Friday, May 25, 2018

UFOlogy 1974: The Flying Saucer Symposium in Tampa

With the success of PSI ’74, and the strong interest shown in the UFO programming, Lawrence Brill and PSI (Psychic, Spiritual and Intuition) Conferences decided to do it again, but as a three day "Flying Saucer Symposium." 

Bestselling author Erich von Daniken was booked as the headline speaker, and other guests included Ralph and Judy Blum, Herbert Schirmer, Robert Spencer Carr, and psychic healers and performers. Psychic Bernadene Villanueva, who had helped launch the earlier PSI ‘74 conference, did not attend, perhaps due to her engagement that weekend in Long Beach, CA, in “an amazing evening of demonstrations of prophecy and healing.”

A tongue-in-cheek editorial by Jim Fain, editor of the Dayton Daily News from Ohio was carried by many other US newspapers under various titles, including, “Flying Saucer Study For Psychics Parley.” This version is from The Palm Beach Post, Oct. 18, 1974.

The conference was heavily advertised in area newspapers, and in radio ad television interviews. 
The Tampa Tribune Oct. 17 1974
WPLA Advertisement:

Do You Believe in Flying Saucers?
U.F.O.’S - Ancient Astronauts ... & ESP will be the subject of discussion on WPLA’s public affairs program “Project 74” Wed 9:15 AM Oct. 23rd.

In a Florida interview promoting the conference, Robert Spencer Carr made a spectacular disclosure that was picked up and carried in the national news, and it will be discussed in a separate section.

Brill’s other guests were newsworthy, too, and during the promotional period for the conference, some of them appeared on national TV shows. The listing for Tuesday, October 29, 1974, the NBC Tomorrow Show, a talk show hosted by Tom Snyder:
1:00 TOMORROW - The subject is UFOs. Guests are Herb Schirmer, former police chief in Ashland, Nebr., who will discuss his trip aboard a UFO and Ralph Blum, UFO investigator. 

Flying Saucer Symposium

"Flying Saucer Symposium" was held Nov. 1, 2 and 3rd at the International Inn in Tampa, except for the Erich von Daniken lecture, which was held at Tampa University’s McKay Auditorium. Lectures were priced separately, usually four to five dollar each, but a 3-day ticket to the entire symposium was sold for $37.50.
The events drew about 400, 700, or 1000 attendees, according to various reports.

International Inn in Tampa

Friday Nov. 1

Ralph Blum, and his co-author Judy Blum of Beyond Earth
UFO “Rap Session, Private & Film Special: “In Search of Ancient Astronauts”
Ralph and Judy Blum served as moderators for the symposium, and opened it with a discussion of their work. The Blums became UFO believers while researching a project for NBC and produced a book that reflected the times, giving heavy coverage to the 1973 cases, the Pascagoula Abduction in particular, but also covering “ancient” UFO sightings up to airships, and modern cases, including that of Herb Schirmer, also a guest at the symposium. Interviewed afterwards for the Nov. 21, 1974 Tampa Bay Times, a reporter posed a non-question: 
“Parapsychology, acupuncture, psychic healing, you give indication in your book that they all have to do with UFOs.” 
Ralph Blum replied, “They do. A little 9-year-old kid came up to me the other day and said, ‘Hey man what if ESP is how the spaceship pilots talk.’ A nine-year-old. A generation born to the knowledge that man can leave the earth. Star Trek. 2001. All of it is there.” 

Saturday, Nov. 2

Dr. Robert S. Carr of NICAP
“Spectacular Uncovering Govt. Information”

Carr’s lecture will be examined at length in a more detailed piece, but his ultimate goal was to establish contact with aliens from UFOs, and he offered some advice:
“If you see the occupants collecting soil or vegetation, as they are prone to do, hold your hands up to show you were not armed. Advanced carefully, making friendly gestures with your arm extended and think friendly thoughts. Repeating, ‘I love you, I love you’ in your mind will help.” (Quoted in Tampa Bay Times, Nov. 20, 1974.)

