biological survey accompanied by military reconnaissance of the whole world’s terrestrial defences. This pattern, they further claimed, could not be mimicked by psychic projections on the part of thousands of people. They theorised saucers represented a flotilla of reconnaissance ships concerned about protecting intelligent beings who as recently as 1877 had migrated to Mars on what are now known as its moons Phobos and Deimos. Comparatively small in number, they would be preoccupied with our future scientific and military developments. Since this pattern showed a progression not only from reconnaissance to surveying, but from surveying to hostility, the Lorenzens believed the saucer problems embodied “an urgency that defies expression”. (35)

Frank Edwards, basing his work on the work of Keyhoe and NICAP, also advanced the idea that the UFO phenomenon was progressing through a series of phases. The foo fighters of World War II, for example, now represented the second phase of the alien plan and represented close-range surveillance by instrumented probes. The seventh phase was to be Overt Landing and was due, by his reckoning, in 1968 or 1969. (36)
Brinsley le Poer Trench also believed
the Earth has been under constant surveillance
for a very long time. He added for good measure
“…and how could we possibly reject it?”

James E. McDonald, another major figure of the sixties, expressed a belief in patterns indicating “something in the nature of extraterrestrials engaged in something in the nature of surveillance lies at the heart of the UFO problem”. (37) The popular books of Brad Steiger suggested the existence of a “steady pervasive program of invasion or antagonistic observation”. (38) Brinsley le Poer Trench also believed the Earth has been under constant surveillance for a very long time. He added for good measure “…and how could we possibly reject it?” (39) Rank-and-file ufologist Robert Loftin also concurred that the UFOs engaged in surveillance. (40)

Far and away the best argument for the surveillance concept was made by Otto Binder in his 1967 magnum opus What We Really Know About Flying Saucers. In the finest empirical tradition he cited a series of reports which at least do show aliens engaged in activities suggesting a programme of observation. Saucers are shown manoeuvring around objects in an inquisitive manner; aliens are shown taking samples of soil, vegetation and animals; aliens are shown to be watching people; and saucers are shown bearing searchlights. With this array of evidence he concluded with a measure of logical force that a Project Earth Reconnaissance exists which could mean either future conquest or peaceful scientific exploration.

Against the idea of future conquest Binder noted that twenty years had, by then, already passed with no concerted hostile move and thus he predicted that no secret takeover was in the offing. (41) In a sequel titled Flying Saucers Are Watching Us Binder backdates the saucer phenomenon into deep history. The human body’s many mysteries speak to our world being a vast biological laboratory and breeding ground. “A vast, never-ending world-wide game of observing humans under all kinds of conditions and situations” seemed apparent. (42)

Sensible as Binder’s argument is, it is compromised by the fact that Keyhoe’s argument had altered people’s expectations. By 1968, 40% of the public believed people had seen space ships that did not come from this planet – a far cry from 1950 when pollsters did not even give the idea a category to itself. (43) The belief was generating experiences which proved it. This is evident in The Interrupted Journey when Betty Hill read one of Keyhoe’s books The Flying Saucer Conspiracy and soon after had a nightmare involving aliens examining her out of neutral curiosity. (44) While Keyhoe could not accept it 100%, he would include an account of it in a later book as possible evidence. (45)

Validation of the concept could be seemingly straightforward, such as when saucers hovered alongside ships or a saucer followed a train “as if inspecting” the crew, or when saucers shadowed people. But it could take on peculiar aspects as in a case reported in Hynek’s The UFO Experience. A 3-foot luminous spheroid “appeared to be examining a tree rather closely” for several minutes. It moved deliberately and purposefully in its inspection of the tree, pausing slightly at apparent points of interest and giving the distinct impression of “intelligent” behaviour. Intelligent it does sound like, albeit no greater than that of a hummingbird and seemingly less meaningful. Granted, there is no a priori reason why aliens can’t love trees as much as humans, yet it still seems a problematic point of surveillance interest. (46)

