Adamski et al.

Colin Bennett. Looking for Orthon: The Story of George Adamski, the First Flying Saucer Contactee, and How He Changed the World. Paraview Press, 2001.

George Adamski, the subject of Colin Bennett's sometimes very amusing and perceptive, and other times obtusely wrong-headed study, was a classical trickster figure, a sexually ambiguous, media-savvy, part prophet and part con-artist. He became the most successful of those trying to update traditional occultism in space-age guise, offering a reassuring image of the mysterious UFOs and the technological future they symbolised. They were nothing scary at all, just the electromagnetic space ships of those nice space brothers, who were just like us, or at least like the duller kind of nonconformist preacher.

Like most prophets. Adamski was largely unheeded in his own country, where his support was largely confined to the existing theosophical/occultist subculture. Not so in Britain, where spiritualism had a much higher social profile. Here Bennet's image of the 1950s comes seriously awry, for he sees them as a time of dull, materialistic conformity, contrasting with today. However it should be remembered that 1950s Britain was a far less secular society than that of today, and also one where spiritualism and psychical research had considerable social and intellectual cache. Favourable articles on spiritualism by British authors appeared in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Chambers' Encyclopaedia.

Many social leaders' views had been formed during the Great War of 1914-18, when mass bereavement gave a huge boost to the subject. This meant there was a prominent ready audience for occultist notions. Pioneer ufology in Britain was in many ways an exclusively spiritualist and occultist venture, lacking the rocket science technology interest found in the United States.

The writings of the likes of Desmond Leslie, Gavin Gibbons and Arthur Constance appealed to those who felt threatened by the new technological society, in the which the 'man in the white coat' educated at a provincial grammar school threatened the social position of the classics educated public school upper classes. Of course, the vast majority of readers of Flying Saucers Have Landed are more likely to have been attracted by the startling cover and the tale of Adamski's adventures rather than bv Leslie's occult meanderings. In a much less scientifically aware society than the US, the book became a best seller.

Despite Bennett's claims, the UFO writers were to have little long term impact. If Desmond Leslie is remembered at all outside the world of the older members of the UFO subculture, it is for punching Bernard Levin for writing a nasty review of a play his actress wife appeared in, or as a former resident of the Irish stately home where Paul McCartney celebrated his second marriage. Other figures such as Brinsley Trench sold their books on the title and cover alone. How many readers ever got through the impenetrable occult waffle inside is anybody's guess. Even the great Hugh 'Stuffy' Dowding had become an object of national ridicule when he was reported as politely asking the mice to leave his house.

Adamski's main problem was that he couldn't adapt, and as the space age dawned his tales looked sillier and sillier. At one time he tried to retire, claiming that the Flying Saucers had now departed, then got nasty and started to blame his problems on the International Bankers (i.e. Jews), allied to negative elements on Orion. In the end he became just another seller of psychic secrets.

One of the most hilarious episodes in his career was the Madeline Rodeffer film, a work of such transcendental awfulness in the special effects department as to make Ed Wood look like a cinematographic genius in comparison. I can still remember after more than 30 years the howls of derision this film produced when shown at a local, not very sceptical, UFO group meeting.

Bennett's (real or assumed) hostility to sceptics traps him into all sorts of verbal contortions. By refusing to face the obvious fact that Adamski constructed the images in his photographs, Bennett denies him his true claim to fame, that of the artist who created the iconic image of the flying saucer. -- Peter Rogerson. From Magonia 79, October 2002.

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