Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Astounding UFO SECRETS of James W. Moseley edited by Timothy Green Beckley

Two blogs are going to be devoted to this book about the infamous editor/journalist of Saucer News, James W. Moseley. First of all, he was fun and a good writer but I can't squeeze in a summary/analysis of the news articles in this blog. Second of all, this man is huge. One of the book's contributors, Kenneth Arnold, describes him as the last of the 1950s Old Guard of UFOlogists. He was also a pioneer in UFOlogical investigation techniques and managed to have a huge influence on the UFOlogical community at large as the premier UFO Journalist bar none; despite the fact that he was neither a skeptic nor hardcore believer, which left him marginalized. But he was also able to have a monopoly in the UFO community as a witty social commentator who archived history.

 The book itself is a well written book, an entertaining read. It’s certainly not a manual like some books dedicated to various phenomena.  I feel that James Moseley, also known as the Clown Prince of UFOlogy, must have known that UFOlogy needed humor to attract a wider audience. It needed its court jester. After all, there’s a lot of head butting going on between skeptics, hardcore believers, and the government in this community. And sometimes UFOlogy can be hard to swallow, thanks to challenging concepts such as the ancient astronaut theory.

For me, he adds a sober view of UFOlogy, neither too skeptical nor blindly accepting of claims from contactees or even skeptics. He shaked his proverbial UFO colander and shifted through the claims to filter out lies and get to the truth.  Or what he considered to be the truth based on what he considered to be tangible evidence. Perhaps this is what drove people towards his publications.  Or perhaps it was the great amount of controversy he concocted. Everyone loves drama.

James W. Moseley was born on August 4th 1931 and died on November 16, 2012. His father was the notorious Major General George Van Horn Moseley and his mother was Florence Barber, heiress to the New York City Barber Steamship Lines fortune.  His relatively long life saw him at the advent of modern UFOlogy with Kenneth Arnold, the first person to report a UFO sighting on June 24, 1947, to November 16, 2012. I can’t help thinking how ironic it is that he died before December 21st. He would, undoubtedly, have had something witty to say about the Mayan predictions that failed to come true.

Woseley had a very rebellious relationship with his autocratic father throughout his life.  He quit Princeton after just two years, pursued real-estate deals, antiquarian pursuits, and inevitably UFOlogy and gonzo journalism all as means to rebel against him.  

It is unknown what his relationship with his mother was like. What is known is that his mother died when he was only 19 years old and left him a million dollar fortune. This allowed him to finance his own UFOlogical pursuits such as grave-robbing for Inca pottery and gold in Peru, founding his National UFO Conference  (NUFOC -an unofficial, giant party), and founding Saucer News. In fact, he used UFOlogy as an excuse to party and he never had a real job in his life. Many people were suspicious of this and claimed that he must have been a government silencer and had paychecks cut to him on a regular basis by the CIA. But that was not the case.

Memories from His UFOlogical Colleagues/Friends

His friends share some of their memories of their beloved UFOlogist in this portion of the book. A singular man, he met most of them at his National UFO Conferences, partied with many of them in New York City, and had most of them over as guests at his Key West apartment. So I won’t bore you with those details.

The photo taken by Tim Beckley of the man-in-black


Editor/contributor Tim Beckley remembers the time when the assistant editor at Saucer News, Jack Robinson, had a possible run in with a man-in-black. Things were a little weird that day because Robinson had trouble with his phone and files were missing. Even more eerie was the mysterious man across the street in a black suit (with a long, black trench coat), black hat, and black sunglasses-the men-in-black uniform. Since everyone knew everybody in the neighborhood, the man stuck out like a sore thumb. Moseley and Beckley hid out in a car and took a photo of the nefarious stranger who was gone before they had a chance to confront him. Moseley, of course, was skeptical and thought that it could have been a pall bearer or gangster. But as Beckley pointed out, a funeral home was miles away and a gangster in that quite neighborhood was inconceivable. The picture Beckley took is the only one in existence of a man-in-black, if it is indeed a man-in-black. And he actually discusses this encounter in an episode of UFO Hunters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y29mF2aGQGI.

James Moseley's partner in crime Grey Barker

The Straith Letter

Beckley remembers James Moseley as being very skeptical of the infamous contactee George Adamski who claimed to have been in contact with Venusians…so he outted him in Saucer News. On a wildly mischievous day in 1957, he and his pal Grey Barker (with whom he was having a pretend feud in order to drive up viewership for their publications), decided to step it up a notch and forge a government letter from the Cultural Exchange Committee confirming Adamski’s experiences (which supposedly took him to planet Venus and back). They laughed as George Adamski touted this letter for years as confirmation that, indeed, he was telling the truth about his extraterrestrial experiences. Perhaps the lack of a date should have given the hoax away, but Professor Adamski didn’t notice it. When Grey Barker died in 1984, Moseley finally admitted that he concocted the hoax and lost a lot of readers because they were supporters of Adamski. This amusing letter can be found in the book.

Gossip Monger

Every good journalist is also a good gossip monger, and Antonio Huneeus remembers Moseley this way. Moseley used to frequent bars to collect UFO gossip which he included in his controversial and infamous newsletter, Saucer SmearsSaucer Smears, says Huneeus, was the only UFO publication that didn’t concentrate on UFO news. Instead, it concentrated on gossip about the personality of UFOlogists. Appearances in the publications weren’t “technically” scheduled and there was no cost to appear in it, but guests made “love offerings” anyway. According to Huneeus, he could gossip till the day he died-he enjoyed making fun of people.

Moseley poking fun of Phillip Klass's Explanations

The Voltaire of UFOlogy

It is well known throughout the UFO community that Moseley was a witty trouble maker who was skeptical and dismissive of contactees and their experiences. Because of this, Hunneus remembers that many people dismissed him as a skeptic, though he was equally as skeptical of debunkers. Moseley’s dismissive wit and biting sarcasm earned him the reputation of being the Voltaire of UFOlogy. Voltaire, the 18th century Philosopher who wrote Candid, used to mock the establishment and people of his time. His comments, unfortunately, got him thrown out of many countries.