Shockingly Close to the Truth!

Jim Moseley and Karl Pflock. Shockingly Close to the Truth: Memoirs of a Grave-robbing Ufologist. Prometheus, 2002. 

We have been waiting for this book for a long time, ever since it was first hinted at, several years ago, in Moseley's scurrilous eight-page rag, Saucer Smear. One thing we knew, this was not going to be a book for Serious Ufologists. Moseley has a pretty low opinion of Serious Ufologists, and it's fair to say that most have a pretty low opinion of him. None more so, it seems, than Wendy Connors, co-author of a Serious book on the life and works of Edward Ruppelt. In an amusing posting on the invaluable UFO UpDates mailing list (invaluable for the insight it gives into the preoccupations of American ufologists) Ms Connors describes it as a "yawn-filled romp", "this mish-mash of drool" and "a one-man quest for insignificance". So come on, Wendy, what did you really think of it?

Leaving aside her concerns that 'real men' don't keep diaries, I worry for her eyesight, as she complains of the small size of the type font. It caused no problems to your bespectacled reviewer, who consumed this book practically in one sitting during a short holiday in Paris. Not even the possibility of getting involved in a Le Pen vs. May Day Demonstrators punch-up tempted me out of my hotel room until I had finished it.

It would have been a great disappointment to me, and I imagine to Jim Moseley, if it hadn't produced such a howl of outrage from Ms Connors, representing Serious Ufology. I almost feel her review may have been written in collusion with Moseley. One last quote: "It definitely will keep your expenses for Ex-Lax to a bare minimum and once you've finished reading [it], it will be a nifty book to support the broken leg on your sofa for a year or so" - all of which gives us an interesting insight into home life chez Connors.

The rest of us however, can just sit back and enjoy this scurrilous romp. We had an inkling of what might be included when we read a veiled reference to the 'fifties contactee Orfeo Angelucci and some unsavory practices involving a herd of sheep." Naturally, once this had been hinted, the wait for publication day became unbearable. Not all the revelations in Shockingly... are on the same level, but the feet of clay that support many Serious Ufologists - and quite a few less Serious ones - are entertainingly revealed.

But what's all this got to do with UFOs? Surely these personal asides are irrelevant to the study of ufology? After all, isn't it a proto-science, which in fifty years time, as Jerome Clark asserts, will be producing tangible results, and the scientific establishment will be feeling rather ashamed at how dismissive it was about UFOs fifty years previously? And aren't books like this just ammunition for those who wish to prevent the upward evolution of ufology? After all, the damned thing's published by Prometheus, and the co-author Karl Pflock wrote a sceptical book about Roswell!

Despite the occasional heartfelt plea in UFO 'zines and website to "keep personalities out of ufology", in practice this is impossible. Most aspects of UFO research are centred around particular individuals. A 'Mack Abduction' is a different creature to a 'Hopkins Abduction' (and Moseley has some interesting things to say about the latter, although you may have to read between the lines - I suppose m'learned friends are active in America as well!). There are Persinger phenomena and there are Maccabean photographs, and you actually do need to know about the personalities involved to make sense of the phenomenon. In this field no-one makes a value-free judgement.

In Moseley's book the personalities - not least that of Jim Moseley himself - take centre stage. Having read it you will be greatly amused - there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments - and will be better able to make your own value-judgements the next time you read or hear a Serious Ufologist spouting about Scientific Ufoology. -- John Rimmer

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