Gauche Encounters

Bad films and the UFO Mythos

Martin Kottmeyer

Talking Pictures alias






About Us


         Science, Jacques Barzun once proclaimed, is glorious entertainment. Far from being a mere pragmatic enterprise, it is a vast drama and aesthetic. Call it a quest, mankind's most noble enterprise. It is the adventure to find universal truth. It is not a calculated effort to enhance survival or living standards. Rather, it is a reflection of creative ambitions and an expression of deep human longings.

         The aesthetic explored in science is elitist and sharply discriminative in its ideals. Ideas are not created equal. Good science must be demarcated from bad science. Critical standards are applied in a mandatory review by peers and only the good is allowed into 'the literature'. The bad fends for itself in tabloids and talk shows.

         While the debate about extraterrestrial life is one of the mainstays of philosophical speculation and an acceptable topic in astronomical journals, the subject of ufology has been exiled to the ephemera of folk culture. It is bad science. Scientists have an intuitive distrust for the subject. Ufology violates dicta against theories postulating arbitrary wills. Its data is soft, anecdotal, and irreproducible. There is an aura of sensationalism in ufo polemics. The furtiveness of the purported lifeforms has little a priori likelihood. It's a hinky situation all round.

         Beyond the science concerns, the artistry of the ufo phenomenon is archly phoney. The aliens are a hokey blend of human chauvinisms. Good aliens are always beautiful fair-skinned Aryan race ideals. Bad aliens are a potpourri of horror movie clichés - Men in Black, Big Brains, Big Bugs, mummies, reptoids, spooky eyes.  Though the aliens supposedly possess a technology centuries in advance of our own, they often appear to be backward and abysmally stupid. They have yet to discover drugs that wipe out short-term memory; something earthlings have already done. There is a case of an abductee who is captured by a mechanical clamp which looks like a gizmo cooked up by a Buck Rogers fan with Alzheimer's. Battlefield meatball surgeons routinely outperform the super-veterinarians of the ufo phenomenon. The aliens don't even appear to update their equipment. In the Schirmer case, aliens are using computers with reel-to-reel tape. Instead of nano-tech robot probes and hand-held smart scanners, they still use needles, knives, and lumbering lab machines. Instead of gene programmers, they still have to harvest ova and sperm on the sly like gothic body snatchers gathering parts for mad Frankenstein style experiments. Their incompetence extends to having restraints so poor that one specimen, Travis Walton, manages to escape and gain access to a saucer control room.

         Walton's escape is all too reminiscent of the absurdly easy escapes routinely seen in adventure shows. Indeed much of the ufo phenomenon has the air of dramatic license wafting through it. There are far too many chases, kidnappings, crashes, and explosions to be taken seriously. There is an anything goes creative mentality behind it which borrows shamelessly gimmicks like anti-gravity and magnetic drives, mind rays, force fields, invisibility, and matter interpenetration which originated in science fiction. Science fiction writers however appreciate they are just gimmicks and are likely to be impossible.

         It is tempting to regard the ufo phenomenon as an exercise in improvisational theatre. Maybe even it is a field which is properly designed for the bad film buff. Okay, so it is bad science. It is still weirdly entertaining. They are still creative products straight from the id. Raw, unalloyed, and untainted by logic, they have an emotional authenticity and power that polished works of fiction would not achieve because they would not ask you to believe the impossible.

         Those who experience ufo encounters will at times admit their stories seem astonishingly crude even to themselves. When Tom Snyder interviewed the author of the best-selling abductee autobiography Communion, Whitley Strieber, Snyder remarked that his aliens had a tone like embryonic science fiction or early "sci-fi movies". Far from being taken aback, Strieber agreed:

           "Well, maybe so. The whole experience has that kind of quality to it. The whole thing doesn't - The story I just told you sounds like something out of what I see those posters, old posters, for old science fiction movies - you would see from a 1953 science fiction movie. It's not even very good science fiction."

         As a writer, Strieber's judgement can't be faulted. He has written best-selling horror and there really is no comparison in the sense that Communion is relatively unpolished by having gaping holes in logic and by failing to edit out stuff that doesn't work. It is even derivative. The scene where Strieber remarks how filthy the room looks just as a needle is to be pushed into his beautiful brain is a rip-off of a scene in Strieber's paranormal spy novel Black Magic. In that book a woman remarks how filthy a place is just as her tormentors drill a hole in her head to implant an electrified needle.

