A Saucer Full of Secrets

Andy Roberts
Magonia 87, February 2005

The word hippie conjures visions of brightly-clad young people rebelling against society whilst advocating peace, free love and the right to alter their consciousness when and how they chose. It’s an appealing image, but one straight out of the imagination of a Daily Mail reader. For behind-the fashions and fads, the hippie underground movement in the UK was responsible for the greatest expansion of interest and belief in fortean phenomena in the last few centuries.

Social historians invariably associate the hippie movement with eastern beliefs such as Buddhism and Hinduism, from which they freely drew inspiration and imagery. That the hippies’ interest in these philosophies has been well documented is understandable; these beliefs were exotic, vibrant and essentially alien to the blinkered western world view of the 1960s. Flying Saucer culture however was already deeply embedded in the British cultural psyche and, courtesy of daily newspapers throughout the 1950s, present in the lives of those who would form the hippie movement known as the English Underground.

Although the Underground took the flying saucer myth to its heart, there is scant reference to it in histories of the period. The media, too, ignored the hippies’ interest in flying saucers simply because it wasn’t as visually immediate as the ‘love-in’, posters of Hindu deities or the wild spontaneity of music festivals. But the story of the English Underground’s close encounter with ufology, although a little known area of the social history of flying saucers, is one worth telling.

In the mid 1960s, though flying saucers were being discussed among the influential group of post-beatniks and modem mystics who would form the core of the English Underground, the nascent movement lacked a voice. A figurehead was needed, someone who could breathe life into the background hum of belief in flying saucers, articulating it for the burgeoning hippie subculture.

That voice came in the form of John Michell, whose influence on the English Underground cannot be overestimated. Like many of his generation Michell was disillusioned by the acquisitive post war society, “… when I was at Cambridge the whole atmosphere was extremely rationalistic materialistic. Everyone believed the current academic orthodoxies of the time and there seemed no way of questioning them”

UFOs first caught Michell’s imagination in the 1950s when he noticed, “It was quite obvious that people were having experiences that weren’t allowed for within the context of our education. There was a split between the view of the world we’d been taught and accepted unquestioningly and the world of actual experience.” To Michell flying saucers were more than just ‘nuts-and-bolts’ craft, they were one of a number of phenomena which became attached to the `Matter of Britain’. This largely concerned itself with the legends of King Arthur and the Holy Grail and was focused on the Somerset town of Glastonbury.

Glastonbury is firmly embedded in the public consciousness as a centre of all things alternate and strange. But this is not a recent phenomenon. Glastonbury has been the pulse of alternative Britain since the early 20th century and has seen wave after wave of settlers arrive there each seeking their personal Holy Grail. This vortex of the strange was well known to John Michell and, with the mysto-steam of the 60s beginning to rise, he decided to experience the ‘Glastonbury effect’ for himself.
“It was, I think, in 1966 that I first went to Glastonbury, in the company of Harry Fainlight … We had no very definite reason for going there, but it had something to do with strange lights in the, sky, new music, and our conviction that the world was about to flip over on its axis so that heresy would become orthodoxy and an entirely new world-order would shortly be revealed.”

“At that time I was writing the first of my published books, The Flying Saucer Vision. It followed up the idea, first put forward by C.J. Jung in his 1959 book on flying saucers, that the strange lights and other phenomena of the post-War period were portents of a radical change in human consciousness coinciding with the dawn of the Aquarian Age. A theme in my book was the connection between `unidentified flying objects’ and ancient sites, as evidenced both in folklore and in contemporary experience. UFOs were constantly being sighted over St Michael’s tower on Glastonbury Tor.”
And there, in that statement Michell encapsulated an entirely new way of looking at flying saucers and their meaning. But, as the old saying goes, ‘if you can remember the 60s you weren’t there’, and Michell’s version of how he came to be entangled in flying saucers and the Matter of Britain is contested by author and playwright Neil Oram, who remembers things very differently.
“I don’t know if it’s important, but it was I who turned John Michell on to the UFO phenomena in 1964. I was renting a caff off him in Islington and he told me he was thinking of going off to Mongolia. I suggested he read Donald Keyhoe and Al Bender before he went off to Mongolia. I then told him my theory that I thought Stonehenge and such places were TRANSFORMING STATIONS.