As ufology entered the seventies, doubts about the reconnaissance concept began to grow, even among advocates of the ETH. James McCampbell surveyed cases in Jacques Vallee’s catalogue of Type I UFO events for evidence of the reconnaissance and came away puzzled. He did find the cases of aliens gathering flowers, plants, grass, animals, water samples, soil samples, stones and boulders. He also found an alien observing abandoned oil derricks and a contact where an alien revealed their philanthropic and scientific motives. But McCampbell felt a thorough study of the Earth would require an enormous range of activities and these cases weren’t even coming close. He concluded: “The idea that the UFO people are conducting any kind of organised and thorough scientific study on Earth is not sustained by the available information. Instead their activities on the ground are strangely haphazard and disorganised…Instead of conducting a comprehensive survey of Earth, the UFO people appear to be snooping around for some natural commodity on Earth, either vegetable or mineral”. (47)

The idea that the UFO people are conducting any kind
of organised and thorough scientific study on Earth is not sustained by the available information

In his final book in 1973 Keyhoe still defended the reconnaissance thesis, but had to concede it was a “strange surveillance”. A group of Keyhoe’s assistants which included anthropologists, educators, psychologists and communication experts almost unanimously concurred that aliens could not get a true picture of our world by distant observation. The implications were serious. Aliens would be seriously misled by the protocol evident in their study of us. Instead of rejecting the ETH, Keyhoe decided we urgently needed to force contact with the aliens to rectify their procedural error. This prompted Keyhoe’s advocacy of Operation Lure, a fantastic cargo cult scheme to draw UFOs down to Earth. (48)

Long-time critic of ufology Peter Kor took Keyhoe’s book to task as an anachronism. His reconnaissance thesis may have had a certain plausibility in 1950, but the operation had become inconceivably long. The showdown predicted by so many people inspired by Keyhoe’s concept had never come. (49) Frank Salisbury echoed that he had problems believing reconnaissance would be extended as long as UFO history suggests. Even granting aliens might survey a planet in a way we would not, Salisbury had a tough time believing aliens would do the things UFOs were reported to do. (50) Ian Ridpath, another critic, reiterated that the purpose of all the scrutiny implied by the volume of reports was unclear. He expressed the surprisingly Fortean scepticism that such belief builds on the basic fallacy that we are important enough for other people to be deeply interested in us. (51)

Leonard Stringfield maintained that we know incontrovertibly that UFOs exist, but agreed it was “disturbing not to know its source, its nature, and the purpose of keeping Earth under constant surveillance”. He cited among many cases an incident which suggested a UFO intended either to spy on a missile base or take some type of provocative or offensive action. (52) B. Ann Slate also mentioned that the alien surveillance of key military and research installations, and defence manoeuvres was continuing, based on witnesses she had talked to. (53) Kolman S. VonKeviczky was unabashedly maintaining in 1976 that authorities “must after all seriously assume that the galactic powers operation clearly indicates a centrally conducted “interstellar reconnaissance” with the ultimate objective of a landing operation on earthly soil”. (54)

Yurko Bondarchuck, in 1979, was surprisingly excited over an intensifying pattern indicative of increased earth occupant surveillance. He can even be seen exclaiming: “UFOs are engaged in data-gathering activities!” He felt their behaviour suggests a preoccupation with monitoring Earth’s natural habitat, our technological development and our physiological-behavioural make-up. (55) Raymond Fowler considered among many ideas the notion that the aloofness of aliens might be a strategy of advanced reconnaissance parties awaiting the main force of a classical invasion. (56)

The eighties has seen both reticence and devotion to Keyhoe’s concept. The most significant devotee to the Keyhoe tradition has been Budd Hopkins. He writes of UFOs studying cities in the nineteenth century, progressing to a study of aircraft in the forties, then to military and atomic installations, and ending in abductions. The patterns in the abductions have led to the inescapable inference that the surreptitious behaviour of UFOs relates to a very long-term, in-depth study of a sample of humans involving monitoring implants. They’ve been observing us for many years. (57)

Hilary Evans, in The Evidence for UFOs, allowed the possibility that structured artefacts of extraterrestrial origin were engaged in some kind of surveillance operation, but, if so, it was being conducted in a “remarkably sporadic and unworkmanlike manner”. (58) The authors of Clear Intent were likewise tentative, and felt the purpose of UFOs was unknown but “may be related to an extended surveillance of what may be termed a primitive, embryonic society”. (59) Whitley Strieber took a mystical tone and asserted that the visitors’ activities go far beyond a mere study of mankind. (60)