         The charge of being derivative however is a general failing of the ufo phenomenon. Ufo abductions only became popular after a decade of alien invasion movies. There is a visible borrowing of conventions including fogs, one-piece foil suits, dying worlds, mind control, and emotionally-deprived aliens. There is nothing in the ufo phenomenon that did not first appear in some form in science fiction as Bertrand Méheust, a Frenchman, detailed in a little known prize of scholarship titled Science Fiction et Soucoupes Volantes.

         Advocates of the alien character of the ufo phenomenon have repeatedly denied there are any such cultural influences. The reasoning is quite curious. Jenny Randles, who has become an authority in the abduction field, has thought it significant that Spock has never turned up in an abduction report. Leaving aside the incongruity of character implied in Spock abducting innocent humans, it is a facile expectation because no investigator would write up such a case for an ufo journal. James Harder, an early abduction researcher, for example, once came across a reference to a saucer being propelled by lithium crystals. He readily recognized the influence of Star Trek's dilithium crystals and so discounted that part of the abductee's story.

         Allan Hendry similarly heard from an abductee on a craft who saw stars shooting past in the manner of Trek's visual conventions and thought it a likely 'giveaway' to the mental origin of the experience.  The only Trek influences to pass through the sieve of scrutiny are going to be arcane or ambiguous ones. This seems to have happened in the case of Sgt. Charles Moody, a semi-popular abduction tale from the mid-70s. At one point Moody's aliens use the expression, "you have been absorbed." This calls to mind the Trek episode "Return of the Archons" wherein people speak of being "absorbed" i.e. taken over, by The Body. We could perhaps dismiss this as coincidence of some exotic variety except that Moody seems to have borrowed something else from "Return of the Archons." Ufologists found puzzling the luminescent quality of the walls in Moody's saucer with an absence of light source. A Trekkie would not be puzzled. A character at one point brings out a sheet of luminescent metal, a metal that is very different than we would see on earth. Stronger than the metal used in womens tungsten rings or many metals on the Vulcan planet which are more tecchnologically advanced than tungsten. This leads Spock to conclude the presence of a technology on the planet far more advanced than what was generally apparent. Clearly the detail was borrowed to prove the advanced nature of saucer technology. It is a small detail, a flourish, and one only a Trekkie would notice. No surprise, then, that ufologists missed it.

         Other ufologists' discussions of science fiction and ufology betray identical errors. They talk about how different ufo experiences are from major blockbusters like War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still, but ignore the effect of report rejection by investigators, not to mention rejection by the persons who would have such experiences in the first place. No report ever appeared on one aliens-in-our-midst tale told at a 1985 MUFON conference in St. Louis because the audience pointed out it had its genesis in a Saturday Night Live Coneheads sketch. Only when the influences come from esoteric or forgotten sources will the cultural material sneak into the ufo literature. The bad film buff thus has an advantage in recognizing the wellsprings of certain details of ufo experiences.

         The most important case of ufo abduction in the history of the ufo controversy must be the story of Betty and Barney Hill. It was given national attention in Look magazine, described in detail in a book by John Fuller, and was adapted for TV in the movie The UFO Incident. All admit the seminal influence of the Hill case on the generation of subsequent abduction reports. On the evening of September 19-20, 1961 the Hills saw and were frightened by an ufo as they were returning home in New Hampshire. Several nights later, Betty has a series of nightmares about being abducted by aliens and being subjected to an unusual medical procedure involving a needle thrust into the naval. Eventually the Hills were placed under hypnosis by Dr Benjamin Simon to investigate the emotional distress associated with the incident. Though Dr Simon regarded the stories told under hypnosis as fantasy, the Hills and certain ufologists came to believe Betty's nightmares represented a real abduction incident that had transpired on the night of the ufo sighting, but which had been pushed from conscious memory.

