The room sequestered and dark has about it the subversive air of an anarchist cell. In one corner stands a video screen; in another a table of assorted books for sale. One is entitled Extraterrestrial Archaeology. A sizeable crowd has already gathered, filtering in from the street through the cafe out front.
I find a seat and settle, falling almost immediately into conversation with someone called Peter. They’re up there already, he tells me. Have been for some time, beaming down positive energy. Sowing the seed, as it were. That’s why there is so much interest these days in aliens. We are on the verge of open contact.
The person next to Peter nods in agreement and hands me his card.
Then someone is at a microphone, explaining that the evening has been organised as a chance to speak out about what is happening to ordinary folk. “These people are the witches and the warlocks, the Galileos, da Vincis and Columbuses of the ’90s,” she says. “They can’t speak freely. Society doesn’t like it when people step outside what is generally considered to be normal.”
Iris Catt, a mild-mannered, unprepossessing woman in her 40s, then introduces herself. She is an abductee. It appears certain aliens have had their eye on her from an early age. She recounts her night horrors calmly, the way people do who have learned to accept their scars, to make their hurt and anguish a part of themselves.
“It is happening every day, and it is happening in New Zealand,” says Iris. “It is not going to go away. I truly believe that more and more people are beginning to remember what is happening to them because the time is getting closer when we are going to have to recognise that we are not the only intelligent form of life in the universe.”
Her audience understands. She is among friends.
Documented sightings of UFOs go back a long way in New Zealand. Back, in fact, to 1909. On July 31 of that year, the engine driver on the train out of Hokitika noticed a powerful light out to sea as he approached Greymouth over the Taramakau bridge. It appeared to him to be rising and falling in the air and to be advancing towards the harbour.
He and the fireman observed the mysterious object until they reached Nelson Creek Station, at which point it drew towards the shore and descended over the breakers. Carriage doors were flung open as passengers crowded the station to watch the wavering light, now obscured, now clearly visible. As they looked on, it made for the Greymouth bar against a stiff wind and was lost to view.
They were not the only ones to see something. At five o’clock that very morning, two dredge hands in Gore had been surprised to see an “airship” drop through the mist and circle the area. The men noticed two figures aboard. After some manoeuvring, the craft, which carried lights fore and aft, shot upwards. There was a yellow glare, then, as the weather cleared, the airship moved off to the south-east.
From Temuka, Winchester and Geraldine came reports of a blunt-headed, cigar-shaped object, and from Timaru sightings of a light passing overhead at 10 P.M. the previous night.
Two days earlier, several hundred people had witnessed an airborne light drifting south, possibly carried by the same airship that pupils from Wakari School described seeing earlier in the day.
On July 24, 12 Dunedin tradespeople distinctly saw, with the aid of “coloured glasses” and telescopes, what they took to be a cigar-shaped airship. Several railway workers at Okawa saw it approaching Kaitangata. A Presbyterian minister, his wife and children also noticed the object, describing it as like a very bright star but greatly magnified and travelling at high speed.
In early August, a Mrs Mayo of Kelso was roused from her bed at 11.30 P.M. by a dull whirring noise like the motor of a threshing mill. The thing drew near with what sounded like a distant drum roll accompanied by squeaking. Frightened, she jumped from her bed and went to the verandah. The roof was vibrating loudly. Whatever it was approached from the south, passed overhead and died away to the north, in the direction of the mountains. Mrs Mayo peered into the darkness but could see nothing. In the morning, the horses in the neighbouring paddock appeared frightened and the ground revealed marks of agitated galloping.
From Napier, Feilding, Wellington, Blenheim, Kaikoura and Nelson came descriptions of a bright light enveloped by an opaque body which moved in a wavelike fashion at heights ranging from 300-900 metres. Often it was seen to shoot vertically out of sight or to disappear behind cloud.
For upwards of six weeks, from mid July to early September, newspapers were full of such reports, and theories on their origin abounded: hoaxers projecting pictures of heliographs on to clouds; pranksters on a hilltop lighting gasoline-soaked bags of kapok; someone of a scientific bent attaching a lightweight luminous cloth to a gull or pigeon. And, rather desperately, a light on a chain suspended from heaven.
The Evening Star was provoked into verse:
There floated on high
In the month of July,
An airship of wondrous construction.
The folks got a fright when they
Saw its bright light,
For they thought it was bent on destruction . . .
Some said “It’s a spy
Far up in the sky,
With his eye on New Zealand, you’ll find.”
Others blamed whisky,
That makes folk too frisky—
And the airships exist in the mind.
Alcoholic visions were unlikely, however, at least among the citizens of Otago and Southland, who were at the time largely under the yoke of a strict prohibition. Nor were dirigible spy missions from German ships plausible: the task of deflating such an unwieldy object on a rolling deck before daylight would have challenged ingenuity. In any case, no one could reasonably explain what German spies—or Japanese, for that matter—would want with barren mountain ranges and small country towns.