In 1987, Timothy Good felt “surveillance has intensified” since we have endangered our planet and expanded into space. The modern wave began with the development of nuclear weapons and rockets. Activity around nuclear missile sites demonstrated their continuing interest. He also felt Earth held spectacular attractions for tourists. (61) This last sentiment is an interesting conceit relative to a fifties notion that Earth was a prison. (62) A recent tract on abductions by Dr Edith Fiore has flatly affirmed: “ETs are monitoring and watching people throughout the world”. (63)
There are no signs that the aliens-are-watching-us idea
is going to disappear from the UFO mythos.
Despite blows to its credibility it continues to garner adherents

The latest exercise in the Keyhoe tradition was some speculation advanced by Richard Hall about UFO patterns. ETIs, according to him, have been watching our technological progress, especially our propulsion capabilities, our actions in warfare, our nuclear technology, and our reaching out into space. His private studies convinced him that interest has focused on atomic energy facilities and petroleum-related activities. Hall makes explicit the corollary Ridpath felt ufologists were obliged to make: the persistence of ETIs implies a strong interest in us. (64) Aime Michel went further, earlier in the decade, and acclaimed that humans must be something rare and “cosmically precious”. (65)

There are no signs that the aliens-are-watching-us idea is going to disappear from the UFO mythos. Despite blows to its credibility in the seventies, it continues to garner adherents. From the standpoint of historical development, it seems indisputable that the idea arose less from scientific necessity or force of evidence than from the habit of the intelligence community to regard deception and furtiveness as the natural order of things. No one questioned the fact that aliens would a priori behave immorally and indulge in questionable tactics to mislead humans about their existence. No one questioned whether or not aliens would be behaviourally and ideologically diverse. All behaved like it is the most natural state of affairs to believe the universe is filled with spies to the exclusion of curious extraterrestrials imbued with a spirit of open enquiry or mutual exchange.

As Keyhoe was told, a programme of scientific enquiry cannot be done from a distance. Face-to-face interaction and participation in affairs of life are the proper ways to conduct anthropological investigation. If covertness is essential to avoid infusion of alien concepts, reconnaissance could be done by bioengineered mimics of humans, dogs, cats, insects or dust motes. Instead of glowing UFOs, an advanced culture would engineer mimics of conventional objects like planes, choppers, balloons, clouds or the moon. They wouldn’t invite questions by presenting an identifiably alien construct. (66)

The reconnaissance idea never pulled together into a coherent framework more than a minor fraction of Type I cases. As McCampbell found out, no more than 2% of the cases implicate the existence of alien investigators. A crashed or captured reconnaissance disc has never been tendered for display at MIT or the Smithsonian. Predictions based on the concept have consistently been proven wrong. Given the persistence of the idea and the irrational nature of the arguments that supported it, a question arises: could it be that ufologists are telling people something they need to believe?