         Simon's doubts are well founded since nightmares rarely consist of eidetically-relived memories. It does sometimes happen that people who have spent weeks in combat amid the unspeakable horrors of war have shock-trauma dreams that relive true occurrences, but the general rule is that nightmares only spin off from the residues of recent memories and creatively build on chains of associations going deeper back in time as the dream progresses. Additionally, the material in shock trauma dreams are reliving consciously remembered, indeed obsessively unforgettable, horrors, not buried and lost events covered by an amnesia of missing time.  Betty's nightmares seem to clearly spin off from memory residues of her ufo sighting, her anxiety at seeing how freaked out her husband had been during the sighting of the ufo and its occupants; and her fears of having been exposed to radiation. We know she read Donald Keyhoe's book The Flying Saucer Conspiracy after the sighting, but before the nightmares. Keyhoe's book takes seriously some Venezuelan incidents that include; first, a person being dragged into a glowing ufo by four little men and, later, a man who was found unconscious after being set upon by a hairy dwarf. Betty's dream of being dragged along by four little men while in a state of near-consciousness can be a compositing of these two stories. Betty's aliens behave in a manner consistent with Keyhoe's speculations about Martians making a scientific study of our planet out of 'neutral curiosity' or as a prelude to a mass landing.

         The remainder of Betty's nightmares seem to involve distortions of the 1953 alien invasion nightmare classic Invaders from Mars. In her original dream, Betty compares the noses of her captors to that of Jimmy Durante. A glance at the poster to the movie will quickly confirm the mutants in the film have noses that rival Durante's. Betty describes her captors as Mongoloid, itself a mutant genetic form. There are some preliminary tests and then Betty lies down on an examining table. The female abductee in Invaders from Mars also finds herself on an examining table. Needles are placed on various parts of Betty Hill's body including the back of the neck. Some strands of hair are also taken from the back of her neck. In Invaders from Mars, a needle is used to try to implant a device in the back of the neck of the abductee.  Betty Hill then sees a needle, longer than any needle she has ever seen before. It is placed into her navel. She experiences great pain. The examiner puts his hands over her eyes, rubs, and the pain stops. In Invaders from Mars the abductee first struggles when placed on the examining table and then a light is shown in her eyes and she calms down, lapsing into unconsciousness. Then a curious image appears on the movie screen. It has an ambiguous character. Correctly interpreted, it is an overhead shot of the alien surgical theatre which reveals some of the architecture of the saucer. Dominant in the image is a large tubular beam or conduit connecting the ceiling to the floor. It bears a marked stylistic similarity to the needle being used in the implanting operation. A confusion is invited. The tubular beam and its plastic sheath takes on the appearance of the hypodermic needle. The lighting of the floor of the saucer gives the illusion of the curvature of an abdomen. The place where floor and conduit meet is tightly surrounded by a circular indentation. It's the navel. This, I believe, is the origin of Betty's bizarre image of the needle in the navel. Either she misperceived it during the watching of the film, probably on black and white TV, or her consciousness spun out the alternate interpretation in constructing the nightmare.

         Subsequent to the operating scene, Betty Hill has a conference with her captors during which she is shown a star map. The abductees in Invaders from Mars have no such conference with the aliens, however there is a conference earlier in the film in which the protagonists are shown a large star map. This occurs in the observatory scene when they meet Dr Kelston. Kelston points at the map as he discusses the proximity of Mars to Earth. The most striking part of this discussion to the bad film buff is that Kelston is bluffing his way through the scene. There is nothing there when he points to the Earth.

         Betty's map has the two planets Kelston's lacked. When the alien asks Betty if she knows where on the map the Earth is however, she relives her puzzlement as the filmgoer. She, again, has no idea where it is. It is perhaps noteworthy to observe there are marginal similarities between Betty's star map sketch and the star field portrait under the credits of the film - equal-sized planets, equal illumination of bodies, non-eclipsing arrangement, similar star density. There is however a major difference: There are no roadlines connecting the planets and stars in the credit portrait. This likely represents a compositing with another memory concerning maps: One speculative possibility is that the four lines connecting the two larger planets is derived from four features connecting Concord and Manchester near the Portsmouth locale of the Hills home: Rt. 3, Rt. 3A, a toll road, and the Merrimack river. They make roughly the same angle to each other as the planets on the star map. The little branch off to the right would be Rt. 4 to Portsmouth. The other lines on the star map are subject to multiple possibilities and are difficult to argue about convincingly. Quite probably we will never know if this is right, but it does indicate the fact that alternatives to literal acceptance are easily imaginable.
         It might be objected that surely a dream would favor more vivid memories and images such as the repeated cuts to the implant threateningly headed for the abductee's neck which would turn her into an alien spy (as happened incidentally in the 1978 abduction of Raymond Shearer) or the disembodied head of the Martian Mastermind in a Globe (as happened incidentally in the 1966 encounter of Mrs Everett Steward), but that is not a lawful characteristic of dreams. They pick up on trivial and incongruous stimuli as readily as vivid imagery. It might also be argued these points of similarity are accidental and overwrought. Go through enough films and you will eventually find something reminiscent to the Hill case. For what it is worth, I did not survey dozens of films looking for a source of the Hills' story. A friend tipped me off on the needle image in this film. The rest of the similarities emerged when I got a video of it. Retrospectively Invaders from Mars seems a predictable source of associative material given Keyhoe's ideas on Mars being the home of the flying saucers. Can it really be an accident that Betty's aliens share with this film such a series of correspondences as Durante noses; examination tables; needles; optical pacification techniques; and star maps?

