Pennine UFO Controversy

Jenny Randles and Peter Rogerson.
Magonia 14, 1983.

Jenny Randles:
It was interesting to read Peter Rogerson’s caustic view of The Pennine UFO Mystery (Magonia 13). Being the first really rotten review which one of my books has generated in the serious UFO literature I am not too disheartened. He is naturally entitled to his opinion, and the fact that he does not like my book is fair enough.
However, when he talks of it ‘rambling’ (when it is actually rather logically constructed around a specifically designed sequence of chapters) or of it being grossly counter-productive to the aims of serious ufology, then I do start to get a bit uptight.

I am now wondering what is amiss with either my biases (because, surprise, surprise, I think it is the best I have written to date), or else the extent to which Peter has really tried to read what it is about, he nit-picks a bit in fault-finding. OK, so Harder is not a psychiatrist (he just writes and researches like one). But my Janet and Colin Bord folklore UFO is referenced directly to source, so the error is yours, not mine.

Peter also seems to have solved the strange death of Zigmund Adamski, which is quite a feat when everyone else, including the police and the coroner, has failed. If the solution were really so simple as a miner wandering off in a fit of depression then there would be no problem: unfortunately there is. My book endeavours to present readers with the facts of the case (and deliberately choses the term ‘pseudoclues’ for very different reasons to those assumed). This is done in a way that understresses and undersensationalises. There can he no doubting that it is a puzzle, and that the UFO connotations are real enough. Had I wanted to do so I could have made that a lot more plain than I did.

But the truth is, after studying all documents on the affair (including full inquest transcripts and the post-mortem reports). I do not know what happened to Zigmund Adamski, although the UFO theory is no more insane than some I have heard seriously offered: a KGB plot to kill off all Polish workers in Britain! It also has a bit more in the way of ‘evidence’, albeit highly circumstantial. Peter, I suspect, has read none of this documentation, and yet seems to think he does know what happened. Which of us, to use his term, is being a ‘serious investigator’?

I would stress that I state in no uncertain terms that there is no evidence to support the claims that Adamski was killed by ufonauts. I devote a whole chapter concerning rumour generation to that very point. But there is no reference or discussion of this in the review, an omission which seems very odd considering Magonia’s field of interest. The discussion of the Adamski affair was necessary, not to sensationalise, but because it had already been given media prominence – a front page feature in the Sunday Mirror, amongst others – and I felt that the public were owed a correct perspective on the case so they could judge for themselves. It is sad that Peter mistakes what I believe was an honourable intention for a shot at cheap sensationalism.

The one big error which Peter has found is in the dates concerning George Adamski’s death. I offer no excuses, this was my mistake, born I suspect out of faulty memory, one incorrect source, and an eagerness (perhaps) to justify what looked like a pattern. Any wrong data of this maginitude is regretable, however it is hardly of any real significance, even to my arguments about the Adamski case, let alone the real gist of the book.

It seriously disturbs me the way this mistake was highlighted in Magonia, and the scarcely disguised innuendo that it was deliberate. In reviews in the past Peter Rogerson has come close to libel in what he has written, and he does so here. I must be given the chance to totally deny this comment on my integrity, which I naturally abhor. I think your reviewer was being (should I say) rather unfairly presumptive, and leave it at that.

On this point in general, I have noted a tendency in the UFO field to impugn the motives of people involved. People (even writers are human!) do make errors. This, happens to be the first major one brought to my attention from any of my four books, but I cannot make any false promises that it will be the last, although of course I hope it will be. What interests me is the automatic assumption that a mistake has to be deliberate and done for nefarious reasons – it strikes me that this says something about the psychology of UFO critics.