One of the Greytown rail passengers, no doubt influenced by H. G. Wells’ recent scientific romance The War Of The Worlds, had suggested observers were in the presence of a messenger from Mars.
More likely an invasion from Mars, thought W. H. T. To the editor of The Evening Star, this fevered correspondent wrote: “Water being scarce on that planet, the Martians are necessarily looking out for a new world to inhabit, and, New Zealand being a conspicuous object on our globe, they will probably attack us first. The presence of a dead squid on the beach at Burkes a few days ago is fairly conclusive evidence that if this is not a Martian invasion, it is at all events a serious reconnaissance from that planet. It is well known that on Mars the highest development of the brain has been in octopods, and to me it is quite evident that one of our invaders fell out of the Martian airship when crossing Otago Harbour, and, being but an indifferent swimmer, had been drowned and washed ashore . . . .”
Others subscribed to the theory of a lone and secretive inventor. Mark Gibb of Oamaru recalled meeting an English tourist the previous summer who claimed to have found such an inventor up in the mountains. The inventor took advantage of the steep terrain to launch his craft, which was said to be capable of travelling at upwards of 100 miles an hour and of remaining aloft for months on end. Elaboration of the inventor’s theories of flight, however, including strange analogies to the stubby wings of paradise ducks, cast the reality of the whole enterprise into doubt.
The Mataura Ensign flushed out another possible inventor: a Wakatipu man, a “solitary mechanic,” who some time earlier had taken delivery of a mysterious freight consignment consisting of the “absolute requirements” for building an airship. Alas, the goods delivered to the remote location were later found to have been used to build a heavier-than-air flaxmilling machine.
At the time, air travel was still a novelty, and newspapers celebrated the feats of aviators in their aerial navigation columns. Only 27 airships were known to have flown that year worldwide—none in New Zealand—and internationally there were fewer than 40 registered aviators. The average speed of the airships was about 26 miles per hour, and their manoeuvrability was low.
In August 1909, the United States government had paid the Wright brothers $30,000 for breaking the 40-mile-an-hour barrier. The previous month a crowd of 25,000 had turned out to witness Louis Bleriot cross the English Channel. Any number of prizes awaited the inventor of a craft whose performance was even half that of the mysterious thing seen in New Zealand skies.
A remarkable aspect of the 1909 flap was the variety of seemingly respectable and trustworthy witnesses and the fact that so many of the sightings involved daylight encounters.
Of the night sightings, few could be explained away as mistaken sightings of heavenly bodies. Researcher Murray Bott, who has analysed more than 100 1909 accounts, has ruled out Mars as a possible explanation, saying 80 per cent of sightings occurred before that planet had risen. He likewise dismisses Venus and Jupiter, claiming that in the majority of night sightings no known astronomical or meteorological phenomena could have been responsible.
In early September, the sightings stopped as suddenly as they had begun. Far from being resolved into explicable natural phenomena or as the beginnings of sustained contact by otherworldly beings, they merely ceased, soon to he forgotten, as had earlier UFO encounters, from Ezekiel’s spectacular “wheels within wheels” and the airborne objects that harried Alexander’s troops in 329 B.C. to the bizarre floating devices in the shape of hats, spears and crosses that terrorised European townsfolk in the middle years of the 16th century.
There were other waves of airship visitation: in the United States in 1896-7 and 1909, and in the US, Canada, England and South Africa in 1912-13. Many were accompanied by reported crashes, animal mutilations and close encounters with extraterrestrials. One of the most extraordinary of these was an encounter by a man named Hopkins with a beautiful being “dressed in nature’s garb” and bedecked with jewels. Beneath her four-legged craft sat a bearded companion who explained, while fanning himself in the Missouri heat, that he and his fetching copilot were from Mars.
All dreams fade, and so it was with these serendipitous encounters, the very memory of which lay forgotten until researchers rediscovered the fading newspaper reports decades later. Not until mid-century was the climate right for the systematic study of UFOs.
The enlightened era was to a large extent ushered in by the combined efforts of a Detroit autobody welder called Richard Shaver and a hunchbacked dwarf by the name of Ray Palmer.
Palmer was editor of Amazing Stories, a pulp magazine specialising in tales about galactic heroes, cosmic princesses and space vamps clad in heavy metal brassieres. When he got a letter from Shaver concerning an unknown ancient language he published it. Shaver thanked him and wrote another rambling piece headed “Warning to Future Man” which filled out the details. Palmer reworked and enlarged it and printed it in the March 1945 issue as “I Remember Lemuria!”.
