Mediums, Mystics and Martians

Gareth J. Medway
Magonia 99, April 2009

In 1853 Spiritualism became the latest fashionable pursuit in the southern Spanish port of Cadiz. Seances were regularly held after dinner as a parlour game. At one, on 8 November 1853, there was the following exchange:
Is there a spirit present? Yes.
What is your name? Eqe.

In what part of the world did you live? North America.
Were you a man or a woman? A woman.
What is your name in English? Akka.
How do you translate bello into English? Fine.
Why have you come here? To do good.
To you or to us? To you.
You can, then, do us good? I can; it is all in the task.
How can we obtain good? In emancipating woman; all depends upon her.

This feminist statement is a little surprising, coming in a conservative country in a conservative era, though no doubt the medium was a woman. Yet more unusual was a message from 'A Spontaneous Spirit' delivered on 30 November:
"The order distributes the harmonies. This law is that each globe of the solar system is inhabited by a humanity like yours; each member of this humanity is a complete being in the rank which it occupies; it possesses a head, a torso, and limbs. Each has its selected destination, collective or terrestrial, visible or invisible. The sun, like the planets and their satellites, has its inhabitants, with a complex destiny. Each of the humanities which people these diverse globes has a double existence, visible and invisible, and a spiritual word appropriate to each of its states." (1)
This idea, of spiritual incarnation on different planets, was not only found in Spain. At that time, the French Spiritualist movement was led by Allan Kardec (1804-1869). In The Gospel According to Spiritualism Kardec gave his own interpretation of various well-known verses from the Bible. On "In my father's house there are many mansions" (John 14:2) he commented: "The house of the father is the universe; the different mansions are the worlds which circulate in infinite space, and offer incarnate spirits sojourns appropriate for their advancement." (2) In 1870 Miss Anna Blackwell, an English disciple of Kardec resident in Paris, wrote a summary of his philosophy for the Committee of the London Dialectical Society, which went into more detail on this:
"Thus the globes of each solar-system form a series of temporary residences - of progressive training-grounds, of places of reward or of punishment - for the spirits who are being educated in them. Of the planets of our system (some of which are yet to be discovered) Venus is said to be at a degree of development similar to that of our earth; Mars, to be inferior to our earth; Mercury, to be far inferior to Mars. All the others are declared to be superior to ours; while Jupiter, the largest, most advanced, and most glorious of them all, is said to be, even in its 'material' sphere, an abode of happiness far transcending anything we can imagine in our present chrysalis state. "(3)
Among Kardec's associates was Camille Flammarion, [left] who was to become the best-known French astronomer of the nineteenth century, owing largely to his popularising works, beginning with The Plurality of Inhabited Worlds. (4) In this, he asserted that all of the solar system is inhabited, even the rings of Saturn. (5) This belief was certainly bound up in his mind with Spiritualism: in a Discourse Pronounced over the Tomb of Allan Kardec, he addressed his hero: "You were the first, oh master and friend! you were the first, at the start of my astronomical career, who showed a sympathetic view of my deductions relative to the existence of celestial humanities; for, taking in hand the book of the Plurality of Inhabited Worlds, you placed it at the base of the doctrinal edifice of which you dreamt." (6)

It was Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) who is first known to have proposed that the stars were other suns - at a time when it was usually thought that they were jewels or blocks of ice set in a crystalline sphere - and that they had inhabited planets circling them. (7) This was a remarkable conclusion, since he had no good reason for thinking this. Indeed, had CSICOPs existed in the fifteenth century, they would have told him that his hypothesis violated the principle of Ockham's Razor, so that he should not believe in it.

Once the Copernican theory, as we call it, became generally accepted, it was widely recognised that, since the earth was not the centre of the cosmos, and so not unique, there could be life on other planets. This found expression in fantasies about interplanetary voyages. The first of these, Somnium, by Johannes Kepler himself, concerns the son of a witch whose mother summons up a demon to take him on a trip to the moon. (8) (Ironically, Kepler's own mother was once accused of witchcraft.) Others utilised such transportation as a chariot drawn by swans, whilst in 1784 'Vivenair' went to Uranus by balloon. (9)

Though this last seems very odd to us, it was not always so for the general public. At a seance in Paris in 1859, a deceased balloonist named M. Poitevin manifested, and discussed the possibilities of hot air balloons with the sitters. He said that many people were concerned whether "you will be able to go, by this means, to visit other planets"; with more sense than one might expect of a discarnate entity, he told them: "No, you will never be able to." (10)