Elsewhere, such as in the multiple references to dogs in the Alan Godfrey case, Peter raises matters in a way that seems to suggest that I have failed to mention them and now he is forced to do so. In fact the truth is that these points usually were mentioned in the book. For instance, he comments on the fact that witnesses failed to capture on film UFOs which showed up in their camera viewfinders. In fact this is used as a cornerstone of my argument that close encounters cannot be regarded as objectively real. If Peter had read carefully the closing chapters he would have seen that I clearly distinguished between objective, physical UAP events, and subjective, ‘hallucinatory’, close encounters. The fact that the latter cannot be photographed has nothing to do with the existence or otherwise of the former.

Normally I would not react to a
review of my book, but I am forced
to follow Paul Devereux in this
respect because the review seems
to significantly distort
the content of the book
Another misrepresentation occurs when Peter speaks of me “taking the wilder fantasies of teenage UFO buffs seriously”. He cites Paul Bennett (who so far as I can find is the only teenage UFO buff quoted). But at no point am I taking his ‘fantasies’ at face value – his comments are noted at one point, and I show his interpretation to be slightly askew. Not that I regard his ideas as ‘wild fantasies’, any more than some theories, from the socio-psychological UFO school. They are ideas that bear listening to and judging on their merits, as any serious ufologist would judge any set of suggestions, be they from a teenager (who, by the way, has more in-the-field experience than most of the editors of Magonia), or be they from God!

Normally I would not react to a review of my book, but I am forced to follow Paul Devereux in this respect because the review seems to significantly distort the content of the book. It bothers me that the arguments the book builds up in the concluding chapters are not analysed. I think this would have produced more stimulating debate than a few criticisms of one or two minor points in the text. I expected an interesting response from Magonia; I have to say I am disappointed by the lack of criticism of my ideas.

I stress that I do not expect my books to be acclaimed by critics. I can be wrong, write badly and express nonsense as well as anyone; but I write honestly, and have never written in a sensationalist vein for ulterior motives. If The Pennine UFO Mystery is judged sensationalist, I can only say that I do not regret writing it, and I am completely satisfied that it represents what I wanted to say. It is my creation (except for direct quotes) and was virtually untouched by the
editor – so no excuses there!

To be likened in style to Arthur Shuttlewood carries with it the implication that one cannot write entertaining UFO books which are serious and constructive. That is tripe! I would rather write books which say what I want them to say, in a way that people can follow, than lose myself in sociopsychological jargon which may be important, but only makes sense if your IQ is of Mensa proportions – some UFO writers are a little like that.

I reject the challenge at the end of the review – I see no reason why I should choose between being a popular writer or a serious ufologist, the two are not mutually exclusive. Dr Paul Davies, for instance, is a brilliant mathematical physicist who writes popular books on quantum mechanics. Patrick Moore is not a bad astronomer, with a reputation I have heard many professionals praise.

It is dangerous to perpetuate this ‘them and us’ myth, and your readers, who may at some point want to write for publication, should be protected from such codswallop. There is no definition which says that serious UFO writing must be boring. Nigel Watson, for example, often writes with wit and lightheartedness, whilst making a relevant point or two. A serious ufologist should be able to pass on what he has learned by way of books written for the general reader. He must write for his ufological colleagues too, but there are forums, such as Magonia and Probe Report, that allow just that.

The other day I had a chat with a journalist from The Observer, who remarked on the gulf between the popular conception of the UFO phenomenon, and the attitudes displayed by serious ufologists. This gulf is real, and exists because of ideas such as Peter’s. ‘Serious investigators’ have a responsibility to put to the public the realities of the UFO world, in a way they can relate to. My books have tried to do this; whether they have succeded or failed is another matter. But I am convinced that it is important I continue in my attempt, and others do likewise.

Attitudes can be changed, this is shown by the diminishing number of UFO reports, certainly due in part to the increased education amongst the public about what is not a UFO. A major factor in this has been serious UFO writers who have written books for a popular audience, but presented them with the facts; facts which happen to be contradictory and confusing, not cut and cried as both ETH believers and socio-psychological cultists would like them to be.

