UK writer David Clarke's new book "How UFOs Conquered the World: the History of a Modern Myth," (Aurum Press, London, 2015, ISBN 978-1-78131-3038) has just been published. In short, the book is about Clarke's personal journey through Ufology. However, it is far more than that.
Chapter one is based around an interview with Denis Plunkett, "...the last remaining founder member of the British Flying Saucer Bureau." (p.23.) Clarke's interest here was expressed as "I wanted to know what motivated Denis to persevere in his belief that UFOs were craft piloted by extra-terrestrials." (p.25.) Along the way is a discussion of early UFO sightings and personalities, and concludes "What Carl Jung called 'a modern myth of things seen in the sky' had been created." (p.48.)
This chapter explores the issue of witnesses' conviction of what they observe, in the light of belief and expectation, illustrated by case histories from the United Kingdom. He outlines studies such as that of CUFOS' former Allan Hendry which found that 90% of all incoming raw reports had mundane explanations after competent investigation. He writes "Williamson' story demonstrated that it is not the experience that is at the root of the syndrome but how it is subsequently interrupted by the observers and, if reported, by the media and the ufologists." (p.65.)
This is centred around the events in the 1960's around Warminster in the UK, and includes scientific research conducted by David Simpson and other members of the Society for the Investigation of UFO Phenomenon, using balloons to create false UFO reports which UFOlogists accepted as genuine. In summing up Clarke writes "...every type of UFO evidence, from complex photographs to alien abductions, secret government documents and stories told by high ranking military officials about extra-terrestrial cadavers hidden in air force hangers, has at some point been unveiled as being invented. " (p.95.)
Here, Clarke focuses on the UK Ministry of defence and their involvement in the UFO subject. Clarke writes "What struck me was the stark contrast between the popular idea of a lavishly funded secret government agency tasked with suppressing the facts about alien visitation and the mundane daily reality faced by those who ran the MOD's actual UFO desk." (pp99-100.)
Clarke interviewed Alex Cassie who worked with DI55's John Dickison and S4's Leslie Ackhurst; plus Jim Carruthers, a senior MOD official. Later interviewees included Linda Unwin, who ran the MOD's UFO desk in the early 2000's All very interesting reading.
Chapter five covers the MOD's release of its UFO files; the televisions series 'X-files;" Steven M Greer's Disclosure Project; categories of conspiracy thinking, and UFO researcher Gary Heseltine. In closing, his account of his interview with Heseltine wrote "...I was struck by the fact that, for all its talk about evidence, ufology was not an empirical discipline. In order for it to survive it had to close itself off from the scientific method." (p.145)
"Crashed saucers" feature in this chapter. Clarke describes the 1962 Ardgay, Scotland incident; then Roswell and other such events. Archival research suggested that the Ardgay device was part of a mid 1950's CIA Project Moby Dick, where large balloons launched from Scotland over the USSR. At the chapter's end, Clarke writes "The truth is that governments can only successfully keep secrets when knowledge is confined to a small group of people. That simply cannot be the case with the UFO conspiracy." (p.169.)
Chapters seven and eight:
Chapter seven examines the world of contactee George King and the Aetherius Society of the UK. "...I saw little to separate the stories of contactees like George King from the experiences described by the many sane, rational people who claimed to have been abducted by aliens." (p.192.) Chapter eight examines the world of abductees, which takes us into the world of sleep paralysis, and altered states of conciseness`. "I was satisfied that cultural and psychological factors were the key to exploring the stories told by experiencers." (p.211.)
Chapter nine onwards:
Here, Clarke tells of his interview with Father Paul (Eric Inglesby), Britain's longest serving Christian ufologist, about his views on UFOs. Father Paul told Clarke that "...ufology was a vast, huge subject, shot full of religious danger." (p.222.) In the chapter, Clarke's view remained that "...all my investigations pointed to the mundane truth that most if not all UFOs could be explained in terms of misperceptions, altered states of consciousness and the influence of pop culture." (p.220.)
The penultimate chapter focusses on the question of life elsewhere in the Universe. Clarke reviews the views of astronomer Professor Paul Murdin, and Dr Michael Swords. Clarke confesses that "After spending three decades immersed in a syndrome where the scientific method is nearly always sacrificed to wish-fulfilment I had reached the point where I had to reject the extra-terrestrial hypothesis as an explanation for UFOs simply because it can never, ever be refuted." (p.254.)
Clarke's conclusion chapter titled "In the eye of the beholder" summarises his 30 year journey through Ufology. "One of the paradoxical lessons of the phenomenon is not what it tells us about extra-terrestrials but what it reveals about ourselves. " (p.265.) "Eventually I came to embrace the only explanation that satisfied me. It is often described simply as the PSH, or psychosocial hypothesis..." (p.268.)
Clarke says that along the way, he "...discovered not one but ten basic truths." (pp272-278.)
1. "There is no such things as 'the UFO phenomenon' but there are lots of phenomena that cause UFOs."
2. "There is no such thing as a 'true UFO.'"
3. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
4. "Accounts of UFO experiences form the core of the syndrome, but stories do not constitute 'evidence.' They are folklore."
5. "Culture - not experience - creates the UFO interpretation but some experiences are independent of culture."
6. "The UFO syndrome fulfils the role of the supernatural 'other.'"
7. "The extra-terrestrial hypothesis and other exotic theories cannot explain UFOs."
8. "The idea of a super-conspiracy to hide the truth about UFOs is unfalsifiable."
9. "The common denominator in UFO stories is the human beings who see and believe in them."
10. "People want to believe in UFOs."