Logo

I Was a Boyhood Ufologist!


I Was a Boyhood Ufologist!

 

 

  Last year I read Philip K. Dick’s Confessions of Crap Artist. It was a disappointing novel, especially given that I am something of a “Dickhead” (a PKD fan), but Jack Isidore, the titular “crap artist” (essentially, a slightly more polite variant of “bullshit artist”) was a character that really hit home. Isidore is a thirty-something slacker, who indulges in every manner of pseudoscience and paranoid nonsense, but in particular Ufology. Over the course of the book he joins a cult led by a mad housewife who believes that the explosion in flying saucer sightings heralds the immediate end of the world.

  What a bunch of idiots, I thought as I finished that chapter, and then I realised: Harris, you were once of those idiots…

   If I go upstairs right now, and dig a large blue, plastic box out from under the bed, I would find an assortment of books related to UFOs and associated topics.

  In fact, if you give me a minute…

   Okay, so I have in front of me: The UFO Phenomenon, Mysterious Creatures, The UFO Phenomenon (different book, better pictures), The Unexplained: Mysteries of Mind, Space and Time (with strips of magazine paper still marking the pages with the coolest images), The World's Greatest UFO Sightings, and what I remember to be my favourite, The World's Greatest UFO Mysteries, which I know I read all the way through about ten times over. There are also other books, tapes, and materials relating to Ufology, cryptozoology, and various fringe theories. I am also sure there are other hordes of stuff in the cellars, in forgotten corners, and in the semi-abandoned rooms of my mother’s and grandparents’ houses.

   Before the age of ten, my greatest interests in life were trains and trucks, and I still have in my possession a large library dedicated to them (the books were expensive, I’m not just going to give them away—same with the UFO/paranormal stuff). I don’t know exactly how I got into UFOs, but it may have had something to do with the Discovery Channel and others like it. From an early age I also enjoyed true crime; I remember staying up at age eight or nine to watch Forensic Detectives, detailing the most brutal murders and rapes, my grandparents not having a problem with it (to say they were “lax” in this regard is an acute understatement). Such channels tended to have, as they still do, Ufological documentaries, and I must have caught a couple and got hooked.

   As the years went on, I amassed a great knowledge of alleged extra-terrestrial phenomenon, a knowledge approaching the encyclopaedic. I knew all the major incidents, abductions, and of course, the conspiracy theories.

  My enthusiasm probably reached its zenith at the age of thirteen, when my mother and her then boyfriend took me at night high up into the Peak District in North Derbyshire to a UFO hotspot to indulge my obsession. It was freezing in that valley, and I recall being quite unhappy, but not because of the weather: the supposed area of sightings overlooked a main road that was completely full of traffic, and I was certain that aliens would not want to advertise themselves in such a place. We sat on ice cold wooden benches for a good two hours, and at last we got something: a line of green lights approached from the east and gradually set themselves down in the far north. I trained my rickety telescope from a long defunct toyshop on the lead light: in my view, it was roughly seed-shaped, green at the edges, and whiter in the middle, with several pulsing red lights. I was so happy that for some reason I decided to pretend to begin to faint, but nobody was buying it so I stopped and continued looking.

   With hindsight, those lights were almost certainly a squad of Harrier Jump Jets on routine manoeuvres, but young me would never have accepted such an explanation. In fact, if he had been shown that they were Harrier jets, he would have still denied it, or made-up elaborate reasons as to why it could not be so. This ended up being the fundamental problem with my worldview: the cognitive dissonance and the compulsive “filling in” of details with willful bullshit.

   As I got my first computer my obsession accelerated. I visited all the sites and took in vast amounts of utter garbage. I would read contradictory accounts and reports that tried to explain the UFO phenomenon, and my little mind would set to work fitting all of them into one single narrative. I would pick and mix what I thought worked, and discarded the rest.

   I would embrace anything: a woman who asserted that she was a native Venusian and that sunflowers were brought to Earth by her people. The preposterous tall tales of people like George Adamski and Billy Meier—even after the wife of the latter insisted that one of his pictures of a Pleiadean saucer was really just their dustbin lid. In my head I had a heart-to-heart with RaĆ«l, a French former sports-car journalist turned “messenger of the Elohim” and head of a cult dedicated to human cloning. There really was a human face on Mars—that “corrected” photo from NASA showing nothing but a featureless rocky lump was a pathetic cover-up!

   I started following the work of David Icke, and bought wholeheartedly into the idea that we humans were ruled by shape-shifting reptiles from the Draco constellation. (In the era of Iraq it seemed to make sense, but that’s probably a silly excuse.) Alex Jones was just passionate about defending the Earth from those he called “demons”, but whom I identified as alien invaders.

   My interests expanded beyond ufology however, and I incorporated them into an increasingly twisted weltanschauung. I read about poltergeists and other parapsychological happenings, searching for explanations which slotted in with the other weirdness’s. I researched cryptids and tried to figure out which were evolutionary throwbacks and which were genuine alien beings. I came to believe that the Earth was hollow, as was the Moon (if it was not wholly artificial to begin with). At night I would constantly stare into the darkest corners of my room, terrified something would materialise, upset by my prodding into the forbidden, until I would uneasily drift off.