Dr. J. H. Bruening of The University Of Mississippi 
“Moving Pictures of UFOs”
A newspaper summarized Bruening’s theory: “UFOs are paraphysical, ultraterrestrial; they exist in another dimension at a different frequency and are not limited by our time coordinates.” Bruening was aligned with the mystical concepts about UFOs promoted by Meade Layne’s Borderlands Science group, John Keel and Jacques Vallee. The films he showed were of the Adamski type, and one sounds like the Benedum airport” saucer film made and marketed by the legendary Gray Barker.
Dr. J. H. Bruening, professor of parapsychology at Ole Miss, screened three films of UFOs. Dancing in the air like falling leaves, the domed discs started and frisked over open fields and airport runways, captured on film by amateur photographers quite by chance.Beings from a parallel universe, or visitors from other planets channeled here through another dimension, are attempting to educate us by UFO displays, Bruening theorizes. “They come and go seemingly to and from nowhere, without regard for the loss of time and space,” he says. Dimensional warps, Bruening says, explain the sudden entrances and exits, paralleling UFO phenomenon – levitation, teleportation, telepathy – to similar effects seen in spiritual seances. (Quoted in Tampa Bay Times, Nov. 4, 1974.)
Herbert Schirmer & Ralph Blum
“Victim Tells Complete Story Never Told”
Ex-policeman Herb Schirmer gave a somewhat jumbled account of his UFO sighting from Ashland, Nebraska, on December 3, 1967, and the subsequent hypnotic regression that produced a story of extraterrestrial contact. Not really an abduction, Schirmer supposedly toured the flying saucer and had a chat with an alien about their plans for a gradual and friendly "invasion." Much of his talk focused on the aftermath of the incident, and his rejection by the local community.
The Schirmer lecture was recorded, and is hosted on Steven W. Kaeser’s site:

Erich von Daniken
“Author of Chariots of the Gods”
Erich von Daniken’s lecture drew the largest audience, but dealt with the most familiar material, the author merely repeating material from his bestselling books on the “Ancient Astronaut” theory.
“Seen through the eyes of a primitive intelligence, foreign cosmonauts would be perceived as mighty gods. All of the mythology says the gods will come back. It is better for man to be prepared for such a cultural shock.

Clearwater Sun, Nov. 4, 1974

Sunday Nov. 3

The final day’s lectures focused on psychic matters rather than the extraterrestrial.
A description from The Morning News (Wilmington, Delaware) Page October 31, 1974,
“Outer space is back in vogue” by Al Kramer:
The last day of the symposium switches from the mysteries of space to the spiritual on earth. On the bill are a faith healer, a woman who will explain that "the blind can see," an acupuncture demonstration "with real needles," and a lecture by a "superpsychic" on the practical uses of ESP. 
Rev. Leroy E. Zemke, pastor of Temple of the Living God of St. Petersburg
Spiritual/Psychic Healing: “How and Whys of Healing” 

Evelyn Monahan author of “Put Your Psychic Powers to Work”
“The Blind Can See” 

Dr. E. Stanton Maxey (Stuart FL) “Acupuncture Demonstration with Needles, Also Health Foods."
Maxey was the author of the article, "A Surgeon's Observation on Psychic Surgery" in which he discusses his encounters with several psychic surgeons of the Philippines.

Dr. David Hoy (aka Dr. Faust)
“‘Super Psychic’ Practical Uses of ESP”
"Known from coast-to-coast for his radio and TV telephone psychic readings..."

Lawrence Brill admitted the last day's events were a mistake. "I underestimated the draw of UFOs. I should have scheduled more on UFOs."

Lectures and Merchandise

The Tampa Tribune, Nov. 3, 1974.
The speakers were the star attraction, but there was also merchandise. After his lecture, Robert Carr got in a plug for it when he was asked where flying saucers came from. “I have asked three astronomers and four astro-physicists the same question. This is the consensus...and it is also the consensus in the excellent selection of books out in the lobby....that the UFOs come from outside our solar system.”