1. Heard, Gerald; “Is Another World Watching?”, Harper, 1951
2. Erskine, Allen Louis; “Why Are They Watching Us?”, Tower, 1967
3. Bord, Janet and Colin; “Are We Being Watched?”, Angus Robertson, 1980
4. Haines, Richard F.; “A review of proposed explanatory hypotheses for unidentified aerial Phenomena”, Flying Saucer Review, 32, 2, (February 1987), 4-8
5. Gross, Loren E.; “UFOs: A History, Volume 1, July 1947-December 1948″, Arcturus Book Service, 1982, 12
6. Gross, Loren E.; “Charles Fort, the Fortean Society and Unidentified Flying Objects”, privately published, 1976, 79
7. Strentz, Herbert J.; “A Survey of Press Coverage of Unidentified Flying Objects, 1947-1966″, Arcturus Book Service, 1982, 127
8. Gross; cf., op.cit., 93
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid., 97
11. Leiber, Fritz; “The Best of Fritz Leiber”, Ballantine, 1974, 42-56
12. Gross; cf., op.cit., 98-99
13. Bloecher, Ted; “Report on the UFO Wave of 1947″, privately published, II-15
14. Ibid., IV-6
15. Gallup poll, 15 August 1947
16. Gillmor, Daniel S. (ed.); “Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects”, Bantam, 1969, 894-895
17. Gross; “History – August -December 1948″, 1-2
18. Andrus, Walt; “Air Intelligence Report No. 100-203-79″, MUFON UFO Journal, 207, July 1985, 3-18
19. Steiger, Brad; “Project Blue Book”, Ballantine, 1976, 205
20. Ibid., 193-201
21. Gross, Loren E.; “UFOs: A History, Volume 2, 1949″, Arcturus Book Service, 1983, 73
22. Keyhoe, Donald E.; “Flying Saucers Are Real”, True, January 1950, reprinted in Girard, Robert; “An Early UFO Scrap Book”, Arcturus Book Service, 1989, 4-9
23. Gallup, George; “The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion, Volume 2 (1949-1958)”, Random, 1972, 911
24. Keyhoe, Donald; “The Flying Saucers Are Real”, Fawcett, 1950, 8
25. Ibid., 131-132
26. Keyhoe, Donald; “Flying Saucers From Outer Space”, Henry Holt, 1953, 206-208, 229, 248
27. Gillmor; op. cit., 905-921. Michel, Aime; “The Truth About Flying Saucers”, Pyramid, 1967, 68
28. Gross; cf., op. cit., 99
29. Keyhoe; 1950, op. cit., 113
30. Bender, Albert K.; “Space Review – Complete File”, Saucerian Books, 1962, 3
31. Wilkins, Harold T.; “Flying Saucers on the Attack”, Ace, 1967, 43
32. Jessup, Morris K.; “The Case for the UFO”, Varo Edition facsimile, Saucerian, 1973, 32-33
33. Michel; op. cit., 240
34. Gibbons, Gavin; “The Coming of the Space Ships”, Citadel, 1958, 34-35, 92
35. Lorenzen, Coral E.; “Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space”, Signet, 1966, 198, 258-266, 278
36. Edwards, Frank; “Flying Saucers – Serious Business”, Bantam, 1966
37. McDonald, James E.; “Science in default: Twenty-two years of inadequate UFO investigations”, in Sagan, Carl and Page, Thornton; “UFOs: A Scientific Debate”, W.W. Norton, 1974, 90
38. Steiger, Brad and Whritenour, Joan; “Flying Saucers Are Hostile”, Award, 1967, 1
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40. Loftin, Robert; “Identified Flying Saucers”, McKay, 1968, 2
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42. Binder, Otto; “Flying Saucers Are Watching Us”, Tower, 1968, 162, 165
43. Gillmor; op. cit., 233
44. Fuller, John G.; “The Interrupted Journey”, Dell, 1966
45. Steinberg, Gene; “Last interview with Major Donald E. Keyhoe”, UFO Universe, 6, Summer 1989, 26
46. Hynek, J. Allen; “The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry”, Ballantine, 1972, 54-56
47. McCampbell, James M.; “Ufology”, Celestial Arts, 1973, 141
48. Keyhoe, Donald E.; “Aliens From Space”, Doubleday, 1973, 1, 72, 290-302
49. Kor, Peter; “Keyhoe’s last stand”, Flying Saucers, September 1974
50. Salisbury, Frank; “The Utah UFO Display”, Devlin-Adair, 1974, 192-194
51. Ridpath, Ian; “Messages from the Stars”, Harper Row, 1978
52. Stringfield, Leonard H.; “Situation Red; The UFO Siege”, Fawcett, 1977
53. Slate, B. Ann; “UFO vigil over top-secret Air Force base”, UFO Annual, 1977
54. Hervey, Michael; “UFOs: The American Scene”, St Martin’s, 1976
55. Bondarchuk, Yurko; “UFO Sightings, Landings, and Abductions”, Methuen, 1979
56. Fowler, Raymond; “UFOs: Interplanetary Visitors”, Prentice-Hall, 1974, 272
57. Hopkins, Budd; “Missing Time”, Richard Marek, 1981, 217, 237
58. Evans, Hilary; “The Evidence for UFOs”, Aquarian, 1983, 150
59. Fawcett, Lawrence and Greenwood, Barry; “Clear Intent”, Prentice-Hall, 1984
60. Strieber, Whitley; “Communion”, Avon, 1988
61. Good, Timothy; “Above Top Secret”, Sidgwick, 1987
62. Keyhoe, Donald; “Flying Saucers – Top Secret”, Putnam, 1960
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64. Hall, Richard; “Uninvited Guests”, Aurora, 1988
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