“Six months later … beginning of 1965 … John came to visit me at 32 Barons Court Road, and told me of his recent adventures inside megalithic sites. I was very impressed by what he’d been doing. He’d definitely picked up the baton. He’d gone a step further on then me by taking acid on his own AT NIGHT inside these ancient centres. He was now as convinced as I was that there was a mysterious connection between moving LIGHTS and ancient gathering places.”
If Michell were the catalyst and helmsman for the hippies’ interests in flying saucers then the motive power was provided by the drug LSD, which had hit London during 1965. LSD, or acid as it soon became known, was quickly taken up by the counter-cultural mystic vanguard and suddenly everything was not only possible, it was likely!

Art gallery owner and Underground luminary Barry Miles summed up the effect of LSD on the hippies as being; ” from the mid-sixties onwards you have what would have to be called a sort of LSD consciousness permeates the whole of the counter-culture side of British society. And you get it in the songs of the Pink Floyd …, all these bands incorporate LSD inspired imagery, and that of course was not the normal imagery of love songs and picking up girls, it was much more to do with a rather sort of specifically British form of psychedelia which involved dancing gnomes and flying saucers”. Neil Oram concurred, qualifying Miles’ viewpoint with, “It wasn’t just a question of taking acid, but of taking acid IN THE RIGHT CONTEXT.. THE RIGHT CONDITIONS.”

The combination of potent psychedelics with the Matter of Britain and a new generation of seekers re-vivified Glastonbury as a spiritual centre. In addition to King Arthur, the terrestrial zodiacs and other landscape legends, flying saucers were now woven into the tapestry of belief. Issue one of the Underground magazine, Albion, edited by Michell gives the visual clues; dragons and UFOs appear in the skies over Glastonbury Tor, whilst swords, serpents and geomantic imagery is visible in the Earth. A new meaning for flying saucers was being forged and to the English Underground this blend of saucers, sacred sites and mythology was a damned sight more interesting than the nuts-and-bolts, sci-fi derived vision of the current UFO orthodoxy.

Barry Miles wasn’t particularly interested in flying saucers but he realised the power that UFO symbolism held for the hippies, “With the Indica Bookshop, which I ran, our headed notepaper in fact had an engraving from a Mayan carving, which if you look at it in one way looks like an alien flying a flying saucer.”

Miles was also aware of the attraction Glastonbury held for those in the counter culture, “The King’s Road led straight to Glastonbury in those days … The people we knew … led double lives, experimenting with acid, spending entire evenings discussing flying saucers, ley lines and the court of King Arthur. Other people waited patiently at Arthur’s Tor for flying saucers to land.” They did, and as word got round that Glastonbury was the new `window area’ for UFO sightings more and more hippies made it a place of pilgrimage.

John Michell again:
“UFOs were constantly being sighted over St Michael’s tower on Glastonbury Tor. Mark Palmer, Maldwyn Thomas and their group were then travelling with horses and carts on pilgrimages across England. They often camped near the Tor, and while I was with them we used to watch the nightly manoeuvrings of lights in the sky. Jung’s prophecy of aerial portents being followed by a change in consciousness was evidently being fulfilled.”
Craig Sams, who set up England’s first macrobiotic restaurant, was also a Glastonbury enthusiast: “I didn’t see a flying saucer till October 1967 when I went to Glastonbury. One day I got a phone call from Mark Palmer saying that it would be a good idea to come down, that there was a lot of UFO activity, that John Michell, who had just written The Flying Saucer Vision, was camping down there, and Michael Rainey. So here we are in the field and up come the UFOs. We weren’t tripping, I’d given up acid. I was completely normal, maybe I’d had a cup of tea about half an hour before … Mark Palmer saw them – they were definitely there. They were in the classic cigar-shaped mother-ship form. Little lights emanating from them. Then at one point you saw these other lights coming up towards them and the smaller lights just shot into the cigar-shaped mother-ship, which then just disappeared at high speed. The other lights had been RAF jets. It was obvious that the RAF had scrambled some jets.”

It would be easy to dismiss the Underground’s fascination with saucers if it weren’t for the fact that 1967 was a huge ‘flap’ year for UFO sightings in the UK. This wasn’t just a ‘hippie thing’, it was even happening to policemen, who chased them for hours in their patrol cars. The M.O.D. were so inundated by UFO reports they radically changed their UFO policy and set up a team of investigators to interview civilian UFO witnesses, the first time this had been done.