         Barney Hill's version of events does not match Betty's in all particulars. One feature he emphasizes in his hypnosis sessions is that the aliens have "wraparound" eyes. The source of this feature serendipitously appeared before me one evening while watching reruns of The Outer Limits on the local PBS station. Having recently looked over sets of drawings of the Hills' aliens, I instantly recognized the alien of the episode 'The Bellero Shield' had to be the inspiration for Barney's alien. I simultaneously realized it was an absurdity since the events of The Interrupted Journey belonged to 1961 and The Outer Limits played in the mid-1960s. The paradox quickly resolved after some research. Barney said or drew nothing about "wraparound eyes" until a hypnosis session dated February 22, 1964. 'The Bellero Shield' aired on February 10, 1964. Further corroboration of the link emerged on learning Barney stated, "the eyes are talking to me." Eschewing telepathy, the Bellero Shield alien analyses eyes and explains "all who have eyes, have eyes
 that speak."

          "Wraparound eyes" has become a common term in the ufo literature in the years subsequent to the Hill case's popularity. It has turned up in some notable cases like those of Betty Andreasson, Harrison Bailey, and Jack T. (Canadian Rock Band Abducted). Yet the first such example is now revealed as a pseudo-memory - a not uncommon artifact of hypnotic investigations. Instead of being independent corroboration of an externally real feature of alien physiognomy, such cases demonstrate the cultural transmission of error and form an object lesson in being wary of similarities among ufo cases.

         The next important abduction to surface after the Hill case would have to be the encounter of Herb Schirmer on December 3, 1967. It was the only abduction studied by the Condon Committee. It was spotlighted in two books by Eric Norman and a popular Bantam paperback by Ralph and Judy Blum. Some now regard it as arguably the first case to explicitly mention the hybrid programme because of an alien's statement that they submit humans to a "breeding analysis." Looking back at the case with the perspective of three decades, it is entertaining to see how the case is littered with ufo lore specific to its time, stuff like ufos stealing electricity from power lines, magnetic drives vulnerable to radar, and secret bases on Earth. Particularly amusing is how nobody seemed to notice that Schirmer's aliens crashed the wardrobe department of Mars Needs Women (1966). Schirmer's sketch of wet-suited aliens equipped with already obsolete-looking radio headgear admits no doubts about the influence of the film. One can probably guess from the title how the breeding analysis idea might spring from this source, although it needs to be said the theme of women abducted for breeding purposes was a common notion in films of the period. Some ufologists found useful the notion expressed in this case that aliens want to puzzle people; "They are trying to confuse the public's mind." It may be worth noting that this alien strategy is explicitly expressed by a Martian leader in another film of the period, Pajama Party (1964). They send one of their stupidest operatives as an advance man for their invasion with the idea that "It will confuse them - That's part of the plan." Curiously, both these films star Tommy Kirk as a Martian. Schirmer's alien attire recurs in other later cases, most notably the Iris Cardenas case of February 21, 1979. (Published in Ufo Contact from Undersea).

         In 1968, the Lorenzens showcase a case out of Peru in their book UFOs Over the Americas. The man is designated by the initials C.A.V. and he describes an encounter with a trio of space mummies. One notably exotic detail to emerge in this incident was that these aliens did not have the sex problems that humans had because "they had the ability to divide themselves down the middle and split themselves into two creatures." Though freedom from sexuality is a common cinematic characteristic of aliens, e.g. The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Visit to a Small Planet, this particular mode of reproduction seems to point to the possible influence of Kiss Me Quick (1964). A Dr Breedlove is displaying strippers to an alien named Sterilox from Drupiter in the Buttless Galaxy. He is to find a perfect specimen of woman "and bring her back for breeding purposes." He tells Dr Breedlove that they have no women. "We don't multiply, we divide." The evidence for direct borrowing is not compelling in this instance since we could envisage both C.A.V. and the makers of this film drawing on older material in joke culture. It is also to be wondered if this film ever played in Peru. It seems an all too lame flik to have been translated. Given that this trait of division never recurred in later ufo cases, some sort of cultural relationship seems implicated, however.

