Flying Saucer from Moore's?

Christopher Allan and Steuart Campbell
Magonia 23, July 1986.

In 1953 an astonished world learned that a man from Venus had conversed with a Californian guru who worked in a snack-bar at the foot of Mt. Palomar! George Adamski's unbelievable tales were made public in the second part of an otherwise undistinguished book about flying saucers by Irish writer Desmond Leslie. But this enabled the publisher to claim that Flying Saucers Have Landed. [1]

Not to be outdone, a British author made a similar claim the following year. In Flying Saucers from Mars [2] one Cedric Allingham said that while on a caravan holiday near Lossiemouth (north-east Scotland) in February 1954 he met an spoke with a Martian. Furthermore he claimed that whilst bird-watching on a deserted beach he saw the 'flying saucer' in which this being arrived and departed.

Few took the book seriously. For one thing, it contained photographs that were clearly contrived; in one the supporting wire could be seen, and another showed an out-of focus back view of the retreating alien (the Martian's craft was unfortunately 'just out of the picture'). Although mysticism is absent and objectivity attempted, the book is badly written, with a comic conversation between Allingham and the Martian.

The flying saucer subculture welcomed this best-selling but outrageous book as proof that their beliefs were justified, and many sought out the author. Unfortunately, he proved very elusive. When the book first appeared in October 1954 he was said to be touring the USA, and hoping to visit Adamski. Later his publishers said he had been taken seriously ill with TB and that he had been admitted to a Swiss sanatorium. Early in 1956 it was announced that he was dead. Allingham's sole witness, a fisherman named James Duncan, likewise could not be traced. Science writer Robert Chapman, in his book UFO concluded that no such author ever existed and that the whole story was "probably the biggest UFO leg-pull ever perpetrated in Britain".

However, Chapman did learn that a man purporting to be the author had, at one time, lectured to 'a flying saucer group in Kent. More about this later. In the book the alleged author is pictured beside his "l0-inch reflecting telescope", which he kept "at his cottage in Yorkshire". Clearly, Chapman was correct; the book was a hoax. But who was the author?

In recent years it seemed to us that this question should be resolved, and that attempts should be made to find the guilty author. (We had heard that a well-known person was behind it, but no name was given, the informant being sworn to secrecy). From internal evidence it was clear that the author knew much about astronorny and its history, and that he was familiar with the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society and the Journal of the British Astronomical Association (neither is readily available to the public, then or now). He also knew the name of the current (1954) chairman of the BIS, and the name of its founder. This suggested that the author was a member of both the BIS and the BIA. He was also familiar with the works of active lunar astronomers like H. Percy Wilkins and Patrick Moore. However, no Allingham appears in the BIS membership list of 1953.

Similarities were noticed between the author's style and that of Moore, and a search of Moore's writings turned up several references to Allingham. In one book [4] Moore actually says he knew Allingham, having met him at a lecture the latter gave to a UFO club in Tunbridge Wells. In fact Moore is the only person to claim to have known this mysterious man. Thus Moore became a prime suspect, and enquiries revealed that others also suspected him.

Patrick Moore is known to be a practical joker. He has admitted that he once sent a hoax UFO sighting to his local paper to test public reaction. He put spoof letters in the Aetherius Society newsletter Cosmic Voice in 1957. He invented an Australian rocket expert (Dr. Robert Randall) at the time of an alleged UFO landing in Wiltshire in July 1963, and was responsible for an April Fool Day joke on TV ago to do with gravity and planetary alignments. He has always derided UFOs and ufologists. We also discovered that Moore was already well known to Muller's before Flying Saucer from Mars [FSFM] was published, and that they had published two of his books in 1954.

A comparison of the book with Moore's writings reveals a number of cases where identical words and phrases are used to describe certain events in science and astronomy. We have found 24 such cases too many to quote in full but some of the events are: The story of Thales falling into a well; incidents in the life of Galileo; the comet discoveries of Messier; the description of the canals on Mars; an 'atomic explosion' once seen on Mars. Clearly there were grounds for believing that Moore was responsible, but could this be proved? The modern scientific method of testing authorship is by stylometry, a statistical technique developed by A. Q. Morton, in association with the University of Edinburgh. Stylometry analyses the patterns of words which are used by all authors, indeed by us all whether we write or not. It compares them one with another and can differentiate between authors according to the different rates at which they produce certain patterns.

Various tests have been utilised sentence length, rate of questions, etc but the best tests have been found to be the collocation of articles and/or conjunctions. It is usually found that a standard set of tests are enough to differentiate between authors, and that it does not matter how old the works in question are. An author's habits are set in early youth and remain for life. Nor can an author deliberately change the basic pattern of their writing. Clearly stylometry was the tool that could tell whether or not Patrick Moore was the author of FSFM.

Initially two 1000-word samples from the book were compared with two others from Moore's many books. But as soon as Morton began to examine the habits listed by the computer's program it was obvious that the two authors were not identical. Major differences in habits appeared. This was puzzling, and we resolved to broaden the scope by comparing with other authors who might be

In August 1984 Edinburgh University held a Workshop for Authorship Studies (Stylometrics '84) at which it was decided to use the FSFM problem as a demonstration exercise for the participants. For this purpose the list of candidates was extended to include other UFO writers of the 1950's. Also included, as a control, was Arthur C. Clarke, ex-chairman of the BIS, who left Britain at about the time FSFM was published. To our surprise, the exercise eliminated all candidates except Clarke : The standard tests showed no significant difference between the writing habits of Allingham and Clarke.