Around 1840, an American named William Miller predicted that Christ would return to earth in 1843 or 1844, the date finally becoming hardened to 22 October 1844. Christ failed to return on that day, however, causing confusion among his followers. Some of them were mollified in December, when, during a prayer meeting, a seventeen-year old girl named Ellen Gould Harmon (later Mrs White), went into a trance, in which God assured her that the Millerites' mistake lay in confusing the second coming of Christ with the start of the heavenly judgement, which had indeed begun on 22 October. This event led to the foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is still active today. (11) White had other visions, one of which she wrote of as follows:
"The Lord has given me a view of other worlds. Wings were given me, and an angel attended me from the city to a place that was bright and glorious ... The inhabitants of the place were of all sizes; they were noble, majestic and lovely ... I asked one of them why they were so much more lovely than those on the earth. The reply was, 'We have lived in strict obedience to the commandments of God, and have not fallen by disobedience, like those on the earth' ... Then I was taken to a world which had seven moons. There I saw good old Enoch, who had been translated." (12)
According to Martin Gardner, a Victorian history, The Rise and Progress of the Seventh Day Adventists, identified this world as Saturn, which was then believed to have seven moons; in a revised edition of the book, 1905, the number of moons seen by her had increased to eight; possibly this was related to the intervening discovery, by astronomers, of an eighth moon of Saturn. (13)

Meanwhile, a poorly-educated country boy from Poughkeepsie, New York State, Andrew Jackson Davis (1826-1910) [left], had been mesmerised by a travelling showman, and found to have "very remarkable clairvoyant powers." Further experiments with him were performed by a local tailor named Levingston, who tried to get Davis to diagnose people's diseases whilst in mesmeric trance. When asked more general questions, he took to saying: "I will answer that in my book."

At the age of nineteen he decided at the time for this had come, and he travelled to New York, where every day a Dr. Lyon put him into trance, and a Rev. William Fishbough acted as amanuensis. Dr George Bush (no relation), Professor of Hebrew at the University of New York, who was present at some of these sessions, wrote: "I can solemnly affirm that I have heard Davis correctly quote the Hebrew language in his lectures, and display a knowledge of geology which would have been astonishing in a person of his age, even if he had devoted years to the study." (14)

The bulky work that resulted, The Principles of Nature, appeared in 1847. It is an occult history of the cosmos, beginning with the creation of the stars and planets, going on to the geology and past epochs of the earth, pre- and ancient history, and the origin of religions, wherein he attacked the accuracy of the Bible. It is rather vague and rambling, though in high-flown language, e.g. "The material Universe is a Vortex, from which all forms, material and immaterial, are unfolded and developed to the external or surface."

Much of his account of the solar system conformed to the findings of contemporary astronomy, saying of Uranus that "The rotation of this planet on its axis has not as yet been discovered ... It revolves in its orbit around the sun once in eighty-four years; its distance being over eighteen hundred millions of miles: and it moves at the rate of fifteen thousand miles an hour." The further a planet was from the sun, the older it was, in accordance with the then accepted Kant-Laplace theory. All of the planets from Mercury to Saturn were inhabited by humans, but naturally the older the race, the more evolved and spiritual it was, so that whilst the men of Saturn were 'physically, mentally and morally perfected', those of Mercury, which had only been inhabited for 8000 years, were like 'most ferocious animals'. On earth, though, we could look forward to "that era when the interiors of men will be opened, and the spiritual communion will be established such as is now being enjoyed by the inhabitants of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn." (13)

A former Universalist minister, Thomas Lake Harris, was so impressed by The Principles of Nature that for four or five months he went around lecturing on its 'Spiritual Philosophy'. But after he had spoken in Cincinnati in 1848, he was suddenly reported to have seceded from the Davisites, and taken up abode with a 'Spiritual Brotherhood' in the city. (16) Five years later he was falling into inspired trances himself. A series of these occurred for fourteen days from 24 November 18S3, during which he recited a lengthy poem, An Epic of the Starry Heaven. Since, fortunately, there was always been someone around to take dictation when he became entranced, in due course it was published. It took the form of a mystical journey:
If a new-born language trembled on my tongue,
Whose tones accorded with the singing stars;
A company of spirits, blithe and young,
From Jupiter, and Mercury, and Mars,
Drew near ..."
They gave him a guided tour of heaven, which was partly traditional, but also involved other planets. Here is his account of the 'Interior of a School of Love upon the Planet Mercury':
If I stand within a marble hall,
It is like crystal, clear and white;
In music sweet my footsteps fall;
Its roofs a floor of golden light,
An ether-sphere, serene and pure,
In its own radiance far too bright
For my thought's vision to endure."
He also described the Garden of Eden, "situated upon an Islet in the Equatorial [sic] Region of the Planet Mars." (17) Strangely enough, a twentieth century UFO author, Brinsley Le Poer Trench, also located the Garden of Eden on Mars. His argument was based upon certain Middle Eastern texts discovered by archaeologists, as quoted in W. F. Albright's appendix to Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible, which asserted that the river of Eden was dug (characteristic of a canal rather than a river), and that Eden was "in the Under World": "Well ... if the sun was to the Ancients, as to us, 'above' - any neighbouring world outside our orbit might easily be under. And our next-door neighbour on the 'under' side is Mars. And Mars is netted with canals!" (18) It is unlikely that he had ever heard of Lake Harris, yet nevertheless he was able to come up with the same peculiar idea. Many occult writers are vague about concrete details: here is part of a dialogue between an unidentified 'Skeptic', and an unidentified 'Spirit' speaking through an unidentified medium, place and date also unspecified (published in America in 1868):

