Out of Time

Joan Forman. The Mask of Time: The Mystery Factor in Timeslips, Precognition and Hindsight. Macdonald and Janes, 1978.

Included in this book are several accounts by people who claim to have had experiences in which they were transported in time. What interests us is not whether any of these experiences are literal encounters with another time (which we very much doubt), but the quality of phenomenological descriptions of some of these experiences. As summarised by Ms Forman, these include:  
  1. A silvery light which seems to be present during the timeslip, irrespective of the actual weather conditions.
  2. An unusual silence, outside noises seeming to fade.
  3. An apparent distortion of the planes in the scene viewed.
  4. A trigger or threshold factor, setting the experience in motion.
  5. A feeling of physical unease or malaise in the percipient, preceding the onset of the event.
  6. Distortion of sounds or speech, when these are present during the experience.
  7. Abruptness of the onset and termination of the experience.
All of these items, particularly two, five and seven, are to be encountered in accounts of alleged UFO experiences.
Timeslips are basically metachoric experiences, in which the percipient(s) find that the environment of consensus reality is replaced by one which appears to the percipient to belong to a past (or more rarely a future) time. The above features seem to be common to all kinds of waking metachoric experiences.

There is even a case in which ambiguous physical evidence, so typical of ufology, is presented. An elderly man went into a shop in Yarmouth and bought some envelopes for his coin collection. He noted a few period pieces: the Edwardian dress of the lady assistant, her surprise at decimal money, etc., but thought nothing of it. Only later, on returning to the shop, d id he find that the entire scene had changed and there was no lady assistant. The bag in which the envelopes had been put disintegrated, though the envelopes remained. However examination by the manufacturers indicated that they were simply 10 to 15 year old cellulose film bags, and could not have come from the Edwardian period. In other cases alleged conversations are reported in timeslips which seem to have the same absurd and trivial character as those described in UFO encounters.

This is a book which will serve to broaden our understanding of the basis of the UFO phenomenon. -- Peter Rogerson, MUFOB New Series 13, Winter 1978/9

Anyone Here Seen Kelly?

Isobel Davis, Ted Bloecher and Leonard Stringfield. Close Encounter at Kelly and Others of 1955. Center UFO Studies, 1978.

The first part of this book is a detailed account of the visitation by humanoids to the farm of Mrs Ellenie Iangford (formerly Mrs Sutton) at Kelly, near Hopkinsville, Kentucky. There were eight adult and. three children present. The case has become a classic , but this report is the first accurate account of the incident. The account has been compiled by Ms Davis, based on interviews by Bud Ledwith, a local radio announcer, with the adult members of the family; and with a follow-up by Ms Dav is herself conducted in July 1956.

The resultant description of two separate visits by Wholly non-human creatures (seemingly naffected by rifle shot and hardly recognising the existence of the laws of gravity) nicely illustrates the absurdity' of such encounters. The hiatus in the visitation was caused by the family trooping off to the police station, and the descent on the farm of police, reporters, and general sightseers. These found nothing, yet when they had gone the creatures returned.

It is difficult to make any kind of sense of this case at all. Ms Davis tries to jam the facts into a 'nuts and bolts' ETH framework , but the strain is evident. An examination of cases of haunting would, I think, have made the author rather less willing to dismiss completely the theory of hallucinations of some sort.

The introduction and second part of the book are Ted Bloecher's studies of the history of CE3s in the United States up to 1955, and his account of some selected cases from that year. These provide yet more jolts to reason; they are all incompatible with a nuts and bolts explanation: But nor, for that matter, are they compatible with any reasonably simple psychological theory. What is one to make of chef Robert Hunicutt's encounter with a bunch of lopsided beings standing at the roadside in Branch Hill; the long nosed dwarves seen by Ms Symmonds; the ghostly craft and beings encountered by the children at Riverside?
How do we deal with the case of David Ankenbrandt who came across a strange aircraft, found himself paralysed and was confronted by a 6-foot-tall man in a ski suit who spoke in a high pitched voice, warning him to tell the government that if there were any more wars 'they' would take over? The same incident occurred at the same place 48 hours later. Ankenbrandt refused to get involved with the Adamski circus, and vanished into history. The humanoid wave reached mass panic in parts of Cincinnati, where hoaxers were also involved.

Also discussed are a couple of bigfoot reports, though they are small bigfeet! Bloecher is perhaps too easily convinced that these refer to some form of primitive hominid, for the point about bigfoot is not that it represents any real hominid, but rather the public's conception of what a missing link should look like.

The volume is well illustrated with maps, diagrams and drawings. The investigations show commendable thoroughness and give an idea of the detail a competent investigation should contain. This report is highly recommended for anyone making a serious study of the UFO problem. -- Peter Rogerson, from MUFOB New series 13, winter 1978/9

Western Way

Caitlin and John Matthews. The Western Way. Arkana, 1985.

Most cultures have evolved their own systems of spiritual self-development. In this century, and particularly in the last twenty years, an explosion of literature has brought into the public domain systems of meditation, ritual and self-development from every culture. The benefits of this unveiling have been the cross-fertilisation and revitalisation of systems which were in danger of becoming fossilised. However, in the past, the secrets of each method were carefully guarded, and to good purpose: to one unprepared a particular path may be ineffective and even dangerous. These difficulties redouble if one tries to follow a system which evolved in a culture quite different to one's own.