As flying saucers became further embedded in popular culture rock musicians were becoming interested in them as a means of expressing the psychedelic experience. The link between drugs, music and flying saucers was consolidated by Barry Miles and Joe Boyd when they named one of the first hippie clubs, on Tottenham Court Road, ‘UFO’. Although ‘Unidentified Flying Object’ was only one of its meanings, advertisements in International Times showed a flying saucer hovering over the head of a dancing hippie, with the phrase ‘night tripper’. Music histories of the psychedelic era use eastern influences, such as sitars and raga-like instrumentals, along with the drug references as the indicator of how ‘far out’ the music was. But there was also an aspect of psychedelia steeped in saucers and space.

Pink Floyd’s first album The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn included the atmospheric paean to deep space, Astronomy Domini, possibly the first song to use outer space as a metaphor for inner space. By their second album Pink Floyd had further absorbed saucer culture, entitling it A Saucerful of Secrets, mixing ideas of flying saucers, the secrets found inside the mind, with perhaps a nod toward a batch of potent LSD called flying saucers. The sleeve artwork left fans in no doubt that space, inner or outer, was the place; swirling universes and spinning discs mixed with signs of the zodiac, and the keynote song, 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun', became the backdrop for many psychedelic journeys toward dawn.

The Rolling Stones, possibly the least spiritual band of the generation, also took an interest in saucers. John Michell accompanied the Stones on a saucer spotting mission to Stonehenge, whilst singer Marianne Faithful recalls the Stones’ ill-starred rhythm guitarist Brian Jones taking a great interest in Michell’s ideas on the subject:
“Like a lot of people at the time, myself included, he was convinced there was a mystic link between druidic monuments and flying saucers. Extraterrestrials were going to read these signs from their spaceship windows and get the message. It was the local credo: Glastonbury, ley lines and intelligent life in outer space…”

Similarly, the Stones’ Keith Richard was more than curious about saucers, “I’ve seen a few, but nothing any of the ministries would believe,” he told a Melody Maker journalist. “I believe they exist – plenty of people have seen them. They are tied up with a lot of things, like the dawn of man, for example. It’s not just a matter of people spotting a flying saucer. I’m not an expert. I’m still trying to understand what’s going on.

Throughout his career David Bowie has flirted with the idea of ‘the alien’, often mentioning extraterrestrials in songs such as 'Starman', and creating the Ziggy Stardust persona. In the late 1960s, before he was catapulted to fame with the single Space Oddity (based on Kubrick’s film 2001-a Space Odyssey) he claimed to have been closely involved with flying saucer research. In 1975 he revealed to Creem magazine, “I used to work for two guys who put out a UFO magazine in England about six years ago. And I made sightings six, seven times a night for about a year, when I was in the observatory. We had regular cruises that came over. We knew the 6.15 was coming in and would meet up with another one. And they would be stationary for about half an hour, and then after verifying what they’d been doing that day, they’d shoot off.”

The fact that the ’6.15′ was so regular over south London should have given Bowie a hint that it may have been an airplane rather than a UFO! Bowie’s active interest in UFO research dwindled as his fame as a performer grew, but it can’t have been helped by this event, recounted in a recent issue of The Word: “An early attempt, while living in Beckenham, to attract extra-terrestrials involved standing on his roof at dusk pointing a coat hanger into the skies. He gave up, dejectedly, when a passer-by enquired, Do you get BBC2?”

The Beatles, too, flirted with saucer lore. John Lennon’s interest is well known and his UFO sighting is recorded in the song 'Nobody Told Me'. But the genesis of this interest lay in the haze of the late 1960s. At that time the Beatles’ Apple entourage included a mysterious character called Magic Alex. He enthralled the fab four with stories of electronic wizardry and he planned to build a Beatles flying saucer. But Paul McCartney drew the line there, saying, “John and George might have agreed to donate the engines from their cars to help build this bloody flying saucer. But I certainly didn’t go that far.”