It was the first of a steady flow of Shaver stories that united the histories of two sunken continents, Atlantis and Lemuria, with startling revelations about the existence of underground thugs, the Deros, who tormented mortals through the agency of their deleterious rays. Shaver had first become aware of the Deros when they began directing their deleterious rays at him via his spotwelding gun.
Amazing Stories ran more of what came to be known as the “Shaver Mystery” over succeeding issues, and circulation climbed to 250,000. Letters to the editor went from 50 or so a month to 2500, with many correspondents reporting strange sightings in the sky or encounters with aliens.
The sighting of a formation of UFOs over Mt Rainier, Washington State, by private pilot Kenneth Arnold in June 1947 was for Palmer and Shaver proof enough of all they had been saying.
According to Arnold, the otherworldly objects, which he clocked at upwards of 1200 miles an hour, “flew like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water.” The mystery was named.
Days later came news of a crashed “flying disk” on a ranch near Roswell Field, an Army Air Force base in New Mexico. Civil engineer Barney Barnett claimed to have seen the wreckage, some pieces inscribed with hieroglyphs, and dead alien crew. Officially, what had been discovered was a weather balloon.
Then came the contacts. In 1952, George Adamski reported conversing with “a human being from another world” in the Californian desert. The alien had interesting news. He confirmed that saucers were coming from within the solar system and from beyond, and that some of the visitors were at that moment walking the streets of Earth’s cities. He himself was Venusian.
More contacts followed. Truman Bethurum was taken aboard a saucer while laying asphalt in the desert and spirited away by its winsome captain Aura Rhanes—a grandmother who nevertheless was “tops in shapeliness and beauty”— to the planet Clarion.
Daniel Fry, a technician at the White Sands Proving Ground, aircraft mechanic Orfeo Angelucci, Buck Nelson and others met space brothers in unlikely places, flew to the Moon and to distant planets and conveyed otherworldly messages of world peace.
As the number of sightings worldwide grew during the 1950s, other explanations for the phenomena were floated, among them those of psychologist Carl Jung. In his 1959 book Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, Jung offered the possibility that UFOs were real material phenomena, presumably from space, which had triggered some psychic response.
Perhaps we moderns saw in the shape of the saucers a symbol of wholeness, of the cosmos, of God even, at a time when our stressed society was fragmenting. Maybe the phenomena were yet further examples of synchronistic appearances—the psychic condition of humankind and these atmospheric events bearing no recognisable causal relationship but nevertheless coinciding in a meaningful way.
While Jung fretted over such things, Eileen Moreland of Blenheim coincided in a meaningful way with something she didn’t much care for. At about 5.30 A.M. on July 13 1959, Mrs Moreland turned the milking shed lights on, as usual, and headed out across the paddock, torch in hand, to get the cows.
The morning was cold and still, with a layer of thick cloud. Halfway across the paddock, she became aware of a greenish glow which bathed the ground in an eerie light. Looking up, she saw two green lights, like big lamps, ringed by orange bands, emerging from the cloud.
Unnerved, she ran for the cover of some pines which bordered the paddock and stood motionless among the cows. As she looked on in disbelief, a cylindrical object lowered itself from the sky and hovered several metres above a line of peach trees. The object, which she estimated to be eight metres wide, was banded with two rows of jets, each one brilliant orange with a greenish centre. On stopping, the jets shut off, then began to counter-rotate at high speed until they blurred into continuous halos of light. The air was filled with humming and the hiss of the jets.
Eileen Moreland’s heart beat faster when she realised the craft was occupied. It was topped by a transparent dome or cowl filled with a flickering white light which appeared to come from the centre of the craft. Inside, two seated figures could be seen, one behind the other and both facing the same way. Each wore an opaque helmet and was clad in a metallic suit which crinkled and reflected light with every movement.
Suddenly, the rear figure stood and leaned forward, seemingly to study something. It then sank back and the jets stopped rotating and went out. They immediately came back on again, there was a loud rush of air and the craft rose vertically at unbelievable speed, accompanied by an “almost unbearable” high-pitched screech. A moment later a wave of warm air hit Mrs Moreland, carrying with it the hot-pepper smell of ozone.
Three miles east, a Mr Holdaway, returning to bed after a drink of water, had noticed a whitish-orange light through his window. The light gradually intensified, then faded away, with no accompanying sound.
And that was that. The town clock struck a quarter to six and Mrs Moreland pulled herself together and got on with the milking. When it was done she went in, woke her husband and told him what had happened, but was reluctant to call the police over such an odd, inexplicable incident.
When she did, they appeared interested, as did staff at the nearby Woodbourne Air Force Base where her husband, an RNZAF officer, worked. Base personnel who came to question her and to study the site detected residual radiation in the paddock.