Could the book have been written by Clarke? We did ask him. He replied saying he was offended that anyone should think he had been involved In a UFO hoax. He drew attention to his "forty-year battle against the UFO nonsense". Clarke stated that he had never seen Flying Saucers From Mars although he had expressed his annoyance about the book to its chief editor, Jim Reynolds. (Reynolds, now retired, has never replied to recent enquiries from us, and others, about the book).

Subsequent discussion with Morton revealed that although the standard set of tests is usually sufficient to distinguish between authors, the computer had actually printed some additional habits. When Morton examined some of these rarer habits, differences between Allingham and •Clarke appeared, substantiating Clarke's denial.

Morton had never seen a previous case where two different authors shared as many writing habits. However, we were now left with the problem that although much evidence pointed to Moore's authorship, stylometry denied it.

In the meantime we had traced three people who were members of the UFO club at Tunbridge Wells. All had attended the 'Allingham' lecture (which took place on Jan. 3, 1955 and was reported in the local press); one recalled that the speaker "seemed to have an assistant". The speaker had claimed to be ill at the time; he never appeared anywhere again.

Trying another line, we asked the publishers of the book (now Muller, Blond and White) for the name and address of 'Allingham'. They replied that they were still not prepared to reveal the author's identity. However they would pass on any correspondence to him. Thus we wrote to 'Allingham', asking him to reveal his identity, and we asked the publisher to let us see any returned mail. It transpired that the author had gone away, and the envelope in which the publisher had put our query was returned marked 'not known here for at least twelve years'. Muller, Blond and White wrote explaining this and regretting they could help no further. However, returned with their letter was the envelope containing our enquiry. This showed the name and address of the contact whose identity they had refused to reveal was one Peter Davies at an address in Oxted, Surry, only nine miles from Moore's home at the time in East Grinstead. Further enquiries traced Davies to a temporary address in Folkestone, then Sevenoaks. He described himself as a journalist, but he is not known to the National Union of Journalists, the Institute of Journalists or the Newspaper Press Fund.

He admitted that he was involved with FSFM and that it was a spoof. He also told us that the book was originally written by someone else (whom he declined to name), and that his job had been to revise it to disguise the style. He also shared the royalties. He admitted that he is the person shown on the frontispiece of the book, where he was wearing a disguise. He also confirmed that he gave the Tunbridge Wells lecture, and that he had a helper present who knew much more about the subject than he did. He also said that he was an old friend of Patrick Moore.
It seemed clear that Moore was involved after all, and that he must have been the friend at the lecture. It was also evident that Davies had revised a book originally written by Moore. This explained why the stylometry had not confirmed Moore's authorship; the revision must have been sufficient to imprint Davies's habits over those of Moore, although characteristic Moore phrases survived. Davies had no special astronomical knowledge, and many of Moore's idiosyncrasies remained. Two of these are Moore's use of 'Cro-Magnard', and his spelling of Plato's 'Kritias' (other writers invariably spell it 'Critias'), See [2] and [5].

Final confirmation that Moore was the author of FSFM came from an examination of the book's frontispiece, reproduced here as Plate I,  and comparison between it and a photograph of Moore's 121/2 inch reflector and its covers taken in his garden in East Grinstead (see plate II). Clearly it is the same telescope in the same garden; even the background trees and shrubs match, and the garden seat can be discerned dimly in Plate 11. Davies, in disguise, is shown standing beside Moore's telescope.

PLATE I. 'Cedric Allingham' with his telescope, from the frontispiece of Flying Saucer
From Mars, captioned "An informal photograph of Mr Cedric Allingham, with his
10-inch reflecting telescope". In fact it is a picture of Peter Davies with Patrick Moore's
10.5-inch reflector in Moore's garden at East Grinstead.

PLATE II: Patrick Moore's 12.5-inch reflector and its run-off shed at East Grinstead,
from Moore's Observer Book of Astronomy, 1971 edition.
Among flying saucer hoaxers there have been those like Adamski who told their tales in order to promote their own peculiar views about life and the universe. Here we have a public figure (he was not so public at the time) who invented a story which reinforces a myth which otherwise he condemns.

If the object was to demonstrate the ease with which contact tales could be invented, then the object has been defeated by Moore's failure to own up. It seems more likely that it was, as Davies has admitted, an attempt to capitalise on the public interest generated by the Adamski book and that Moore's sense of humour got the better of him. Probably his silence is due to embarrassment; he will neither admit nor deny responsibility, even though it is now an open secret that he was the author. Whatever his motives, his joke has gone on far too long.

The book was reviewed in the April 1955 issue of the Journal of the BAA, where the reviewer, who signed himself 'P .M.', stated that the book "is very cleverly written" and that "Mr Allingham is not a crank". Only an eccentric like Patrick Moore could write a book and then review it himself.

* These pictures are taken from secondary sources and the reproduction quality may not be sufficient to allow the details mentioned to be seen clearly. Reference should be made to the original plates in the books cited. Ed

  1. Leslie, Desmond. Flying Saucers Have Landed. Werner Laurie, 1953
  2. Allingham, Cedric. Flying Saucer from Mars. Muller, 1954.
  3. Chapman, Robert. UFO. Arthur Barker, 1969
  4. Moore, Patrick. Can You Speak Venusian? Ian Henry, 1977.
  5. Moore, Patrick. Suns, Myths and Men. Muller, 1954.