Null Points

William J. Birnes (ed.), The UFO Magazine UFO Encyclopedia, Pocket Books, New York, 2004.  
 
Jerome Clark has drawn attention to the fact that there is scarcely an issue of Magonia or Magonia Supplement in which his name is not mentioned. However, I think he'll agree that my mention of him here is fully justified. His UFO encyclopaedias are undoubtedly the best ones available, being well written, with persons and events carefully chosen and allotted space in accordance with their relative importance. The entries are also fully referenced for those who wish to undertake further research. The only serious criticism of them I have seen expressed is that they are too opinionated.

So naturally, on obtaining this book, I immediately looked for the entry for Clark, Jerome, to see what they had to say about him and his work. I looked in vain; there is no mention of him, not even in the index. Honestly, I'm not kidding! There is a possible explanation, though. The editor, William Birnes, was co-author of Lt. Col. Corso's notorious book The Day After Roswell. When this book was discussed on the UFO UpDates mailing list, Clark wrote some very harsh words about it. The politest thing he had to say was: "As a historian of the UFO phenomenon, I found nothing remotely plausible in the book's pages."

Also airbrushed out of American ufology are sceptics Sheaffer and Oberg, though kindly old Uncle Phil gets a brief mention. The Supreme Commander and Saucer Smear are mentioned only in the acknowledgements.

A whole page is devoted to summarising the daft speculations of Zecharia Sitchin about the "Anunnaki, the extraterrestrial species that Sitchin believes first came to earth some 450,000 years ago." Edgar Cayce, "one of America's most gifted and powerful psychics", is given nearly a page because: "Edgar Cayce's nexus with ufology, it has been said, is based upon his ability to remote view, to project himself psychically onto another plane so as to receive information not necessarily accessible through the traditional five senses."

Dr James E. McDonald gets only a brief mention; in fact he is allotted no more space than Marilyn Monroe, who, according to conspiracy theorists, was murdered because her relationship with President Kennedy resulted in her "knowing too much" about UFOs.Yes, there is an entry for John F. Kennedy, which repeats the admittedly "unsubstantiated" story that he was going to make a speech revealing "the truth about Roswell". "It was the potential release of this information, some have suggested, that triggered the CIA to order Kennedy's assassination."
The editors cannot resist allotting space to persons and subjects peripheral to ufology. In the article on crop circles we learn, amongst other things, that:

"Crop circles have a strong magnetic field in and around them, which is measurable. Many also exhibit strange patterns of radioactivity in which the level at a given spot will fluctuate. According to the laws of physics, this is an impossibility since levels of radioactivity are thought to be constant."

We are also told that, when carefully measured, the geometrical designs of crop circles "are accurate to within an eighth of an inch, even if the formation is a thousand feet long." No, don't laugh - it's not funny, it's pathetic.

This book is bad enough to sell lots of copies at those crazy UFO conferences, as it tells the credulous punters what they want to hear. However, it does not take the prize for Worst UFO Encyclopedia, as the competition is pretty stiff.  -- Reviewed by John Harney from Magonia Supplement No. 51, June 2004


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