If music was one way of spreading the Flying Saucer message through the English Underground then poster art was another, equally valid, method. Artists created lavish posters for even the most small scale event, incorporating the myths, signs and symbols of the era with visual images of the music and musicians. Barry Miles recalled:
“The symbol of the flying saucer on the posters of Michael English and Nigel Weymouth and the references in all of the songs wasn’t just used as a graphic symbol or a convenient lyrical device. People did feel that flying saucers were shorthand for a wider, deeper understanding, a sort of god figure I suppose or a sense of an external spiritual deity of some sort. There was one clothes shop called Hung On You that Michael Rainey had and, he very much believed in flying saucers and there was a lot of flying saucer imagery all over the shop.”
As saucers permeated the hippy subculture they began to appear more frequently in the underground press. International Times featured many articles and book reviews concerning saucers, engaging John Michell as their ‘UFO correspondent’. In the June 16th 1967 issue, I.T. reviewed Anatomy of a Phenomenon, the first UFO book by French scientist and influential ufologist Jacques Vallee. The reviewer, Greg Sams used the argot of the period to express what a significant book it was:
“Do you believe in flying saucers? Most people with even a slightly open mind accept their existence, if only because so many reliable people have seen them … The book itself doesn’t turn you on. You must read the book and turn yourself on … If you are just beginning to be interested in saucers then read his book. If you are already convinced and want a beautiful rave with your mind, read other further out authors.” Quite!

Oz was less keen. Editor Richard Neville being more interested in provoking the establishment through explorations of radical politics or sex than through modern myths. But when Neville took his eye off the ball for issue nine, leaving the work to poster artist Martin Sharp and designer John Goodchild, he was shocked at the result, “To my embarrassment it was devoted to flying saucers”. Enraged, he asked Sharp, “How can you indulge your intergalactic delusions, when Asia is a bloodbath?” Sharp’s reply typified the zeitgeist, “There are far more things in heaven and earth, Richard, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.

The cover of Flying Saucer Oz, as it became known, featured a large flying disc, taken from a collage by the surrealist artist Max Ernst, with six coloured pages featuring a variety of quotes about the saucer phenomenon from ‘hip’ people ranging from Charles Fort to Mick Jagger.

To my embarrassment it was devoted to flying saucers - How can you indulge your intergalactic delusions, when Asia is a bloodbath?

Michell’s influence on the hippie movement coupled with his erudition was such that the ‘establishment’ couldn’t ignore him. Following the screening of UFOs and the People who See Them on BBC 1 on 9th May 1968, The Listener devoted most of that week’s issue to a discussion of flying saucers. John Michell was asked to contribute an essay which, simply entitled ‘Flying Saucers’, clearly laid out the hippie philosophy in relation to aerial phenomena. This was a blend of sightings of inexplicable lights in the sky, mixed with snippets of folklore, Glastonbury ley and dragon lines and other ephemera from the Underground’s dream world.

Listener editor Karl Miller contributed a critical piece, ‘Midsummer Nights’ Dreams’, analysing the ‘UFO cult’ and Michell’s place within it: “He is less a hippy, perhaps, than a hippy’s counsellor, one of their junior Merlins.” Recognising Michell’s influence, but keenly aware of his shortcomings, Miller wrote:
“Michell behaves like a visionary, though his language doesn’t always avoid the current jargon of the pads and barricades. He likes to talk about how the light from the midsummer sunrise shot across the land, travelling a line from holy place to holy place, starting the crops, bathing the feasts and fairs that saluted its passage. I would say that … his book is relatively weak, busying itself with sundry mysteries like that of the Marie Celeste and converting them to extra-terrestrial proofs.”
‘Straight’ society was intrigued by the hippie take on flying saucers but then, as now, saw no real evidence they could take seriously.

Just as straight society disassociated itself from the hippies, mainstream UFO enthusiasts kept their distance too, the nuts-and-bolts saucer buffs considering the hippies to be just a bunch of drug takers with strange views. The irony that straight society viewed the nuts-and-bolts crowd as being equally strange was completely lost on them!

But some influential individuals from the orthodoxy saw the hippies were receptive to new ideas, and that mercurial aristocrat of flying saucer culture, Desmond Leslie, decided to organise the UK’s first flying saucer convention for them. The conference, held during the summer of 1968 on Lusty Beg Island on Lower Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, near the Leslie family seat of Castle Leslie, was jointly organised by Desmond Leslie and Camilla, Countess of Eme. Camilla was a wealthy socialite with an interest in flying saucers who frequented the edges of the English Underground. Johan Quanjar remembers meeting Camilla in 1966 when he was recruiting for the recently formed Contact UK organization and she introduced him to a world where he attended “parties at which such well-known people as Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful were present.”