   By the time I was fifteen I was a full-blown conspiracy theorist, and, in retrospect, I can see that it had got dangerous: 9/11 was an inside job. Humanity was threatened by a New World Order. AIDS could possibly be passed on by skin-on-skin contact alone, if not by breath. I even began to wonder if the government had been monitoring me because of my “research”. Ufology had proven to be a gateway drug…

   Around this time I had also embraced radical politics, proudly calling myself a “communist”, and making excuses for Stalin and Mao and their vast crimes against humanity—and through this I eventually discovered Posadism, a freakish offshoot of Trotskyism, created by Argentine revolutionary (really more of a stand-on-the-corner-and-yell-at-passing-cars-with-a-painted-sign guy) J. Posadas. In his speech “Flying Saucers, the Process of Matter and Energy, Science and Socialism”, Posadas stated that the UFO phenomenon was a clear indication that socialism had worked on other planets, for only socialist civilisations could pool resources in such a way as to achieve interstellar flight. For him, “the existence of extra-terrestrials [was] a conclusion of dialectical thought”, that is, the core methodology of Marxism itself demanded that aliens must exist. Posadas sincerely believed that aliens would show us the way: “About these beings from other planets that come here to observe life: how they must be laughing at humans fighting to see who will have the most cannons, cars and wealth! […] We must call upon beings from other planets when they come to intervene, to collaborate with the inhabitants of the Earth to overcome misery. We must launch a call on them to use their resources to help us.” Posadas showed me the way, and his ideology was folded into mine.

   In actuality, I had invented a kind of religion of which I held the ultimate power as arbiter of truth, the chief priest and theologian of the church. I was the sole inhabitant of an island, dominated by a madness which I alone understood.

  So, how did I get out of it?

   It’s ironic to admit in an era of “radicalisation” and the online Alt-Right pipeline, but I owe it to YouTube for saving me. Rebelling against my Catholic school teaching and converting to ‘New Atheism’, the YouTube sceptics—before it seems most of them became broham misogynists, hell bent on beating up on the “SJW”s—helped me gradually see the error of my ways. The Ufology and paranormalism were the first to die, and die quickly; then the NWO conspiracies; and then finally the 9/11 Truth—7 World Trade Center is no longer an issue for me, nor should it be for anyone else. They all became unsustainable, both as discrete beliefs and as part of a greater worldview.

   Looking back though, I could also say that much of the weirdness I had embraced had started to die of its own accord. I had begun to read actual science fiction and fantasy literature, which was a much better substitute for reality than what I had previously been absorbing. As I learned more about real science and real history, the nonsense in my head was gradually deprived of oxygen, bereft of consciousness, and peacefully laid to rest, much of it remaining buried at the back of my mind until the writing of this came about.

  These days, I look at The Guardian and The New York Times for global news, rather than poorly formatted html sites advertising gold coins and survivalist prepper kits. My politics have remained fairly socialistic, but I no longer believe we need extra-terrestrial intervention to save us as a species— just more commitments to civic education in schools and a sounder environmental policy. I am still paranoid—but about calorie counts and hereditary kidney issues rather than what possible terrors are in the “chemtrail” of the plane overhead.

   At the end of Crap Artist, Jack Isidore realises the foolishness of his beliefs essentially over the course of just a few minutes, but that’s very unrealistic. For me, and I suspect most people, it was a gradual process of learning and re-learning how the world really works, and gathering the true critical thinking skills needed to assess claims and rate the validity of information. Experts do have more authority than, say, a former footballer who claimed in 1991 that he was the messiah on national TV (that’s David Icke’s actual story, go look it up).

   I will not end by berating Ufologists—most of them (those who do not profit or gain power from their proclamations that is) are sincere people who genuinely want to know the truth. They are not dangerous or any more open to fanatical violence than the average person. As for those who claim to have seen “something” in the sky, I agree with the words of researcher and sceptic Philip J. Klass: "I've found that roughly 97, 98 percent of the people who report seeing UFOs are fundamentally intelligent, honest people who have seen something—usually at night, in darkness—that is unfamiliar, that they cannot explain."

   My departing message is one of calmness: take your time with things. Don’t get sucked into stuff. Research everything and don’t fall into patterns of submission to the familiar. Occam’s razor is forever your best friend. And most important of all: don’t treat reality as a game of ‘pick your own facts’. Learn to accept things as they are, or, if you don’t like things as they are, work to help change them for the better through responsible social action rather than imagining interdimensional shapeshifters as the ultimate cause of your woes.

 

 

Harris Coverley

 

Along with previously in Ariel ChartHarris Coverley has short fiction published or forthcoming in CuriositiesHypnosThe Periodical, Forlorn, and Frost Zone Zine. He is also a member of the Weird Poets Society, with verse most recently accepted for Polu TexniSpectral RealmsScifaikuest, Horror Sleaze Trash, and Scarlet Leaf Review, amongst others. He lives in Manchester, England

 


Post a Comment

2 Comments

  1. loads of fun with this story, i love it and where did you guys get the pic. it's perfect.

    ReplyDelete
  2. compared to what people believe today, accepting space aliens is easy stuff. thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete