So, in my previous rambling blog entry I discussed numbers 1 to 4 in my top 20 most read authors. Today, I am going to discuss the author at number 20, Jacques Vallee — a name that will mean little outside of the rarefied world of ufology and forteana.
Vallee was a writer and researcher with an interest in UFOs. His background was science: he was a computer scientist and astronomer, and the techniques of these disciplines informed his first books, Challenge to Science – The UFO Enigma and UFOs in Space – Anatomy of a Phenomenon. That the books were “scientific” and the author a “scientist” was one of the reasons I first read Vallee; they gave the slightly wacky subject I was interested in a legitimacy not conveyed by The Warminster Mystery or Flying Saucers are Hostile.
Warminster, the town in which I grew up, had been a UFO hot-spot during the 1960s and 1970s. As burgeoning hippie intellectuals, UFO phenomena interested me and my friends. We soon began to visit the hills around the town, particularly Cradle Hill, in our quest to discover the reality of flying saucers and their alien occupants. By the age of 16, we were regular visitors to the hill, and by the glorious summer of 1976, at the ages of 17-19, we were veterans, full of esoteric knowledge and crackpot theories.
By 1976, however — atop hills heavy with heat and lingering sunsets and misty lemon sunrises — we were already becoming sceptical. We had seen too many of our fellow skywatchers become overexcited by the mundane and trivial. Our ideas about UFOs were moving towards the notions explored in Vallee’s Passport to Magonia; a book that had shifted the landscape of ufological research, certainly in Europe, after its publication in 1969.
Our skepticism eventually led to me and my friend John writing In Alien Heat – The Warminster Mystery Revisited. For some time, early drafts of this book were available for reading at my web site. Through this, I was contacted by Kevin Goodman. Kevin had also been visiting Warminster in the 1970s, and he and his friends, unlike me and my friends, had experienced weird things — a form of contact with aliens.
Kevin was also writing a book about his experiences at Warminster; I agreed to help him with this book, which eventually became UFO Warminster – Cradle of Contact. Although I am sceptical about what had over the years become known as the Warminster mystery, nonetheless, what Kevin and his friends experienced was interesting — odd and mysterious — a teenage rite of passage from one world to the next.*
Vallee continued to write books, and I read at least six of them. However, the thing that had first intrigued me about Vallee — the orthodox scientist as ufologist — was first subsumed by folkloric explanations of the UFO phenomenon, and then by a form of explanation in which manifestations of UFO phenomena simply replaced phenomena associated with religion, which Vallee leavened with some mild paranoia and conspiratorial thinking. Vallee was no longer my cup of tea…
* While editing Kevin’s book, I came across a description of a walk Kevin and his friends had made to Cradle Hill in the company of a local lad. I remembered then that the local lad had been me, and I had actually already met Kevin 30-odd years ago…
You can find out more about the Warminster mystery at the UFO Warminster Web site.