It was at these hip society shindigs where the latest trends in music and far out ideas were discussed. Barry Miles remembers many such psychedelic soirees: “The people we knew … led double lives, experimenting with acid, spending entire evenings discussing flying saucers, ley lines and the court of King Arthur.”, with “Michael Rainey in Sherwood green, grinning as always, stoned, talking about UFOs”.

Now in with the incrowd Quanjar was contacted by, “… a would-be song-writer who needed a studio to record a UFO song which should have been ready in time for the UFO Fly In, on an island in Lough Erne. The song-writer and musician introduced me to the Beatles, at their office in Marylebone and I shook hands with them. The song writer was given quite costly studio time, in a Soho establishment, courtesy of Apple, the Beatles’ record company. The record was duly cut and it had a nice tune to it, but the talent was not great enough for the single to be released and it disappeared without trace.”

It’s unclear exactly who wrote this song but it is almost certain to have been one Chas Hodges, a session musician in the 1960s who eventually became half of the ‘mockney’ pop group Chas and Dave!

The Lusty Beg event was small, with attendance estimated at between 60 and 100 people. Small it may have been but many of those who did attend were movers and shakers from the English Underground. Lusty Beg alumni included Nicholas Saunders, editor of Alternative London and founder of the Neal’s Yard shopping complex in Covent Garden. Saunders’ friend Gini Wade remembers:
“Nick was always up for an adventure, particularly if it involved something unusual. In 1968 we went to a flying saucer conference ..” Saunders himself recalled, “I was fascinated by what John Michell was saying about UFOs and ley-lines and so on, but felt pretty guarded about it too. I did go to a Flying Saucer conference on an island in the middle of a lake in the northwest of Ireland. There were all these people plodding about in the rain and the mud and there were very serious talks by people who either said that flying saucers had visited, that they’d been on flights themselves or that they’d seen them.”
One of the aims of the convention was to attract a flying saucer to display itself to the assembled crowd. Unsurprisingly this failed to take place, but the faithful took heart from the fact that a ‘strange red light’ had been seen coming to rest in a nearby field. Gini Wade again: “… most of us congratulated ourselves on having lured the aliens successfully, even if they had landed in the wrong spot.”

Another key member of the English Underground, Neil Oram, was also there. Oram had morphed from beatnik wanderer to hippy philosopher, later writing his semi-fictional memoirs as The Warp trilogy of books. In Lemmings On the Edge, Oram describes the scene as they arrived at the shores of Lough Eme:
“At the water’s edge we were met by Michael Roner, who took us across the choppy lake in a battered rowing boat which was equipped with a noisy, erratic outboard motor. Apart from the big white house on the lawn, the rest of the island was overgrown, without a trace of permanent habitation. Although now, there were, camp fires and tents scatterea`all over the wooded hills, which rose quite steeply from the beach.”
Desmond Leslie was responsible for organizing the conference lectures, held each evening in a large marquee. Scant information now exists as to exactly who gave spoke, but Neil Oram remarks that they consisted of “rather dull pronouncements of what lay in store for the human race”. According to Oram, “It wasn’t until the fourth night that we were given some real information, by an ex-Australian Air Force radar expert.” This impressed Oram, “It made my hair stand on end when we learnt that he’d picked up unidentified craft, whose estimated diameter was in the region of three hundred miles! MILES! Traveling in excess of one hundred THOUSAND miles an hour!”

On the last night of the ‘fly-in’ Desmond Leslie introeduced a young Irishman called Gerald to the audience. Gerald claimed to have had what would now be termed an abduction experience. He related a story of how, walking home from a dance across an isolated area of moorland, he saw three coloured lights descending on him, after which he awoke on a bed in a circular, red, room which hummed. He was ordered to strip and a female humanoid figure seduced him. Afterwards she told him, “All you earth people are strange”. The next thing he knew he was back on the moorland road with the three coloured lights receding in the sky above him.

This story, with its obvious echoes of the well publicized Villas Boas case, was too much for some of the assembled hippies and vigorous arguments broke out. Even John Michell was dubious, questioning Gerald as to how he could be sure he was in a spaceship. As the arguments raged, Gerald slipped away and Desmond Leslie was left to calm the crowd. Gini Wade recalled the abductee being, “invited back to London where he was feted in Notting Hill, but he turned out to be a fraud and was spat out again.”