Several days later Eileen Moreland’s hands began to swell—so much so that her wedding ring grew painful and had to be cut away. Her face became marked with brown blotches. Though the swelling at last subsided, the pigmentation over her right eyebrow took six years to disappear. The fruit trees above which the craft had hovered died soon afterwards and were dug out.
The case was frustrating. Lights, radiation traces, bodily swelling and the appearance of stigmata left little to go on. A decade later, however, ufologists were rewarded with what many considered New Zealand’s best physical evidence yet of planetary visitation.
On September 4, 1969, a Hauraki Plains farmer by the name of O’Neill was looking at scrub-covered land near the southern boundary of his Ngatea property when he noticed an unusual bleached patch of manuka which in outline resembled a cone lying on its side. Alert UFO investigators from nearby Waihi heard mention of the findings on their local radio station and managed to get to the O’Neill farm before a curious public had done irreparable damage to the site.
Harvey Cooke, now retired and living in Tauranga, made a number of trips to Ngatea to painstakingly measure and record the physical evidence. What he found has him still excited almost 30 years on: three equally spaced depressions in the manuka which formed an equilateral triangle—the result, it was estimated, of at least 20 tonnes of pressure. The surrounding scrub was undisturbed. What interested Harvey Cooke most were two furrows or “toes” that ran from each depression, 60 degrees apart.
In his view, this was no fanciful circle of the sort trampled by English pranksters in Kentish fields. Something heavy and businesslike had visited the Plains.
“It was obvious from the state of the ground,” Cooke told me, unrolling a meticulously measured diagram he made at the time, “that these toes had been moved out from the pad after the object had landed. The ground had been pushed away and the flat end had cut through roots of the manuka.”
It was discovered that the trees near the pads had died to the roots and were extremely brittle. Samples analysed by Te Puna horticultural consultant John Stuart-Menzies were found to be radioactive, as were dead spiders found in the vicinity. Though the pith of the trees had been carbonised, there was no evidence of external burning—they had been cooked instantaneously from the inside out, as if having spent time in a vast microwave oven.
A month later, investigators arrived from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Unable to take readings or measurements from the site, which by now had been unrecognisably trampled by a thousand inquisitive visitors, they nevertheless determined to their own satisfaction what had caused the manuka markings: a saprophytic fungus. Cooke shakes his head at the official findings, saying that such a fungus attacks dead trees but does not cause their death.
As the months rolled on, the incidence of such UFO “nests” accumulated: a three metre area of bleached grass and two V-shaped marks on a Whitford farm south of Auckland; three circles on a Rotorua farm which “spooked” horses; a nine-metre circle of dead grass in Takapuna.
Then a visitation occurred in the King Country, its wild terrain a seemingly favoured haunt of UFOs. On September 30, longtime researcher and local doctor Bob Valkenburg got a call from the wife of Puketutu farmer Charles Blackmore: something odd had happened down by the duckpond that Bob had best take a look at.
Stopping only to collect fellow researcher Tony Pivic from the menswear store below his surgery, Bob headed out to the farm. There he and Tony found evidence of a landing, including tripod marks and a 25-metre circle of disturbance in the reeds of a floating island. They also discovered and filmed the indistinct form of what looked to be a moccasin-like footprint in the soft ground. The pond water was muddy and gave off a sickly smell. It had been partially emptied.
Charles Blackmore was reticent about what had happened. He didn’t want anything to do with extraterrestrial goings-on. This was the fourth or fifth time this sort of thing had happened, and he had animals to tend. Bob did learn, however, that the farmer’s mother had been woken in the night at the farmhouse more than a kilometre off by an unearthly noise and by a light that lit the bedroom as bright as day. She could have read a newspaper by it without her glasses, had she been inclined.
“The ducks and frogs all left the pond, never to come back,” Bob told me in his strong Dutch accent. I had called in to his home on a rise overlooking the King Country town of Te Kuiti early one day to find him tackling a bee swarm. Taking time out from this terrestrial encounter, he led me into an upstairs room adorned with pencil nudes. When not healing bodies, it seemed he had, with considerable skill, recorded them. Scattered around about lay the detritus of his researches: books, notes, correspondence. He fished out a video and passed it to me. The evidence was all there: the bent reeds, the indistinct footprint, even—at another site—indications of extraterrestrial core sampling.
This last case was one of the most intriguing Bob had worked on. Overnight, a hole had appeared on a farm in Otorohanga, in the middle of a cattle path leading to the cowshed. The first hint of anything amiss was when the cows had suddenly pulled up and refused to go any further. A hole was found, 20 cm in diameter and all of six metres deep. A plumbline showed the hole to be perpendicular. Its lining, smooth as glass, was scored with a single spiral groove, and later soil tests showed the interior had been rapidly heated to 300°C. No track marks or deposits of earth were to be found anywhere round about.