Skeptic: Cannot spirits visit the fixed stars?
Spirit: Some of them are near enough to be visited; Sirius, for example.
Skeptic: What is the difficulty? can they not move with the swiftness of thought?
Spirit: Doubtless they can, through a vacuum such as the stellar spaces. The difficulty is to think fast enough ...
Skeptic: You spoke of talking with a spirit who had visited Sirius. Did he tell you
any thing of it?
Spirit: Yes. It is larger than our sun by a third. It has a more extensive system of planets than we have.

Now, the idea that Sirius is inhabited has remained popular in recent times, notably in Robert Temple's The Sirius Mystery, in the first chapter of which he attempted to establish the credibility of his hypothesis by quoting Dr. Su-Shu Huang of the Goddard Space Flight Center:
" ... planets are formed around the main-sequence stars of spectral types later than FS. Thus, planets are formed just where life has the highest chance to flourish. Based on this view we can predict that nearly all single stars of the main sequence below FS and perhaps above K5 have a fair chance of supporting life on their planets. Since they compose a few per cent of all stars, life should indeed be a common phenomenon in the universe." (19)
What Temple did not mention, or perhaps even know, is that Sirius is not 'later than FS', but of spectral type A, which by this theory would have no chance at all of supporting life on its planets, since it has none. (20)

Returning to our Skeptic and Spirit, the latter made an even more remarkable claim:
Skeptic: You spoke of the inhabitants of the moon. I thought there was no atmosphere there, and that, therefore, no life could exist there?
Spirit: The side turned from us is inhabited. The side turned toward us has no visible atmosphere, no water, and no life.
Skeptic: How can that be?
Spirit: The center of gravity of the moon is seven miles out of the center of the mass. That throws one side out fourteen miles, and making an equivalent of a mountain of that height. Although the atmosphere in the moon may reach thirty or forty miles, yet at the height of fourteen miles it would be insufficient to sustain life, and it would moreover be intensely cold. The side thus projecting is attracted toward the earth, and thus we never see but one side. On the other side, however, there are soil, atmosphere, water and vegetable and animal life, as on this earth. (21)

Once again, the same idea came up, seemingly independently, in more recent times. When taken by Venusians for a quick flip around the moon, he alleged, George Adamski was told that on the far side there is a strip "in which vegetation, trees and animals thrive, and in which people live in comfort"; he was able to see this for himself on a screen which gave him a magnified view of the surface. (22)

An even more bizarre theory had been propounded by no less a person then William Herschel, the discoverer of the planet Uranus. He argued that whilst the 'luminous atmosphere' of the sun is very hot, beneath it is a cool, inhabited world, whose mountains we occasionally see as sunspots. (23) Since such a distinguished man believed it, there should be no surprise that the notion later turned up in a seance.

One of the most celebrated events in Victorian Spiritualism was when the medium Daniel Douglas Home purportedly floated out of an upstairs window and in again at another. There has naturally been much controversy as to whether this really happened or not, (24) but what is seldom mentioned is what was reported next:
" ... pointing to a star, he asked us what we knew of that. He commented upon the very slight knowledge that most scientific men had; mentioning that not long ago the spots on the sun had been considered to be mountains; then water; then faculae [little torches]; but that now they knew them to be great chasms. "But what they do not know," he said, "is that the sun is covered with a beautiful vegetation, and full of organic life." Upon Viscount Adare asking: "Is not the sun hot?", he replied: "No, the sun is cold; the heat is produced and transmitted to the earth by the rays of light passing through various atmospheres." (25)
Another approach to psychical research was taken by Joseph Rhodes Buchanan, a professor of psychology and medical science at the Eclectic Medical Institute in Covington, Kentucky. A Bishop Polk told him how he was exceptionally sensitive to his surroundings: "If he touched brass in the dark he immediately knew it by its influence and the offensive metal taste in his mouth." In 1843 Buchanan decided to experiment, wrapped various chemical and metals in brown paper, and asked his students if they could detect them with their fingertips. Many of them were amazingly successful. The effects of medicines, when touched, was similar to those when they were actually taken, so that a subject who picked up an emetic had to put it down again to avoid vomiting. In 1849 he wrote an article for the Journal of Man in which he termed this faculty 'psychometry'. (26)