Another well known face on the London scene, Dave Tomlin, attended the Lusty Beg conference. Tomlin had been a member of famous underground experimental bands including Sun Trolley and the Third Ear Band. He remembers, “… people camped in the woods who went in the evenings or afternoons for lectures or talks.” Tomlin believed the hippies adopted flying saucers as “one of their credos”, certain the spacemen were going to come because “one way or another this would be the only way to save the planet, because it was quite obvious what was going on.”

But Johan Quanjar’s experience of the event was not as positive. He notes that while, “Dozens of people had descended on the island for fun, jollity and invocation of higher energies. By the end of the week the entire hippy UFO community had gone native. They had formed separate tribes with some not speaking to others.”

For Desmond Leslie however, the Lusty Beg Fly-In had been an enormous success and on his return to Castle Leslie he penned a flowery account of the event which amplified the growing connections between saucers and the mythology of Britain.
“So we are back, drenched with spray and sun from that magical island on Lough Erne where our Fly-In eventually took place, an island which saw the arrival of the Tuatha de Danaan, the space people who came to Ireland thousands of years ago, an island in the far West, hardly changed since their silvery chariots rose in the far western skies and became invisible. But their presence is still there: all around us were fairy rings, stone circles, ceremonial causeways and a lost timelessness, uncontaminated by later civilisations … some of us went to White Island … others went to the stone circles of Boa Island and made mental contact with the Space Brothers. On Friday at six o’clock by the sun we had our ‘think in’ and many managed to make mental contact and exchange feelings of brotherly love with the elder Ones…”
This event was as close as the hippie subculture ever got in organizing its interest in flying saucers, and they were rapidly losing that interest. Too many other fantastic possibilities vied for their attention, and when you’ve explored inner space, outer space could seem positively tedious. Essentially those among the English Underground who took an avid interest in flying saucers did so, not out of certain belief, but from a desire to explore possibilities. When the flying saucer experience didn’t deliver the goods or, as the hippies saw on Lusty Beg, it descended into conflict and argument, they didn’t want to know.

Poet and author Barry Gifford, whose novel Wild at Heart was used by David Lynch as the basis for the film, sojourned as a hippy in late 1960s London. In The Duke of Earls Court Gifford writes of his interest in flying saucers and refers to an incident when a friend, Ace, invited the editor of Flying Saucer Review to dinner. The clash of cultures was inevitable:
“It was obvious upon his entrance that the editor, an ordinary-looking, balding, middle-aged man in a dark gray threepiece suit, was visibly shaken by the den of freaks to which he had unwittingly lent his presence. He had no idea, he said, attempting to smile, that the dinner was to be such an event. After answering a few desultory questions about saucers it was clear that the editor wanted to be anywhere else but with those people. The food was macrobiotic and when he enquired what was in the meal was told, ‘Brown rice, kasha, bulgur, soy, miso. The food of the people. It makes you high’. Mention of the word ‘high’ caused the editor to drop his fork, obviously afraid that the meal had been spiked with drugs of some form. He left soon afterwards, pleading a prior engagement.”
Flying Saucers continued to be courted by the English Underground in the dying embers of the 60s, but by 1970 the hippie movement had become subsumed into the broader spectrum of youth culture and was no longer fresh. You could buy kaftans in Marks and Spencers, and like all youth movements, it had been diluted and re-packaged by commercial interests, being sold rather than invented. Those who had been heavily involved in saucerdom moved swiftly on. For everyone else the subject of UFOs was now just another hip belief to be `into’, the publishing floodgates opened and books on earth mysteries, witchcraft, astrology, occultism and mysticism offered other ways of thinking and being.

Were it not for the hippies’ interest in flying saucers, nurtured by John Michell, the interest in Earth Mysteries, folklore and ancient sacred sites we are experiencing in the 21st century would not have taken place. This brief burst of drug fuelled exploration cross-pollinated many fortean subjects, the results of which we are still seeing now. Where mainstream ufology was mired in the yes/no argument about the physical reality of UFOs, the hippies treated the subject as just one in a long line of possibly useful ideas.

This dichotomy of attitude between the hippie and the straight view of saucers was aptly summed up in an exchange between Barry Gifford and his friend, after the FSR editor had fled their dinner party. Referring to the editor’s ‘stuffy’ attitude Ace pointed out to Gifford: “But it’s ok man, it really is, he’s a dedicated cat. I mean he’s never seen one, but he really believes in them flying saucers.”

“So do you,” Gifford said. Ace nodded. “Sure, man, sure I do. The difference between him and me is that I’m not so bloody serious about it.”