That was in 1977.
“I have no answer,” says Bob. “No one can give me an answer.” As I leave, he presses into my hand a paper he has written and repeats a comment he once made on television about visits by extraterrestrials: “We go further than believing. Believing has doubts; knowledge has no doubt. I know they are there.”
Looking later, I see the paper is headed “Atlantis and Mu: A Never-Ending Story!”. In it Bob roams, with an extravagance of upper case, over sunken continents, evoking a time long gone when airships with crystals in their gondolas crossed the skies and traders visited Atlantis. Aotearoa is conjectured as the surviving west coast of fabled Lemuria.
That seems to be the way of it with UFO investigation. Just when you think you have the thing sorted, or at least under control, someone goes and moves the stakes. It had been happening to me since I had begun research for this article six months back. Now, it appeared, all history was up for grabs.
What Bob Valkenburg had outlined was a sketch history of the planet’s early civilisations. In this view, championed most controversially by Erich von Mniken but originally proposed by a Russian physicist named Agrest, ancient astronauts from the distant reaches of space seeded life on Earth, or at any rate genetically manipulated what they found here. Advanced civilisations rose and fell, though we moderns are too blind and conceited to recognise the Ozymandean clues to their former existence. Among those clues: old reliefs in the Sahara and Mexico which seem to depict astronauts, timeworn structures suggestive of advanced technology, religious traditions that talk of gods coming down to earth—Shiva ascending in a chariot, Pluto rising from the underworld to abduct Persephone, Persian flying carpets, the aerial discs of Indian myth powered by harmonic crystals, etcetera.
New Zealander Robin Collyns, another advocate of ancient astronauts, plundered the past spectacularly in a succession of racy books, including Did Spacemen Colonise The Earth?, Prehistoric Germ Warfare and, my favourite, Laser Beams From Star Cities?
Mentioning a Maori legend concerning a “marvellous magic stone” used by lo, the Supreme Being, to view events in any part of the universe, Collyns asks: “Is this tale really of a fanciful, embellished, vague recollection of TV monitors on Mu, the Maori’s original homeland?
The Mu that Collyns and Bob Valkenburg talk of was the discovery of an English officer, Colonel James Churchward, who served in India for 30 years. During that time, at an unspecified date and in an unidentified temple—after a while the coyness irritates—he claims to have stumbled upon a collection of tablets written by a mysterious people called the Nacaals. The tablets disclosed that 50,000 years ago in the Pacific lay a continent called Mu, the birthplace of the white race.
French filmmaker Gabriel Linge, who for eight months in the early 1970s worked on a documentary in New Zealand, is less inclined toward Mu, but in a book of reflections on his visit, In Search Of The Maori, he does let a ray of cosmology fall on the pages. Looking at Maori carvings, he was struck by the recurring double spiral motif—a motif which for the Maori, he claims, represented the origin and development of life. Maori carving, it turned out, was full of the imagery of galaxies, both double and barred.
What is more, art was supported by legend. Linge cites the story of the sons of Rangi, the Sky Father. Rangi’s sons “fashioned a canoe, which they named Te Waka-o-Aorangi (the canoe of the world of the sky) and glided down from the celestial regions . . . The canoe sailed round the body of Papa and then turned southwards. It was no ordinary canoe . . . this was a canoe of gods.
“The gods sang the karakia (incantations) that lighten the heaviest bodies so that the canoe would lift itself again to the sky, but—they had lost contact with their source of power.” (Linge’s italics.)
Power failure in the celestial canoe.
In 1965, A National Airways Corporation pilot, Captain Bruce Cathie, saw something astonishing in the shallow waters of the Kaipara Harbour as he was flying overhead. He later described the object as a streamlined metal “fish” 30 metres long. He was convinced that it was neither natural nor the work of human hands.
More than 10 years earlier, Cathie had seen an intense white light over the Manukau Harbour. For 20 minutes it “held myself and other witnesses spellbound as it went through a series of right-angle turns, then disappeared straight up into a clear evening sky.” Since then he had been an avid collector of data.
It was not surprising, then, that he became alerted to a pattern in UFO sightings several months after the Kaipara incident. Reports had come in from distant parts of the country of aerial phenomena occurring on a single night in March, and by plotting the locations Cathie came up with a straight line terminating at the Kaipara. He had discovered the first section of what he later came to see as a worldwide magnetic grid system—a sort of UFO tramway.
But there was more. By tinkering with the numerical values of the speed of light, mass and gravity acceleration, Cathie unravelled the mathematical backbone of the system. It was a heady cocktail of science which, after 27 years of dogged perseverance, he was able to formulate as “a series of harmonic unified equations, which indicated that the whole of physical reality was in fact manifested by a complex pattern of interlocking wave forms.”