Magonia and the like are important to us as ufologists, but whatever is said in any UFO magazine is going to have no impact on public opinion – books do. My books do not sell thousands of copies, but they do end up on library shelves (even if I hardly ever see them in bookshops), and are consulted by witnesses who have just seen ‘something funny in the sky’, and are wondering what it might be. They are more likely to read my book, and find out what it really might have been that they saw, rather than go to the corner shop and find the latest sensationalised UFO book which tells them they saw an intergalactic spacecraft from Zeta Reticulii. If attitudes are altering, and the public is being educated about the subject, it is due to books such as those I personally feel proud to have written. At least I am trying to be honest about the complex, tangled web of UFO mystery, and tell it like it is.

I intend to go on writing books that the public might read; and I intend to carry on regarding myself as a serious investigntor. I have been given no cause to suppose that this is either impoaible or undesirable. Nor am I persuaded by Peter Rogerson that most ufologists disagree with me.

Peter Rogerson:

First, I must apologise to Jenny that the surprise of seeing one of Britain’s leading ufologists erecting a tower of vague speculatton on a patently wrong date caused me to thoughtlessly write a statement which might cast doubt on her integrity. Naturally, I withdraw any such imputation, and accept that nothing worse than carelessness was involved. However, I am afraid that I must end the apologies there, and reply to Jenny’s other points.

Jenny claims that she is aiming to demystify the Adamski death, yet she presents it as the first chapter in The Pennine UFO Mystery (described as “mystery of epic proportions”); it leads the blurb on the back of the book; she writes an article in Fate headed “Case of the UFO Murder… perplexed by a death seemingly without rational explanation investigators consider a fantastic possibility: extraterrestrials did it”; and lead her original Flying Saucer  Review article with: “was there a macabre connection between a mysterious death he’d helped investigate and his personal [Close Encounter] experience?” Some demystification!

Contrary to what Jenny states, I make no claim to have ‘solved’ Adamski’s death, and no doubt many features are likely to remain baffling – there are, after all many ‘baffling’ deaths investigated by police forces each year. However, from Jenny’s own accounts the following appears to be a synopsis:

June 6th, 1980. Zigmund Adamski, a man with a heart condition and an invalid wife, depressed at his failure to get early retirement, walks out of his house with wallet, money and driving licence, to ‘get potatoes’. This is the first mystery, because he is looking forward to a God-daughter’s wedding and has a cousin and her invalid son staying with them. There appears, on the surface, no reason for him to walk out. However it does not require too much imagination to suspect that this supposedly joyous occasion might, with its extra responsibilities, be the ‘final straw’. People who do vanish suddenly are hardly acting rationally, and motives are difficult to assess. So far nothing separates this case from hundreds of others in which people suddenly walk out.

June 6th – 9th. Adamski may well be living in lodgings, he is well-fed and manages to shave. The police have been unable to trace where he stayed (the fact that his home was situated near the confluence of the M62, the A653 and the A650 has no doubt hindered police investigation), although a situation nearer Todmorden than Alpha Centauri seems likely!

June 9th. Adamski receives a burn on the neck and collar-bone apparently from a corrosive liquid – it is probable that this prompted him to discard his shirt. The exact circumstances surrounding this accident are unlikely ever to be explained, although no particularly exotic scenario is required – Adamski may have been doing some sort of casual work. One might speculate that individuals employing ‘no questions asked’ labour around corrosive liquids may not be totally forthcoming to such people as tax-men, factory inspectors and police.

June 11th. Adamski is found on the coal tip at 3.15 p.m. There are two accounts of time of death. In Flying Saucer Review, vol. 27, no. 2 Jenny states that death occured 8 to 10 hours before the body was found (i.e. 7-8 am); but in Pennine UFO Mystery this becomes 8 -10 hours before the 9.15 pm post-mortem. This makes the time of death about 11.15 a.m. to 1.15 p.m. It is probable that the later time is the correct one.