This paper was read by William Denton, a Yorkshireman recently settled in Ohio, who decided to investigate for himself, using his wife and other relations as psycho meters. Mainly, he got them to examine geological samples, numerous readings of which were eventually published in his three-volume The Soul of Things. Holding a fragment of lava from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, a sensitive said: "I see the ocean and ships are sailing on it. This must be an island, for water is all around. Now I am turned from where I saw the vessels, and am looking at something most terrific. It seems as if an ocean of fire were pouring over a precipice, and boiling as it pours. The sight permeates my whole being, and inspires me with terror. I see it flow into the ocean and the water boils intensely." This, Denton observed, was an accurate description of the eruption of Kilauea in 1840.

In the third volume, Denton related how, after supper one evening in 1866, he was in the orchard with his ten-year-old son Sherman. He pointed to Venus, and told the boy: "Look at that star; and then shut your eyes, and tell me what you see." The response was: "I see it round, but all rough. guess it is more hilly than this world. The mountains seem higher than they do here. I see a tree larger than these round here, just like a toadstool. It is a kind of purple calor. It has a monstrous trunk, larger than any I ever saw before. I see many of them. They are as thick as the woods down here. There are not as many on the mountains as on the plains. Inside of the trees is jelly-like stuff as sweet as honey. I tasted it. There is something hard inside that I spit out." His later vision of the sun was at least more accurate than Home's: "I see a world all lava. I tell you it is hot."

Subsequently, Sherman gave an account of life on Mars, whose inhabitants had "four fingers instead of five - three fingers and a thumb", and cat-like eyes. They went around in velocipedes, which resembled bicycles except that they flew; some Martians had springs fitted to their feet, so that they could travel fast and jump great distances. "Is that planet older than ours?" "Yes, probably." (27)

The late Arthur C. Clarke was once moved to ask: "I wonder why we always are menaced by Mars? I suppose that man Wells started it. One day we may have a big interplanetary libel action on our hands ... " (28) He was referring of course to The War of the Worlds, 1896, but there was much more written about that planet in that decade. The claim of Professor Schiaparelli, Director of the Milan Observatory, that it had a network of canals, and hence by implication intelligent life, had become widely accepted. (Incidentally, Schiaparelii was one of a group of scientists who investigated the medium Eusapia Palladino. (29)) In 1892 Camille Flammarion published a book about its 'habitability'. (30) (He tacitly abandoned discussion of the other planets, possibly because it had by then been realised that they are too hot or too cold for life.)

The 'airship' craze of 1897 is also worth mentioning here. It had long been believed, partly owing to the success of Jules Verne's novel The Clipper of the Clouds, that airships were the future of transport. In late March a rumour went around the American Midwest that a working prototype had been constructed. People in a number of towns and cities thought that they saw it, always in the evening and to the west. As several newspapers pointed out, this was because they were actually looking at the planet Venus, then at its brightest. Others, however, took advantage of April Fools' Day to print articles purporting to reveal the truth, e.g. the Indianapolis Journal identified the inventor as a John O. Preast of Omaha, over whose house, they said, an airship had been seen hovering. (31)

The joke was evidently felt to be too good to be reserved for one day of the year only, and similar stories continued to appear for weeks, based upon the testimony of people described as 'reputable citizens', and the like. The point here is that, although the inventors were usually said to be American, or; in one cas"e7"to come from the north pole and be descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel (32), a few were from much farther away. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch printed the narrative of Mr Hopkins, 'a prominent church member', who said he had come across a landed metal cylinder, near to which were a naked couple of unsurpassed good looks. He asked by signs where they came from, and they "pointed upward, pronouncing a word which, to my imagination, sounded like Mars." (33)

Another airship supposedly collided with a windmill in Aurora, Texas, killing the pilot, "and while his remains are badly disfigured, enough of the original has been picked up to show that he was not an inhabitant of this world. Mr. T. J. Weems, the United States signal service officer at this place and an authority on astronomy, gives it as his opinion that he was a native of the planet Mars." (34) (This case is still cited in UFO literature: in 1973 a 'treasure hunter' claimed to have discovered fragments of metal at the site, which resembled the skin of modern aircraft (35); in 1983 Bill Case of MUFON asked the local authorities for permission to dig up a grave in the local cemetery that he believed to be that of the alien, but they refused. (36)


On 10 April, a cigar-shaped aluminium ship was reported to have crashed to the west of Lanark, Illinois, on the farm of Johann Fliegeltoub. Two of the crew were killed, but a 'strange creature' in ancient Greek garb survived. According to a report filed by General F. A. Kerr, his tunic "was embroidered with a coat of arms over the breast, a shield with a bar sinister of link sausages and bearing a ham sandwich rampant." Having explained that "he and his companions were an exploring party from Mars", the alien then got his craft working again, and disappeared into the night sky. The general "returned to Lanark and securing a room at the hotel, sat up all night smoking opium and eating hasheesh to get in condition to write this dispatch." (37) Evidently, planets go in and out of fashion. In the 1950s, flying saucers would nearly always come from Venus, but in the 1890s Mars was the usual place of an alien's origin. It is no surprise, therefore, than when a Swiss woman became the first earthling to learn something of the language of another planet, it should have been Martian.