Caitlin and John Matthews, who both have had deep experience of several paths, have in this book developed a system of specific value to Westerners. The sub-title of the book is "A Practical Guide to the Western Mystery Tradition", and such is exactly what it is: practical and written from experience.

A series of progressive exercises is given which seeks to put the practitioner in touch with the source of his being; each exercise is explained both to purpose and methodology. Having been fortunate enough, long ago, to have received instruction in one of the exercises from the authors, I can personally vouch for their effectiveness. All in all one of the most intelligently written guides to the Western way.

Amidst this paen of praise I must strike one note of disappointment: I have long given up expecting East European names to be written correctly in books in English, but to spell the famous anthropologist's name as Malinowski and then a few lines later as Malinowsky indicates that a proof-reader should be spoken to. -- Wojtek Gaworzewski, from Magonia 22, May 1986.

Brain Box

Stephen Michael Kosslyn. Ghosts in the Mind's Machine: Creating and Using Images in the Brain. W. W. Norton, 1985.

This book is an account of recent research into mental imagery. It describes various experiments which have been devised to investigate ways in which people create and manipulate mental Images.

Such investigations cannot be carried out by studying the brain itself, but by studying the functioning of the brain. To this end experiments are carried out in which subjects are asked to view various images and then are asked questions designed to test their powers of mental imagery. Some 'of the experiments also explore the connections between mental images and the words which are used to describe the objects being visualised. Although most of the experiments described are quite simple, the experimenters have taken precautions to ensure that subjects do not 'second guess' them and fake the 'right' answers just to please them. The results make it possible for a theory to be constructed of how the brain functions and to give us some insights into the processes involved in the construction and use of mental images.

A more indirect form of investigation described in this book is the devising of computer programs which are capable of identifying images. Experience with such programs leads to results which suggest useful ideas for further experiments on human subjects.

The subject of perception and mental imagery is, or should be, of great interest to all those who are interested in reports of UFOs or other strange sights, and this book provides plenty' of information to inspire the . serious researcher into such phenomena, although I must emphasis that it deals almost exclusively with normal imagery and not hallucinations and other unusual experiences.

My only quibble is with the philosophising in which the author indulges, where he asserts that new theories of mental functioning have solved the mind-body problem. This' problem actually has very little to do with the details of brain functioning, and this is why it has proved to be so intractable. -- John Harney. Magonia 20, August 1985

Getting Scientific

Jenny Randles, and Peter Warrington. Science and the UFOs. Blackwell, 1985.

Ufologists of many persuasions, from hardcore ETH to the fringes of 'New Ufology' (how dated that appellation now seems) have been united by a feeling that whatever the solution to the UFO enigma might be - spaceships, paranormal events, some facet of radical misperception - there must be something in the UFO phenomenon that should provoke the interest of 'mainstream', 'establishment' science. "Even if you think we're all nutters," we say in effect to the scientists, "we're at least uncovering some sort of phenomena, aren't you interested in it?" And with one or two exceptions, largely from the fields of behavioural and social science, the answer has been "Not a lot!" In this book Jenny Randles and Peter Warrington make another attempt to take science by the scruff of the neck, rub its nose into the UFO evidence, and hope it takes notice.

The book opens with chapters which summarise the history of the flawed science of ufology. They outline the ongoing shambles of governmental UFO investigation (some of the comments made by US Government officials in the forties and fifties are hair-raisingly irresponsible in retrospect), and are only too well aware of the failures of 'enthusiast' ufology, and the damaging effect of ETH domination of ufological thought.

The second part of the book reviews current research within that 'enthusiast' field. The authors demonstrate an excellent understanding of the problems of radical misperception within a falsely constructed frame of reference, and what this means for the investigator. They present a detailed analysis of a series of extraordinary sightings in Hastings in 1981 which demonstrate the problems involved in assessing even the most unequivocal eyewitness testimony. Yet unlike some other writers who have attempted to stimulate scientific interest in ufology, the authors do not attempt to sweep under the carpet some of the more embarrassing data. The abduction, contactee and 'psychic' cases are faced up to, and put squarely into a psycho-sociological context, and the challenge to conventional science in clearly stated: "There can be no doubt that the CE4 [abduction/contact cases] represents a strange part of human experience, a chapter so strange that it is difficult to justify its continued neglect by social scientists."

The core of the book is in the final chapters, 'The Future'. Here the authors attempt to map out paths for future study. Firstly the pitfalls of media coverage are accurately charted, and it is interesting to read of some of the backstage manoeuvrings behind news coverage of Rendlesham. The authors' estimation here of the significance of that case is considerably more restrained than that which has appeared elsewhere. In fact there is little stated here that this reviewer (or the reviewer of Sky Crash) would disagree with. The authors are also prepared to take a critical look at some of the recent panaceas which have appeared on the UFO scene. Regression hypnosis, birth trauma, and earth lights are all looked at critically, and their strengths and weaknesses accurately defined.

In conclusion, the' authors examine what the store of UFO data has to offer to each field of science, from astronomy to sociology, from geology to psychology. They make the point convincingly that this data is of importance and does have relevance to a wide range of scientific disciplines. But will the scientists working within those disciplines be prepared to accept the data which ufologists are 'offering them? Probably not, yet. The negative image of ufology will take many years to erode. This book is an excellent attempt at hastening that process. -- John Rimmer, from Magonia 20, August 1985.