Much has been made of the body lying near the ‘busy’ station. The British Rail timetable for 1983 (I assume there has been no drastic change since 1980) shows otherwise. During the middle of the day, at 26 minutes past each hour the Manchester Victoria – Rochdale – Leeds train stops at the station. Ten minutes later the returning Leeds to Manchester train calls at the opposite platform, there are then no trains for another fifty minutes. As Jenny states, on June 11th “rain fell from the sky, drenching the Pennine landscape” and “rain had soaked the coalyard”. Todmorden station is exposed on the west to the moors and Todmorden Edge, not the day for anyone to sit and contemplate a coal tip, and plenty of time for Adamski to clamber up the tip (hence the grazes on hands, knees and thighs?). There may be some mystery as to what Adamski, with his heart condition, was doing clambering up a coal tip, but it is one of hurnan, rather than extraterrestrial, motivation.

I am not so sure as Jenny that the police are as genuinely baffled, as opposed to ‘diplomatically baffled’. Police officers may have ideas of their own, but cannot afford themselves the luxury of idle speculation when talking to a lawyer and a senior officer from a neighbouring force. Nor does it surprise me that “investigations are continuing”, I would be surprised if they weren’t.

Jenny takes exception to my comments on Paul Bennett, and denies that she takes his ideas at face value. This however is not borne out by the comments she herself uses about him: “I should thank Paul Bennett and other researchers, whose work I have used frequently…)” (p.13); “I am grateful to investigators… Paul Bennett and Robert Stammers… the hard work and voluminous notes of these people cannot he condensed into a few words” (p.194); “Speculitively, but sincerely [Paul] argues… A growing number of scientists and researchers are making some note of this sort of idea” (p. 200]. The only critical mention of any of his ideas or writings is an aside: “I remain dubious about that”, when he suggests that someone is signalling the start of UFO events.

Jenny’s comments about taking suggestions from teenage UFO buffs as seriously as suggestions from God are meaningless. Before taking anyone’s comments seriously it is vital to evaluate their reliability. In the case of Paul Bennett this might be done by reading the articles in NUFON News 101, and MUFOB 11 and 12.

I do not know if Jenny is referring to Magonia when she speaks of articles being written in “socio-psychological jargon which may be important but only makes sense if your IQ is of Mensa properties”, but if so I will not insult our readers by demurring from Jenny’s suggestion that they are geniuses! My guess is that even if our readers disagree with what we are saying, they approve of being treated as thinking adults who do not need everything spelt out in terms more suited for a twelve-year-old, as some UFO magazines seem to do.

Jenny is missing the point of my comments on being a popular writer. I do not say that ufologists should not write books which happen to be entertaining, but that they should not subordinate their research to popular writing – some scientists do write popular books, but they do not confuse them with original research.

Judging by the fact that in some issues of NUFON News almost every other paragraph refers to one or other of Jenny’s forthcoming books, it seems reasonable to assume that these books are not meant to be incidental ‘popularising’ side-lines, but are integral parts of her work. I therefore expected to see some detailed studies in this book (as was done, I will grant, over the ‘gliding airliners’, although I would like to have seen some independent comment on this), rather than considerable space wasted on the maunderings of scientifically illiterate correspondents.

The real question is whether ufology is a serious intellectual pursuit, or a branch of the entertainment industry, in which ‘interesting if true’ UFO stories take their place in the popular press alongside the confessions of Coronation Street stars, erring Cabinet Ministers, and Ronnie Biggs. Knowing that Jenny can produce really good contributions to the subject when she chooses, does lead to extreme irritation when she settles for the Paul Bennett level.

Whether she likes it or not, Jenny has become for many members of the public the quasi-official Voice of British Ufology. My fear is that her speculations will become a kind of imprimatur on the wildest kinds of speculation, and will greatly add to the stress of UFO percipients.