Such brazenness was bound to get him into trouble. His work was disparaged and ridiculed. Publishers jettisoned his books. He had visits. As the scope and implications of his work grew, Cathie began to have suspicions about the normalcy of the world around him. The crumbling of solid matter into angular velocities of light didn’t help. But another law was at work, one which goes like this: “the bigger the discovery you make, the greater are the forces of secrecy necessary to have kept it quiet for so long.”
Cathie began to suspect that the truth he had uncovered at the expense of great personal effort was common knowledge among higher echelons of the defence and research establishments of world powers.
From his tranquil, bush-clad home in west Auckland, Cathie told me “every country that detonates atomic bombs knows some of these secrets, though it’s not classical physics—you won’t find it in any textbooks.”
Having grown up with Cathie’s books—they had been a sort of initiation into the shaky adult world of deceit and mystery—I had been keen to meet him and discuss the material in his latest book, The Harmonic Conquest Of Space. It had been published in a cheap edition “so that I can at least get it out there,” he told me, steering me through his garage into a small crowded office.
Looking little older than he did 20 years ago, Cathie has about him the same disconcerting intensity, the same edginess, that gathers about his dust-jacket photographs. As we talk, I have the impression that he has built walls against the outside world, against anything that threatens the elaborate architecture of his belief.
Retired now, he still keeps tabs on developments in the field, though mere sightings of UFOs interest him less these days. “I don’t worry about them any more; we know they exist,” he says. “A lot of that stuff up there is ours, anyway.”
Though he accepts occasional guest spots on local radio and on the international UFO lecture circuit, Cathie spends most of his time applying the harmonic unified values to unexplored areas: the geometric significance of artificial structures, “pyramids” on Mars; the harmonics of the subconscious; the link between brainwaves, earth-ionosphere resonance and gravity; connecting the French nuclear test programme with volcanic activity in New Zealand.
New zealand abductee Iris Catt has no need of mathematics to trace an alien presence: she has lived with that presence for most of her life. Having always known there was something “out there,” and with a history of waking traumatised from her sleep, Iris nevertheless had no clear idea of what had been going on. Eventually, she did something about her situation. Two years ago, at a friend’s suggestion, she underwent hypnotic regression.
The technique is not new. New York painter Budd Hopkins, Harvard psychiatrist John Mack and others have been using it ever since Americans Betty and Barney Hill revealed their abduction by aliens through hypnosis back in 1961. Hopkins and Mack soon realised it wasn’t necessary to have consciously experienced a UFO sighting to be an abductee. A bad childhood, a sense of missing time, inexplicable scars, irrational fear of something—a hovering helicopter, for instance, or a particular stretch of road, even increased psychic ability—any of these could point to an abduction experience.
One session of hypnosis and Iris knew her “dream” was not a dream.
She started getting unpredictable flashbacks that replayed entire abduction scenes like a video on fast forward. Often they would start with a blue-green light filling her room, and the bed would vibrate and begin to rise up. Unable to make any movement, she would be taken nevertheless, and somehow end up on a slab. Always it was cold. She would become aware of the presence of creatures of varying sizes, some grey, other bluish. Then the examinations would begin: vaginal probes, the removal of eggs, minor surgery. Most painful was the insertion of something into the roof of her mouth. Then she would wake with a jolt, as if being dropped back into bed, often sideways or lying with her feet where her head should be. Next day, she would discover physical marks—a triangular scar on her ankle, for instance; sometimes discharges.
The traumatic experiences and her inability to communicate with the alien beings left her feeling angry and powerless. Only when she met other abductees and realised she was not alone in her ordeal was she able to come to terms with what was happening.
Eventually, Iris learned to control the anger that was blocking telepathic communication with the aliens and began to understand what they were doing: it was a breeding programme to create a hybrid species, and soon these beings would be physically joining us on earth. In ET circles, she says, “you get things that don’t get out to normal households.” Iris no longer thinks of herself as an abductee but a willing participant. She refers to the abductions as “encounters.”
There is a downside. As a result of these encounters, Iris has lost good friends. She split up with her partner, and her eldest daughter—she has three—is unable to deal with what is happening.
“She says, ‘If it’s the Andy Warhol thing, you’ve had your 15 minutes’,” says Iris. “As a mother, I do feel guilty about being on TV or whatever. People think you’re crazy.”
Following her example, however, others are increasingly ready to tell their stories. Some make it to the tabloids. Late last year came the tale of Suzanne, a 39-year-old Hawkes Bay mother. She revealed that web-fingered aliens with puppy dog faces had beamed up her and a girlfriend from a barbecue in Napier. Once on board, the women were put in separate rooms, shackled to cold marble tables and operated on. Through some sort of inbuilt screen, they could see the internal organs of the aliens, and by the power of telepathic messages the two women were able to communicate with each other.
