Thursday, July 15, 2021

Claude Degler, One of The Ufologists That Time Forgot

A short article on one the brief career of one of the earliest and most obscure flying saucer authors.

Claude Williamson Degler of Newcastle, Indiana, was a legendary figure in early science fiction fandom. He was known not only for his zealotry in promoting the idea that SF fans represented an evolutionary bound forward, but also for his unprecedented ability to make an unwanted guest of himself at the homes of fans across the nation. Due to his extreme beliefs, Degler became an outcast in science fiction circles in the mid-1940s. Shunned in part because he had delivered a message from extraterrestrials in 1941. 

The only known photo of Degler scanned from Harry Warner's All Our Yesterdays.

From the The Canadian Fancyclopedia:
"Late in the 1941 Denver World (Science Fiction) Convention Western Union delivered a telegram... but the infamous Claude Degler got a hold of it and insisted on reading it aloud to the congoers, arguing that it was most likely not a hoax. The telegram claimed to be from Martians dwelling secretly among us Earthlings, the vanguard of a vast migration... Martians were fond of Science Fiction fans because "fans are evolved centuries beyond their times..." 

What makes Claude Degler a Ufologist that Time Forgot is the fact that he's responsible for the first publication devoted to flying saucers, Weird Unsolved Mysteries in the fall of 1947. It was published by Degler using the pseudonym John Chrisman. Weird Unsolved Mysteries was a 16-page mimeographed fan magazine. It's very rare, but the bulk of it was reprinted by Loren Gross in The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse UFOs: A History 1947, August 1st - December 31st Supplemental Notes, 2001, starting on page 57.

It provides an excellent snapshot of the first few months of the flying saucer mystery. Writing as Chrisman, he presented reports on UFOs from various sources, from Kenneth Arnold and Roswell, to some of the early hoaxes, and discussions from prominent figures speculating on saucer's origins. In his his policy statement Degler said:
"A very long time before the erstwhile 'Flying Saucers' made their flashing debut above the peaceful Cascade countryside of Washington and eventually on the front pages of the nation's newspapers... we had thought about issuing such a magazine as this, but not necessarily about 'flying discs or saucers.' Because we had not yet ever heard of them, save in the collected clippings of Charles Fort... It took us ultramoderns in this age of cynicism, the year 1947 A.D., to tack that descriptive appellation on what has quite evidently been a phenomenon of quite long standing."
This was apparently Degler's sole publishing foray into the world of UFOs. Degler had made a huge impact on the early science fiction fan club scene, but virtually vanished after a few years.

According to, Degler dropped out of fandom but, "In (Sept.) 1950... Degler showed up at the Norwescon in Portland and presented a motion to the convention that it should officially denounce communism." Later that year, there was serious trouble back home, Degler's brother murdered their mother and subsequently committed suicide. Claude was questioned, but had been in another city at the time. See, "Worker Ends Own Life, Bares Mother's Killing,"  The Indianapolis Star Indianapolis, IN, Nov 1, 1950.

Claude Degler did not surface again until he was seen at a Oklahoma science fiction convention in 1957. He surfaced for the last time decades later at a convention in Indiana in 1981, and said he was living in an Indianapolis suburb. 

For more on the saga of Claude Degler and his cosmic Circle, see: 

and the entry at

1 comment:

  1. This is why I hate fandom, you look at the contents of Weird Unsolved Mysteries and consider what an accomplishment it represents in the time frame it was produced and you want Claude Degler to be an undiscovered prophet like Fred Hehr not some autistic, batshit looney tune..


Frank Edwards: Making UFOs Newsworthy

Dr. J. Allen Hynek on UFO literature (in  The Edge of Reality , 1975): “If I were to recommend anything in the popular category, I would cho...