In 1891 Theodore Flournoy became professor of psychophysiology at the University of Geneva, and was soon involved with psychical research. In December 1893 he wrote to William James in England to say that
"I am now deep in Myers's articles in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, I have been asked to give two talks in a series of public lectures, after the New Year, and I shall do them on Verifiable Hallucination, Visions in the crystal ball, etc." Three months later he regretfully reported that: "The few mediums and subjects of telepathic hallucinations etc. whom I have been able to reach in the last three months in Geneva have not furnished me with decisive phenomena", so that his talk would have to be based upon the writings of Myers and James himself. After another year and a half, however, he was able to write of 'Helene Smith' (the pseudonym he gave to shop girl Elise Muller) that: " ... this woman is a veritable museum of all possible phenomena and has a repertoire of illimitable variety: she makes the table talk, - she hears voices, - she has visions, hallucinations, tactile and olfactory, - automatic writing - sometimes complete somnambulism, catalepsy, trances etc.
All the automatism, sensory and motor, of Myers, - all the classical hysterical phenomena - present themselves in turn, in any order and in the most unexpected fashion, varying from one time to another. The contents of these phenomena are always of former events, going back a few or many years, being perfectly correct, generally having to do with the ancestors of the persons present. The good faith of the medium is indisputable, and the strangeness of her revelation well calculated to convince the spiritualists of this group. However, in the five or six cases which concerned deceased members of my family, I finally had proof that these persons all had had, some fifty years ago, personal contacts with the parents of the medium; and the most natural supposition is that these revelations, invariably exact and dealing with odd facts, are reminiscences of accounts which the medium had heard from the mouth of her parents in her childhood." (38)
500 years earlier, Mademoiselle Smith revealed, she had been Simandini, the daughter of an Arab sheik who was married off to a Hindu prince named Sivrouka Hayaka. She had next been Marie Antoinette, and her current spirit guide, Leopold, was the celebrated occultist Cagliostro. Leopold might rap upon the table, or speak through automatic writing, or directly through Helene Smith's vocal cords.

Some of these seances were attended by a Mme Mirbel whose only son, Alexis, had recently died aged seventeen. On the evening of 25 November 1894, Mile Smith suddenly found herself walking upon Mars, though it appeared to the others that her body was still in the room with them. "Helene then began a description of all the strange things that presented themselves to her view, and caused her as much surprise as amusement. Carriages without horses or wheels, emitting sparks as they glided by, houses with fountains on the roof, a cradle having for curtains an angel made of iron with outstretched wings, etc. What seemed less strange, were people exactly like the inhabitants of our earth, save that both sexes wore the same costume, formed of trousers very ample, and a long blouse, drawn tight about the waist and decorated with various designs." Finally, she saw a vast assembly hall, in which she met none other than Alexis Mirbel, who gave her some messages for his mother.

Further communications followed with the Martians, one of whom was Astane, a Hindu fakir formerly named Kanga, with whom she had been a friend when she was Simandini. Then messages started coming in the Manian language itself. About 20 September 1896 she received "Dode ne ci haudan te mess metiche Astane ke de me veche", which was followed on 2 November by a French translation: "Ceci est la maison du grand homme Astane que tu as vu", i.e. "This is the house of the great man Astane, whom thou has seen." Later, Alexis told Mme. Mirbel: "I mode mete mode mode ine palette is che peliche che chire ne ci ten ti vi." "0 mere, tender mere, mere bien-aimee, calme tout ton souci, ton fils est pres de toi." "Oh mother, tender mother, dearly loved mother, calm all thy care, thy son is near thee."
'Martian' writing as described
by 'Hélene Smith'
Flournoy was suspicious of the fact that all of the sounds of Martian also occur in French, although even other European languages have sounds which French does not, for instance it has no equivalent to the English h, j and ch. Moreover, although the vocabulary was quite different, Martian grammar was identical to that of French: in the phrase quand reviendra-t-il? ('when will he return?'), the -t- is purely euphonic; in the Martian for this, 'Kevi benmir m hed', the m likewise had no meaning. (39) He concluded that the language was merely a product of her unconscious mind, though it has been observed: "That the subconscious can work in this way is, perhaps, even more 'miraculous' than possible reincarnation on Mars." (40)