When, on the ground once more, they eventually came to their senses, they discovered that their watches still showed 9.20 P.M., the time they first saw the spaceship.
The whole thing was sketchy and indistinct until Suzanne saw Iris Catt on television and, as a result of contacting her, underwent hypnotic regression in Auckland. Gradually, the details emerged. Her friend Elisa, less able to cope, moved to Australia.
“This experience has really changed my life,” Suzanne is quoted as saying. A collector of Elvis mementoes, she adds: “My only regret is that I haven’t got to see Elvis in an extraterrestrial experience.”
Coincidentally, it was while in the United States working on a documentary about Presley that British filmmaker Ray Santilli was approached by a retired military photographer and handed the ufologist’s equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls: 14 reels of 16 mm black-and-white silent film purportedly shot in New Mexico in 1947 and showing the autopsy of a dead alien.
The film, which screened in New Zealand for the first time in 1996, stirred a great deal of controversy. Even if it is nothing but an inspired fake, say believers, that faking was sponsored by a government whose aim is to condition us to the reality of extraterrestrials.
To find out more about ETs myself, I rang a newly launched 0900 service, and for $2.99 a minute was privy to information which a computerised voice told me was sourced from a wide range of scientists, scholars, researchers and those with first-hand experience of the subject. Many of the aliens discussed had repeatedly demonstrated their hostility, warned the voice.
The fact that we were dealing with more than one type of space visitor didn’t faze me—Harvey Cooke had already told me we were on the star maps of at least 200 alien species.
Skipping the directory for abductions and implants, alien craft and secrets of the moon, I went straight to the extraterrestrials: Grey Aliens, Blonds, Andromedans, Aliens from the 12th Planet, Browns, the Men in Black . . . I was momentarily taken aback by the sheer richness of the catalogue, by the fulness of Earth’s guest list.
Recovering, I hit Reptilians, and learned they were highly advanced, considered humanoids repulsive and could speak several Earth languages including English—though that harshly and with understandable sibilation. More worrying, I was told Reptilians had the strength of 12 humans and considered that those not as strong as themselves deserved to be enslaved . . . at which point my money ran out.
When I later meet the mover behind the 0900 service (who prefers to be known only as “Ricki”) at his inner-city villa, he gives me his take on the proliferation of aliens.
“It’s like the situation the Maori found themselves in,” says Ricki. “First Tasman arrived, then Cook. The French at Akaroa. Americans. Whalers, sealers. Different people with different agendas. It must have been like the bar scene in Star Warr.”
The bottom line for the presence of such a panoply of aliens, he tells me, is genes. A lot of extraterrestrials have a vested interest in us because we are walking filing cabinets of genomes, and they are experiencing genetic breakdown. The Greys—responsible for most abductions—are, says Ricki, “on the back end of a downward curve. At least, that’s the cosmic gossip.”
A framed photograph of the Potala, the Dalai Lama’s historic palace, hangs in Ricki’s kitchen. It turns out Ricki is into Buddhism—has been for 20 years. He tells me Tibetan Buddhism hasn’t been threatened by new science or by UFOs but has come to terms with cosmic reality. “Has stood there as a beacon,” he says.
Though Buddhism seemed to know what was going on, not many people in Western society did, in Ricki’s view. He decided it would be a good thing if accurate information on cosmic reality—”for the lazy and ill-informed”—was readily to hand. Having, for instance, seen Independence Day, which administered a dose of UFO lore spiced with Hollywood extremitas, a person could pick up the phone and put to rest any nagging questions.
Now, thanks to Ricki’s 0900 service, you can. The truth—to the best of Ricki’s knowledge—is out there.
The “lazy and ill-informed” can also turn somewhere else: to the Aetherius Society. Aetherius, “he who moves through the ether,” is the pseudonym of an extraterrestrial, a Venusian, who has been communicating with the society’s founder and president, Sir George King, since 1955.
The society’s New Zealand spokesperson, Margaret Kilbey, had nothing good to say about Independence Day, which in her view fostered unnecessary paranoia about the goals of space beings. What she made of the quirky, relentlessly subversive Mars Attacks! I hadn’t the heart to ask.
King, the “primary terrestrial channel” for the aliens, is in constant telepathic contact with them and relays their messages to followers worldwide. They would like nothing better than to walk amongst us, says King, but are biding their time until they feel we are ready.
It is a wise move. Four years before the society was founded, the film The Day The Earth Stood Still showed what Earth’s likely response would be. In the film a humanoid being lands on the White House lawn. His saucer is quarantined, his call for global disarmament is ignored and he is shot.