         The Seventies brought into prominence a case involving a character named Brian Scott. It was written up in a book called The Etherian Invasion and was critically dissected in a paper by Alvin Lawson for the 1976 CUFOS conference. Scott's aliens are clones of a central host intelligence in the form of a vast on-board computer. There is a second floor on the saucer where young clones are grown in cylinders. During an early hypnosis session Scott feels his heart has left his body. In the third hypnosis session he has a vision of a cataclysm sweeping the Earth and learning this would happen on December 14, 2011 from his alien Host.

         Though deeply impressed by the emotionality of Scott's recountings under hypnosis, investigators found suspicious aspects to the case that made them doubt Scott's credibility. Though they did not play a role in discounting Scott's claims at the time, cultural factors were eventually uncovered for aspects of the case. Lawson checked local TV schedules at the time of the hypnotic regressions and found a repeat of a failed TV pilot, The Questor Tapes, which had a scene of stored human clones in transparent cylinders strongly reminiscent of Scott's account. The removal of the heart strongly implicates a scene from Killers from Space (1954) where Peter Graves recounts aliens removing his heart for repair after a plane accident, though Lawson cautions somatic terrors of this type are a constant in hallucinatory experiences and may connote archetypal mental patterns; consider the heart removal scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) as a parallel to these images in a non-extraterrestrial setting. Scott's date of the cataclysm is the most damning detail of all. December 24, 2011 is the date given for the arrival of extraterrestrial visitors in the notorious Sunn classic schlockumentary The Outer Space Connection. It was released in July 1975 and was almost certainly still playing in some theatres during Scott's third session. Weaving lore from then current fascinations like ancient astronauts, the Bermuda Triangle, pyramidiocy, and cloning experiments, it rivals Mysteries from Beyond Earth and Overlords of the Ufo for title of dumbest ufo documentary ever produced.

         Another failed pilot by Gene Roddenberry called Genesis II (1973) introduced the startling image of a woman with two navels into the culture, being featured in ads and chat shows. Played by Marriet Hartley, the woman was supposed to be an engineered mutation possessing superior abilities. A few years later, a ufo contactee named Jim Frazier introduces the claim that ufonauts hailing from Epsilon Eridanus are white-skinned, red-haired, with a powerful appearance and whose women have a seven-month birth cycle and have two navels instead of one.

         The 1975 case of Sandra Larson put forward a particularly campy claim. This lady claimed that aliens removed her brain and put it back in again. They hooked it up differently however and indicated she couldn't control what she said. Trekkies will not have qualms in thinking this is a re-write of the episode 'Spock's Brain'. The brain is removed and set to running the equipment of an advanced civilization in this homage to pulp SF. The idea is a clear rip-off of Eando Binder's 'Enslaved Brains' (Wonder Stories, August 1934). This episode was officially branded the worst, 79th of 79 episodes, story of the classic Star Trek series in Entertainment Weekly's 'Special Obsessive-Compulsive Collector's Edition' (January 18, 1995) devoted to the Star Trek phenomenon.

         Though the 'Encounter on Dapple Gray Lane,' related in the 1980 anthology by D. Scott Rogo's UFO Abductions, garners no honors for credibility or excitement from ufologists, it is noteworthy as a double witness encounter which involves aliens that appear to be disembodied brains themselves. Bad brain fliks are an iconic genre unto themselves, of course, and deciding which particular one inspired this case would probably represent a silly expenditure of effort. What is amusing is that the investigators of the case present it with no meditation on its cinematic kin like The Space Children (1958), The Brain from Planet Arous (1958), and Evil Brain from Outer Space (1964). A recent European work similarly speaks of an alien brain encountered in the 1963 Norbert Schuster case from Lubeck, Germany with no hint of its relatives.

In the early 1980s, a well-known CUFOS field investigator named Barbara Schutte came forward with fears that she had been an abductee. Regressed by Dr Leo Sprinkle, she produced a sketch of her abductor Quaazgaw which uniquely had an alien suited up in an outfit with a large inverted triangle spanning the chest and abdomen, a star symbol in the center, and a square belt buckle. This interesting fashion statement was rather clearly picked up from Pajama Party (1964). Don Rickles, playing the Martian Big Bang, wears just such a jump suit with a large bordered triangle, a square buckle, and a symbol in the center. Though not a five-pointed star like Quaazgaw, the centered symbol is mistakable for a star symbol.