It is evident from the foregoing that receiving information about living beings on other planets, and communicating with them, was commonplace in nineteenth-century Spiritualism. Yet this fact is nowadays almost unknown. A history of Spiritualism will typically devote one passing sentence to the subject. (41)

In 1988 Denton's The Soul of Things was reissued as part of a series of classic works on psychical research, but only the first volume, thus omitting the accounts of life on the planets; Colin Wilson, in a new introduction, confessed that these findings were "mostly bad science fiction". He did suggest that "Sherman would undoubtedly have been more accurate if he had been allowed to hold a piece of rock from the moon or Mars." (42)

One might think that communication with the dead would not be reported in modern ufology, since it is a supposedly rationalist discipline. But it does occur sometimes. Whitley Strieber relates that a couple "in the south-eastern United States", whose seventeen-year-old son had died in a road accident the week before, were sitting in their living room around ten o'clock at night when their dog became nervous and began to pace, so the wife decided to take him out. "As she opened the front door, two things happened simultaneously. The first was that an orange ball of light swept away from the house, disappearing across a nearby line of trees. The next second, the couple's ten-year-old son came running downstairs yelling excitedly that "little blue men" had brought his older brother into the bedroom, and the older boy had a message: tell his mom and dad that he was okay." (43)

On the whole, however, ufologists tend to regard psychic information with disdain, even those who are impressed by contactee stories or abduction research. In the first edition of Flying Saucers Have Landed, Desmond Leslie included a chapter on 'The Findings of Dr Meade Layne', which were a description of eight types of craft 'originating from Venus alone', for instance Type no.3: "A cigar-shaped craft, about 100 feet long and 25 feet wide at maximum diameter. Primarily an escort and fighting craft. Used only if circumstances required protection for the other craft. Normal crew: twenty. Uses both "jet" drive when in the atmosphere, and "Primary Drive" when in space." (44)

It seems that Leslie did not realise that this information all derived from the pronouncements of a medium named Mark Probert, and that when he did find out he was not pleased, since in the later revised edition this section was deleted, with the comment that: "Since meeting his group and examining their methods of investigation, I am of the opinion that though his findings may have a certain substance, the methods by which they were obtained are far from satisfactory." (45) Spiritualist techniques were no longer felt to be scientific, in contrast to the hard reality of George Adamski's meeting with a Venusian in the Arizona desert, the truth of which Leslie continued to argue for at length.

Book sales suggest that the general public thought likewise. Cyril Richardson's Venus Speaks consisted of a series of telepathic communications from 'the chief scientist of the planet Venus', which he had "received between September 1953 and February 1954 with a request that they should be made public." (46) Now, Flying Saucers Have Landed was published in September 1953, and it no doubt encouraged Richardson to make contact himself; yet his booklet disappeared almost without trace, whereas the work that inspired it was an international bestseller.

One evening in mid-June 1965 Arthur Bryant [below] of Scoriton, Devon, a gardener at an old people's home, told his wife that he had seen a UFO the week before. She did not believe him, and that might have been the end of the matter, but their two daughters, who were aged nine and eleven, overheard the conversation and talked about it at school. Word quickly spread around the district, and a woman who regularly tried to make trouble for the local council wrote a letter to the South Devon Journal, saying that a flying saucer had contaminated the area with radioactivity, and demanded that the authorities launch an immediate inquiry. Bryant was promptly besieged by nuisance visitors, including a local policeman who demanded "What's this I 'ear about Russian spacemen landing in your garden?" All this distressed his wife, and necessitated him ejecting over-persistent news reporters bodily from his door. Threatening, anonymous letters were sent accusing him of being a communist; he even received five proposals of marriage.

The following Sunday the Plymouth Independent ran a big headline 'Did A Satellite Land in a Devon Field?' It was read by a Paignton woman, Mrs. Phoebe Beer, who mentioned it to her son Lionel, who was then Publicity Officer for BUFORA. In August Lionel and the chairman, Dr Doel, visited Scoriton and interviewed Bryant. He told them that on the night of 7 June he had heard a humming sound, and going outside saw a blue object "the apparent size of a pea at arm's length" cross the sky and descend a few fields away. Next day he visited the spot and found some pieces of metal, and a glass phial containing a piece of paper with the words adelphos adelpho, which is Greek for 'brother' to brother".

Having been persuaded to join BUFORA himself, later that year Bryant wrote to them saying that he had had an earlier and much more remarkable encounter. As he would relate it to Eileen Buckle and Norman Oliver, on 24 April 1965 he had been walking on Scoriton Down in the late afternoon when a saucer-shaped object suddenly appeared, swung around, then came to rest hovering a few feet above the ground of the field in front of him. A door opened, and he saw three figures in what he took to be diving suits, one of whom beckoned to him. As he approached they took off their helmets, which was an odd thing to do, since the purpose of a space helmet is to protect one from the atmosphere (or lack of it) outside the craft; the incident is reminiscent of science fiction, where aliens often make this mistake. He could now see that two of them had eyes like cats' and very tall pointed conical foreheads. He also noticed that they had four fingers on each hand. The third looked like an ordinary human of about fifteen.

Inviting him aboard, the latter told Bryant that his name was 'Yamski', that they ccme from Venus, and that he had a message for him to give to 'Des Les': "Karma does work". He was taken on a tour of the rather bare interior. Unable to see any engines or controls, he asked how it could fly, and was told: "Ideo-motor movement". He was also informed that "forces from Epsilon were already here in the guise of Poltergeists". When Oliver later asked him whether any word had followed 'Epsilon', he said that a word like 'danni' or 'darni' had preceded it. The investigators thought that this might refer to Epsilon Eridani, as astronomers term it, which is a star comparatively near to ours. When they returned to the door, the aliens thanked him, he jumped to the ground again, and the craft vanished. (47)

As BUFORA quickly realised, George Adamski had died on 23 April 1965, one day before Bryant's encounter. In an obituary for Flying Saucer Review, Desmond Leslie had written: "I don't believe we have seen the last of him. If he is reborn on another planet he has promised to come back and contact us when possible." It appeared that he had wasted no time, yet the affair does not seem to have convinced anyone of the reality of reincarnation on Venus. Informed of the encounter, Leslie commented that: "The only puzzle here is why did he, with a fully operational saucer and a new, young body at his disposal, choose to touch down in Devon if he wanted to talk to me, when he knows I live in the bogs of Ireland - a bare two minutes' flip by saucer?" Timothy Good, who did his best to defend Adamski, wrote: "I had several meetings with Bryant, and although he conveyed the impression of sincerity and was a kindly soul, there are good reasons for refuting many of his claims." (48)

To conclude, by coincidence, whilst I was trying to finish this article, I came across this item in thelondonpaper 'funny old world' column: "The fictional home planet of Star Trek's Mr Spock may really exist. A powerful telescope found rocky worlds around the star Epsilon Eridani, which Spock's planet Vulcan orbits in the TV show. Nasa experts believe one could be habitable like Earth." (49) Perhaps one day dead humans will be reborn there.