Meanwhile, says Kilbey, alien space ships of impressive size periodically orbit the Earth undetected. When Independence Day opened in New Zealand, a four-kilometre-long mothership code-named Satellite Number Three was up there flooding the world with spiritual energy.
The ship comes and goes four times a year, says Kilbey. The society has arrival dates for the next 1000 years.
For former car dealer Alec Newald, ET visits are the most serious subject on Earth. And he should know. As far as he can make out, he has had 10 days off the planet.
It all started in February 1989, when Alec arrived in Auckland, having driven from Rotorua, to discover that more than a week of his life could not be accounted for.
Admittedly, he had left Rotorua in distressing circumstances, his marriage of 16 years in pieces. But he could not believe he had driven around for 10 days in some sort of trance. And where would he have eaten or slept? All his money was still on him, bar a little spent on petrol. Then there were the disconcerting anomalies. His watch had stopped at exactly the same time as the car’s dash clock. He confused right with left, making wrong turns, mishandling knives and forks. His car began playing up. First the fuel-injection system, then hydraulic seals.
With worries enough, and thinking to simplify his life, he sold the car.
Things got worse. Two men claiming to be from the DSIR arrived uninvited shortly after the car was sold, wanting to know whether it had been involved in an accident involving high-voltage electric fields.
Then came the headaches and the dream. Alec took to recording the message his dream was communicating to him, and gradually the veil of missing time was lifted.
It turns out that as he steered his Daimler through rugged hill country a fine mist set in, gradually turning into a clinging thick fog. Visibility dropped away; he felt as though trapped in a slow-setting glue. His vision blurred, and the steering wheel began to hum. Then it locked. He seemed to be floating . . . .
Coevolution, a book about his experiences, goes on to describe his encounter with a “beautiful creature” five feet high with “alluring violet-blue eyes” in a revealing body suit. Taken on board a lightship, he gets to meet other abductees, Guardians and Elders. He also gets assigned Zeena 5, the creature he first met, and learns that her planet, about the size of Mars but far more distant, is being roasted by radiation from a dying sun. As if that isn’t bad enough, the atmosphere is bleeding off. Ricki’s cosmic gossip, it seems, is on the nail.
When Alec needed help coming to terms with all this new knowledge he turned to abductee counsellor Daisy Kirkby. Zeena’s message was not entirely new to Daisy, who some time earlier had heard a tape of channelled material from an ET by the name of “Bashar,” relayed through a tranced medium in the United States. It had been uplifting, yet full of practical advice and disclosed that no one living on Earth was indigenous to the planet.
Daisy later placed an ad in the local paper, calling a meeting for people interested in communicating with space beings. As a result, nearly 50 people wedged themselves into her living room, two-thirds claiming to have seen a UFO or to have been abducted. The next year, Daisy launched a newsletter, now called Connections, “to make it known that aliens are for real.”
In 1992 she began New Zealand’s first abductee support group, encouraging others—including Harvey Cooke in Tauranga and Iris Catt in Auckland—to do likewise.
It is a long way to have come in 80 years—from whimsical airships to alien abductions—and the emotional stakes are higher now than they have ever been. Despite the tranquil experience of Alec and the resigned acceptance of Iris, there are any number of people who find the mere thought of abduction terrifying.
For people wanting to work through an abduction experience, Daisy advises they find a hypnotherapist who understands the “ET scenario” and who will guide them through regression hypnosis without creating what she calls “situations.”
But ever since Betty and Barney came forward with their story, regression hypnosis has had its critics. Contrary to popular perception, say the sceptics, the brain is not a tape recorder. It is constantly updated by what happens, so that repeated stories about the past often solidify into “memories.” Regression hypnosis, they say, isn’t good at recovering factual information.
Then there was the discovery of a peculiarity of the temporal lobes in the human brain. In certain people, under certain circumstances, parts of the lobe circuitry would “fire,” causing experiences such as a feeling of levitation, of leaving the body, a sense of deja vu, of paralysis, the impression of voices in the head, the smell of odours, the sense of another presence, and many more seemingly real hallucinations. All this could be replicated in a laboratory by stimulating the hippocampus, or amygdala, or whatever. Importantly, the event in some cases was followed by amnesia, of missing time even, and by a sense of profound peace and purpose. Of communion.
Among the real-world triggers were stress, fatigue, anger, bereavement, “highway hypnosis” induced by long trips and the altered state between sleep and consciousness. And, hey, didn’t Alec Newald encounter the gorgeous Zeena at about the time hoardings went up for TV3 ‘s Xena: Warrior Princess?
By now, I couldn’t help feeling that I was deep in a stew of dreams and desires—a place where rational enquiry was of little use.
The UFO experience is like being on a roller coaster—it is an exhilarating ride, but at some point, to end the vertigo, you have to get off. Perhaps, in the final analysis, it is a ride we don’t need to take.