Cosmic Crashes

Nicholas Redfern. Cosmic Crashes: The Incredible Story of the UFOs that Fell to Earth. Simon and Schuster, 1999.

If you wrote a book which you wanted to be taken seriously, would you begin Chapter 1 like this? “When I began conducting research into the crash of an alien spacecraft somewhere in the United Kingdom during World War Two, not for one moment did I expect that I would ultimately become embroiled in an investigation that encompassed the deaths of the actress Marilyn Monroe and US President John F. Kennedy.”

Of course, as everyone knows, Kennedy and Monroe – and several other prominent Americans – were killed because they knew too much about the saucers and were about to reveal their secrets, and this could not be allowed to happen. If you tend to believe this kind of story then you will enjoy this book. As we have come to expect from Redfern, we have in his latest work a mixture of solid and painstaking research into official documents and the procedures of government departments, and fantastic yarns told by dubious characters and several notoriously unreliable UFO researchers.

Redfern’s attitude to research seems to be to regard one source as being just as good as another, particularly when what he is told is capable of being interpreted as evidence for the ETH. When mundane explanations of apparent UFO incidents are offered to him, he brushes them aside. In his account of the Berwyn Mountain case he relies on the stories told to him by Margaret Fry and Tony Dodd, and others who have an interest in making this case the British Roswell. He dismisses the suggestion that strange lights seen on the mountain were wielded by men out hare hunting as “a fantastically original theory”. He also appears to take seriously the absurd story told to Tony Dodd by a man claiming to have been a soldier who helped to transport the bodies of dead aliens from the area to Porton Down.

However, in an interview published in the latest issue of UFO Magazine (July/August 1999) he already seems to be backtracking a little, if only to grudgingly acknowledge the work of Andy Roberts in providing “a down to earth explanation for the Berwyn incident”. This brings us to perhaps the most important case discussed in the book, because he links it with an alleged incident on Cannock Chase which is said to have occurred on a night in January 1974.

This story came from a man who said he was a member of a television outside broadcast team who had received a tip-off about the incident. He said that when they arrived at the site of the incident the Army and the police were already there. Apparently two men in a car had seen what looked like a fireball coming down. They thought it was an aircraft crashing. One of the men, named Brummel, got out and went into the field. When he returned he said it was not an aircraft. He is alleged to have told the TV crew that it was a flying saucer.

Now we come to the important part of this story. It is alleged that when they were interviewing the man he was obviously ill, and he was eventually taken to Cotteridge General Hospital, near Wolverhampton, in an Army ambulance, where he died the next morning of radiation burns. Redfern makes no mention of checking that such a death occurred at the date and place stated. If it really happened it would make this the most sensational UFO story yet. Fatalities are occasionally reported in connection with UFO incidents, but they usually seem to occur in conveniently remote villages in South America. However, in his UFO Magazine interview, Redfern says: “Now, I’ve been looking into the allegations concerning where he was taken, where he died and so on, and have literally hit a brick wall. Not because I can’t track people down, but everyone I have tracked down has really clamped up, almost to a level of fear being expressed.”

Note the implication here. He fails to find any evidence of a death caused by severe radiation burns at the time and place in question, so instead of saying the story is almost certainly false he hints at a coverup. Of course, many readers find this approach preferable to that of more sceptical ufologists who are acutely aware that memories often become distorted with the passage of time, and that some people are pathological liars.

Redfern has often consulted Nick Pope in his researches, but he seems unwilling to accept his advice, based largely on his official investigations. Pope, who can hardly be regarded as a sceptic, told him: “I do not believe there is any evidence to support the crash of any extraterrestrial craft in Britain.” Yet Redfern persists in raking over old reports and trying to present them in a form which seems to suggest that they might be UFO crashes. For example, he devotes a chapter to the reports of mysterious craters which gained much publicity in the 1960s. Because of his habit of not consulting sceptics, or of ignoring or brushing aside their advice and information, he seems unaware that convincing natural explanations for these reports were provided within a few years of their occurrence.

The most notorious incident was the Charlton crater of July 1963. This gained enormous publicity, and questions about it were asked in the House of Commons. The usual cranks came out of the woodwork to get publicity for their batty theories, but the mystery was solved by Alan Sharp who gave his explanation in a review of Leonard Cramp’s book Piece for a Jig-Saw (MUFORG Bulletin, February 1967).

Sharp explained it as being a classic example of a crater caused by a lightning strike on open ground. “It displays radiating surface marks, removal of material and a central hole. It was preceded by a violent thunderstorm accompanied by strong winds and was in an area of considerable storm damage to crops.” (Further information about these craters is available in the archives section of the Magonia web site.) Many of the other incidents described in this book would have had their true explanations revealed to Redfern if he had paid more attention to sceptical and cautious investigators, rather than those who apparently see the function of ufology as being to provide entertainment for the masses.- From Magonia Supplement, June 1999 Reviewed by John Harney

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