         A somewhat different fashion statement was made by the aliens in the 1980 Longmont, Colorado abduction. An artist named Michael is abducted in a blinding beam of light reminiscent of the railroad crossing encounter in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and meets up with a gill-faced, large-headed alien and strips his mind, but puts it back with new abilities and knowledge. The alien has unusually long fingers. It wears a loose-fitting jumpsuit devoid of zippers, buttons, insignia, and colour patterns. It wears a cummerbund about the waist; no buckles. The source of this image is almost certainly an episode of The Outer Limits called 'The Keeper of the Purple Twilight.' A big-headed alien named Ikar swaps minds with the protagonist so the scientist can acquire the knowledge and ability to finish a project he has been laboring on. The gills on Ikar are larger and some interesting differences involving an ornamental collar and the eyes and ears exist, but the match with respect to long fingers, the loose-fitting jumpsuit and the cummerbund are too good to dismiss.

         Ufology in the eighties was dominated by Budd Hopkins and his abduction studies Missing Time and Intruders. The latter is a straight-faced advocacy of the proposition that aliens are conducting interbreeding and hybridization experiments on humankind.  This fascination is less amazing for its biological absurdity than its claim to novelty. Hopkins seems to believe there never was any fiction with the theme of aliens taking women and impregnating them for their own mysterious purposes. Barbara Eden's 1974 TV movie The Stranger Within is one obvious precursor as would be the 1953 story that spawned it, 'Mother By Protest' by Richard Matheson. Then there are movies like Night Caller from Outer Space (1966), Mars Needs Women (1966), Village of the Damned (1960), and The Mysterians (1957). One could even go back to 1939 and Eric Frank Russell's Sinister Barrier to find speculations about aliens indulging in artificial insemination, virgin births, and the creation of odd hybrid humans offered up in a Fortean vein.

         The Gulf Breeze incidents introduced into ufo imagery a new type of ufo with a halo of power ring on its underside. This led Bruce Maccabee on the Montel Williams show in January 1992 to use it to deflect a questioner who asked, "Don't you find it quite coincidental that a lot of sightings or reports or pictures that we are shown are similar to those of movies we see of spacecrafts and aliens?" He retorts, "Actually I'd like to point out something, the photos were run very briefly - are in a book that was published a year and a half ago from Gulf Breeze do not resemble what you see in the movies. When these photos were first presented to the public and investigation began, investigators were of two minds about it because it was so divergent it did not resemble your classic disc with a dome on top or whatever that you see in numerous movies." Obviously, Maccabee and his colleagues never watched the TV series Greatest American Hero in the early 1980s for a hovering mothership with a glowing power-ring on the underside was displayed every week in the opening sequence.

         Another curious detail to the Gulf Breeze case was that the alien seemed to be surrounded by a segmented box-like shield. It is tempting to assert the influence of an image from the much reviled movie version of Dune (1984) - the elegant shield special effects of which were equally boxy. One can't prove it to a compelling degree however because Mr Ed hedged his description with too many uncertainties and there are no corroborative details to support it.

         As we proceed into the 1990s, abduction lore expanded with the work of Hopkin's disciples. David Jacobs has fleshed out the hybrid programme into a vision of horror that increasingly resembles the horror film Inseminoid (1980) a.k.a. Horror Planet. The women are naked and paralyzed, lying on high-tech examination tables, as big-eyed staring humanoids insert embryos in a business-like terror. John Mack, on the other hand, paints a more cosmic vision filled with future apocalypses to accompany the surgical shenanigans. My favorite moment is when one of Mack's abductees, Arthur, reports that his aliens were ranting at us humans, "you guys are total idiots." This is so clearly a paraphrase of Eros's rant in Plan Nine From Outer Space, "...all of you of Earth are idiots", that the question of cultural influences on the abduction experience is clinched beyond further question. The only reservation might be if somebody takes seriously Criswell's admonition that Plan Nine was based on documented fact.

          I will end with one last finding. Brad Steiger, the most prolific ufo writer that ever was, once told of meeting up with the head honcho of the operation responsible for all the dreams and nightmares that make up the ufo phenomenon. This leader of the Disciples of Darkness and powerful deceiver had a name. His name was Zoltar. None can doubt this but a typo for our revered master of  bad film monsterdom - ZONTAR, The Monster from Venus!