There was far more than just books on sale, psychic readings, acupuncture demonstrations, UFO detectors… Rik Cosmic's electric mushrooms…

The Morning News (Wilmington, Delaware) Page October 31, 1974 had Lawrence Brill reflect on what was to come in, “Outer space is back in vogue” by Al Kramer:
Brill is already looking forward to future ventures in the realm of the unknown. He's thinking about a follow-up symposium in Atlanta and has scheduled a "conference" aboard a cruise ship in February. "It will be for about 200 people who can get together and . . . er . . . you know, talk about things they have in common, UFOs, the psychic and astrology.”
The last known event hosted by PSI conferences was:
Astrology & ESP Classes Starting Nov. 12, 13 , 14 Day and Evening Sessions...
“Develop your Awareness”

Sadly, Lawrence Brill died the next year. His vision of a series of multi-disciplinary paranormal symposiums was not realized.

Racine Journal Times, Dec 22 1975

Lawrence Brill was a bit ahead of his time, but others would see that his dream of a conference on UFOs, psychic and paranormal topics aboard a cruise ship was brought to life.

PSI’s 1974 Predictions of UFO Disclosure

An interesting bit of trivia: A least five of the prominent guests from the two PSI Conferences shows predicted some kind of UFO revelation or disclosure in the near future.

Jeane Dixon predicted that UFOs would soon be in contact with the Earth. In 1976 she tried again saying, “I know that these aliens, who are really just better developed humans from a planet on the opposite side of the sun, will begin transmitting their secrets to us no later than August 1977.” (OMNI magazine, Nov. 1978)

Bernadene Villanueva, who helped put the psychic in PSI, predicted in the fall of 1974, "Within the next 18 months we will see absolute, conclusive proof of UFO's." (National Enquirer, Nov. 5, 1974," as quoted in The UFO Verdict,  by Robert Sheaffer, 1981.)

Charles Hickson, of Pascagoula Abduction fame: “I think before the year is out, that our government is going to - particularly our Air Force - is going to come out to the American people and tell them that these things do exist." (WWDC radio program, “UFOs: Fact or Fiction?” on Nov. 14, 1974.) 

Ralph Blum, author of  Beyond Earth: Man’s Contact with UFOs, said, “I believe the government already knows that UFOs are piloted by aliens from another star system… Perhaps within the year… The government is ready to tell what it knows.” (Grit News Section August 11, 1974)

 Robert Spencer Carr, speaking at a PSI press conference in Oct. 1974:
“Five weeks ago, I heard from the highest authority in Washington that before Christmas the whole UFO cover-up will be ended. There will be a public admission that UFOs have been real, and that for the past 25 years, the Air Force have known they were piloted by human-like beings.” (The Tampa Tribune, Oct. 16, 1974)

Of all the Flying Saucer Symposium speakers, it was Robert Carr that made the biggest news and overshadowed the entire conference. While few know his name today, Carr’s story rocked the world - and changed the course of history. UFO history, at least.

In our next chapter, we examine Robert Spencer Carr and his shocking claim of the saucer and alien bodies inside Hangar 18.
The Tampa Tribune, Oct. 16, 1974

For more original newspaper clippings and larger versions of the ones above, see our
News article page on the Tampa Flying Saucer Symposium.


  1. I will be interested to see the full article on the Carr Speech, I wonder if there is any connection to Michael Crichton's "The Andromeda Strain", as I have heard that there is a definite link between that book (and the later film.) and the Dulce Base stories that emerged in the late 1970s.

    It's also interesting to look at all the failed 'disclosure' predictions down the years. I think Martin Kottmeyer has compiled a pretty complete listing up to the early 2000s, but I've no idea where it can be found.

  2. The article covering Carr's lecture is up now, and includes a link to a partial recording of it. I've heard about connections between "The Andromeda Strain" and Dulce - and Area 51 lore, but I haven't found a link with it to Hangar 18.

    Regarding the failed predictions:
    Still Waiting: A List of Predictions from the "UFO Culture" by Martin S. Kottmeyer


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