Well Known Secrets

Nick Redfern and Andy Roberts. Strange Secrets: Real Government Files of the Unknown, Paraview Pocket Books, 2003.

This collection of Fortean stories from the government files of the United Kingdom and the United States contains some interesting items and historical footnotes, such as the linkage of strange marks on the ground with the UFO mythos as far back as 1952, and some official confirmation for the notorious Schweinfurt foo-fighter incident, hitherto believed to have been made up by Martin Caidin. However, the official report makes it clear that the 'discs' reported in this incident were some sort of radar confusion device. Redfern's attempt to use this to re-bolster the MJ-12 hoax is not particularly persuasive.

One item of interest is an official report which shows that a story presented as an MIB encounter was based on a real investigation by an RAF Provosts' Department sergeant in civilian dress. As this was 1962 he wore a dark suit (standard 'white collar' dress at the time). In retrospect this visit is transformed into a typical MIB encounter.

Less happily, there are attempts to plug versions of the Nazi saucer myth, though the more general point that some late 40s and early 50s UFO reports are based on observations of experimental aircraft is worth following up. Of course these hypotheses face the difficulty of why such experimental craft never do anything other than buzz around the skies of America scaring the shit out of the locals. The authors' suggestion that cattle mutilations are the result of some secret project monitoring the progress of disease in cattle suffers a similar problem: surely secret government testers could be rather more discreet?

Ufologists will also be interested in the documentation of the FBI's interest in early contactees, fearing they were part of a communist subversion plot. While this was perhaps rather paranoid, it might well be that some of them represented early attempts at a "turn to the Bolsheviks" among sections of the cultic right. Incidentally, they repeat the canard that George Hunt Williamson's real name was Michel D'Obrenovic. GHW was the guy's birth name, and 'Dr', later 'Prince', Michel D'Obrenovic were pseudonyms adopted from 1958 onwards, no doubt for some con scheme or other. (Incidentally, this ex (?) Nazi con man, whom even old-time Adamski-ites have described as one of the creepiest and scariest people they had ever met, is now defended by the pillar of 'scientific' ufology Michael Swords.)

There is more than ufology here; there are also reports on the US and Soviet experiments with parapsychology, but there is nothing new here, and accounts of the Soviet experiments are little more than precis of the best-selling Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain, published more than 30 years ago. There are also tales of alien big cats, Loch Ness monsters, sea serpents, police dowsers and even spontaneous human combustion.

Interesting, but hardly earth shattering, and there are no really amazing revelations here. What we learn is that 'the officials' are as baffled and divided in their opinions on this stuff as the rest of us. I think we knew that already. -- Reviewed by Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 83, December 2003.

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