         'Gauche Encounters' was originally conceived and written around 1989. It was intended to appear in a zine for bad film buffs called Zontar - The Magazine from Venus that I dearly loved. The editor accepted it, but the zine disappeared before the article was used. I copied it and sent it to some friends of mine who were ufo buffs like me. I knew it wasn't the sort of thing you send to ufo journals and so never sent it off anywhere else to be published. As the years went by I sometimes took bits of it for shorter, meatier articles for other publications, but never gave much thought to re-doing it. Ironically, while I was to write literally dozens of other articles in the years that followed, this paper became my most-cited work even though it remained unpublished. Not just friends known to me, but total strangers, professional psychologists among them, were footnoting it. Recently I saw it in the references to Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World. Clearly, it got around more than I expected.

         This version is not identical to the original draft. I dropped a couple of paragraphs involving Betty Andreasson for one thing. I originally thought some of her imagery derived from The Outer Limits, but I changed my mind when I saw the TV movie of the Hill case The UFO Incident and realized it provided the blueprint for her imagery. And to it material taken from the abductions of Larson, Mona Stafford, Louise Smith, and Herb Schirmer and I realized the evidence for influence was slighter than it first seemed so far as The Outer Limits was concerned. I've added things about C.A.V., Larson, and Schutte to make up the difference. Some updating of material to bring this into the 90s also seemed advisable. I tinkered with the wording here and there, but it is mostly the same as it was originally. The thrust of it at any rate is identical.

         I've found other interesting ufo culture data since 1989 which I excluded from the main text for various reasons. I avoided mentioning the contactee tales of the Fifties largely because ufologists don't accept them and would regard their cultural aspects as not only irrelevant but an attempt to diminish accepted lore by guilt through association. 

         Still, I can't resist passing along the information here that Orfeo Angelucci's contactee story began as a movie script titled Worlds are Mad Tonight. He came to realize it had little financial potential and "lay gathering dust and forgotten" before the aliens came forward to tell him it was true. Could it be it was a bad film so bad it could only be a true ufo case? I also had an argument attempting to link bits of Adamski's tale to Phylos the Tibetan's A Dweller on Two Worlds'(1886) a work described by L. Sprague de Camp as a 'singularly bad novel' which spawned a long line of unreadable occult novels. Since this wasn't really a bad film, there was added concern it didn't belong.

         Communion has appeared in Bad Movies We Love by Edward Margulies and Stephen Rebello. It unambiguously influenced certain ufo cases, but its representation as a true story raises a thicket of problems I chose not to enter.

         Budd Hopkins’s Steven Kilburn has offered drawings of aliens that copied certain peculiarities of the main alien in Spielberg’s blockbuster Close Encounters of the Third.  The most important of these are eyes that are large, all black and featureless.  Notably the legs are short relative to the torso and there is the presence of a slight paunch in the lower abdomen.  A drawing by William Herrman in Hopkins’ book also features all-black eyes.

          Edith Fiore's abduction book had drawings that reminded me of shows like Lost in Space and Space Academy, but I wasn't sure how convincing others would find them. A couple of drawings of new aliens that were showcased at the 1992 Abduction Study Conference at M.I.T., on the other hand, had some convincing looking precursors I had photos of. But I hadn't seen the shows involved and there was so little information about the cases given that I felt uncomfortable endorsing a relationship.

          I told the story of the Vegeman from Invasion of the Star Creatures in Talking Pictures No. 7 and it didn't seem vital to retell it here. A starfish alien in a 1974 Japanese encounter might be routed in the Japanese flik Warning from Space (1956), but there might potentially be many sources in that distant culture and I would never know it.

         I wasn't sure what to do with the report of an unnamed boy who saw humans hanging on a wall in a semi-comatose state with body parts missing. Clearly it is a rip-off of Aliens, and that is not a bad film by anyone's measure. But, appearing in September 1993 UFO Universe, did ufologists have a chance to argue against it? Does it bust the rule of cultural material usually being esoteric or not?

         Finally, and not so incidentally, Carl Sagan reports in his book The Demon-Haunted World (p.194) that he got a letter from an individual who reports on a star cruiser populated by people who "looked like Mr Spock from the Star Trek TV series." Thanks, Carl. Ufology is eternally grateful.


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