Keith Chester. Strange Company: Military Encounters with UFOs in WWII Anomalist Books, 2007.

I have rather mixed feelings about this book, on the one hand it is clear that the author has put a great deal of effort into assembling a large collection of stories of strange things seen in the skies during the Second World War and they years leading up to it. This will make interesting reading for those new to the saga of the foo fighters, or those who think that the modern age of UFOs began with Roswell. On the other, like so much UFO literature, it is not primarily concerned with actually investigating what gave rise to these stories and the experiences behind them, as much as providing ‘evidence’ for the existence of the ETH.

The reader who reads this book carefully, i.e. checking the footnotes for every story, will conclude that the foo fighters were not one thing at all, but a number of different things, and that the vast of majority of those which were contemporaneously reported show very little resemblance to those modern UFO reports which purport to describe structured craft. Of course there are reports of exotic structured craft, electromagnetic effects and other UFO esoterica, but a check on the footnotes shows that almost without exception these are stories told to ufologists years or decades later in the age of the flying saucer. The motifs in the stories are motifs from the time of telling, not the time of their alleged occurrence. Of these stories, some, perhaps two thirds are cases in which memories of some real event have been reconstructed on the basis of later UFO lore, further evidence of the essentially reconstructive nature of all memory, no doubt something which once conferred a good evolutionary advantage; the other third, one suspects, fall into the category of typical bullshitters tales.

The problem is that the contemporaneously reported along with the lore from the age of the flying saucer are presented in a single sequence, so that the reader who does not constantly go back to the footnotes is bound to confuse the two. Nor is there any sign of actual critical investigation. There is indeed a case in the early part of the book which describes a dramatic electromagnetic case from the early 1930s. Chester says in his footnote “no further details are known … other than newspaper articles and the 3 Fighter Squadron’s historical records”, with a reference to Jan Aldrich’s 1947 website. The story is indeed on the site, marked as dubious, with no reference to newspaper articles. There is a reference there to an alleged history of the 3 Fighter Squadron.

The same story with the same reference appears in Michael Hall’s A Century of UFO Sightings. It is a reference to an non existent book by a non existent publisher. It is almost certainly a modern (1994) hoax. Note that Chester added the bit about newspaper articles. If any ufologist had made the slightest effort to locate and check the original source they could have found this out quite quickly.

How many other cases exist in the literature because they are copied from source to source without anyone ever bothering to find out if the alleged events ever occurred or the alleged witnesses ever existed?  | PR |

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