  1. French translation in 'La Spiritisme a Cadiz en 1868 et 1868', Revue Spirite (ed. Allan Kardec), Volume 11, no 4Paris, April 1868, pp.123-24. I have been unable to locate a copy of the original Spanish, which seems to have been published at Cadiz in 1854.
  2. Allan Kardec, L'Evangile selon le Spiritisme, Federacao Espirita Brasileira, Rio de Janeiro, 1979 (photographic reprint of the third French edition, Paris, 1866), p.21.
  3. Report on Spiritualism, of the Committee of the London Dialectical Society, London, 1871, p.309. Her main source seems to have been 'La pluralite des mondes', Revue Spirite, Volume 1, no.3, March 1858, pp.65-73.
  4. St. Le Tourneur, 'Camille Flammarion', Dictionnaire de Biographie Francaise, Paris, Librairie Letouzey et Ame, 1975, Tome 13, Cols.1462-63.
  5. Camille Flammarion, La Pluralite des Mondes Habites: Etude ou l'on expose les conditions d'habitabilite des terres celestes, descuteés au point de vue de l'astronomie et de la physiologie, Paris, 1862, pp.39, 47. This first edition was only 50 pages long; the second, two years later, ran to 555.
  6. Camille Flammarion, Discours prononce sur la tombe de Allan Kardec, Paris, 1869, p.23.
  7. Isaac Asimov, Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, Pan, London, 1975, p.64.
  8. Summary in Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, Pelican, 1975, ppA20-25.
  9. Most of these extracted in Faith K. Pizor & T. Allan Comp, 'The Man in the Moone': An Anthology of Antique Science Fiction and Fantasy, Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1971.
  10. 'M. Poitevin, aeronaute', Revue Spirite, Volume 2, no 4, April 1859, p.1 08.
  11. Ronald L. Numbers, 'Ellen Gould White', in Mircea Eliade (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion, Macmillan, New York, 1987, Volume 15, pp.377-79.
  12. Ellen Gould White, Early Writings, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Hagerstown, Maryland, 2000, pp.39-40.
  13. Martin Gardner, The New Age, Prometheus, Buffalo, New York, 1991, p.258.
  14. Arthur Conan Doyle, The History of Spiritualism, Cassell, London, 1926, Volume 1, pp.36-42.
  15. Andrew Jackson Davis, The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and a Voice to Mankind, John Chapman, London, 1847, pp.??, 167, 183,208.
  16. B. F. Barrett, Davis' Revelations Sifted: A Review of Rev. T. L. Harris'Lectures, on "Spiritual Philosophy", Cincinnati, 1848.
  17. Thomas Lake Harris, An Epic of the Starry Heaven, 4th edition, New York, 1854, pp. 25, 176, 34.
  18. Brinsley le Poer Trench, The Sky People, Neville Spearman, London, 1960, p.39.
  19. Robert Temple, The Sirius Mystery, Futura, 1976, p.31.
  20. I. S. Shklovskii & Carl Sagan, Intelligent Life in the Universe, Delta, New York, 1966, Chapter 13.
  21.  Quoted in Andrew Jackson Davis, A Stellar Key to the Summer Land, William White, Boston & New York, 1868, pp.141-42,145.
  22. George Adamski, Inside the Space Ships, Abelard-Schuman, New York, 1955, pp.158-61.
  23. M. A. Hoskin, 'William Herschel', in Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Scribner's, New York, 1972, Volume 5, p.333; Patrick Moore, Can You Speak Venusian?, Star, London, 1976, pp.42-43.
  24. E.g. T. H. Hall, New Light on Old Ghosts, Duckworth, London, 1965, pp.86-119.
  25. Viscount Adare, Experiences in Spiritualism with Mr. D. D. Home, [London, 1871], p.84.
  26. Leslie A. Shephard (ed.), Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology, 3rd Edition, Gale Research, Detroit, Michigan, 1991, s.v. 'Buchanan, Joseph Rhodes', and 'Psychometry' .
  27. William Denton, The Soul of Things: Psychometric Experiments for Re-living History, 3 volumes, Denton Publishing, Wellesley, Massachusetts, 1888, Volume 1 pp.38-39; Volume 3 pp.147-48, 159, 171-77.
  28. Arthur C. Clarke, 'Armaments Race', Tales from the White Hart, Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1973 (written 1954).
  29. G. E. Wright, Evidences of Spiritualism: Practical Views of Psychic Phenomena, Kegan Paul, London, 1920, p.61.
  30. Camille Flammarion, La Plenete Mars et ses Conditions d'Habitabilite, Gauthier-Viliars et Fils, Paris, 1892.
  31. Venus, e.g. Iron Mountain Daily Tribune, 30 March 1897; Preast of Omaha, Indianapolis Journal, 1 April 1897; both of these reprinted in Thomas E. Bullard, The Airship File, Bloomington, Indiana, 1982, p.82.
  32. David Michael Jacobs, The UFO Controversy in America, Signet, 1976, p.8.
  33. Louis Post-Dispatch, 19 April 1897, in Bullard pp.1 01-2.
  34. Dallas Morning News, 19 April 1897, in Bullard, p.228.
  35. John Keel, The Mothman Prophecies, IIlumiNet Press, Lilburn, Georgia, 1991, p.15
  36. George C. Andrews, Extra-Terrestrials Among Us, Llewellyn, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1987, pp.81-82.
  37. Quoted in Nigel Watson, 'Down to Earth', Magonia 43, July 1992, p.7.
  38. The Letters of William James and Theodore Flournoy, edited by Robert C. LeClair, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Milwaukee & London, 1966, pp.47-48.
  39. Theodore Flournoy, From India to the Planet Mars: A Case of Mulitple Personality with Imaginary Languages, edited and introduced by Sonu Shamdasani, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1994, pp.14-15, 90-91, 113,137.
  40. John Grant, A Directory of Discarded Ideas, Corgi, London, 1983, p.140.
  41. E.g. Ronald Pearsall, The Table-Rappers, Book Club Associates, London, 1972, p.85; Deborah Blum, Ghost Hunters, Arrow Books, London, 2007, p.242.
  42. Colin Wilson, in William Denton, The Soul of Things, Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, 1988, p.x.
  43. Whitley Strieber, Confirmation: The Hard Evidence of Aliens among Us, Simon & Schuster, London, 1998, pp.115-16.
  44. Desmond Leslie & George Adamski, Flying Saucers Have Landed, Werner Laurie, London, 1953, p.129.
  45. Flying Saucers Have Landed, new edition, Futura, London, 1977 (1st 1970).
  46. Cyril Richardson, Venus Speaks, Regency Press, London, [1954].
  47. Eileen Buckle, The Scoriton Mystery, Neville Spearman, London, 1967, particularly pp.47-73.
  48. Lou Zinstagg & Timothy Good, George Adamski: The Untold Story, Ceti Publications, Beckenham, 1983, p.183.
  49. thelondonpaper, 29 October 2008, p.7