Thursday, April 1, 2021

Space: 1947, Atomic Spaceships

 

Before flying saucers, space ships were made famous in science fiction books, magazines, comics, and movies. Toys based on space adventures were popular as a result. Sometimes spaceships were used to sell breakfast cereal.

The website for Kix states, “Since we made our first batch of crispy corn puffs in 1937, KIX® has been dedicated to helping kids get a bright start to their day.” Like a lot of products marketed to kids, they often used advertising gimmicks, in this case, toy spaceships.

 

Advertisements for the Kix Jet Atomic model Space Ships appeared in the Sunday color alongside famous newspaper comics, “Jet Atomic model Space Ships.”

 

There were eight models: Astral Ace, Cosmic Cruiser, Interplanetary Interceptor, Jeto Jeep, Lunar Schooner, Phantom Planeteer, Radar Raycraft, and Solar Streak.


 

The toy spaceships were printed on the back of Kix cereal boxes, which required they be cut out and assembled. 


They were intended to resemble the spaceships from Buck Rogers, but the execution was hampered by the limitations of the cardboard medium, so what we got was colorful paper airplanes. The boxes also had ideas for games, and some educational content about atomic power, spacecraft, and technology.



 

The first version of the ad ran in May. "Flash Gordon" comic strip by Mac Raboy, dated May 25, 1947, had the Kix cereal ad placed below it.


 

The next month, an even more exciting version of the ad appeared on Sunday, June 22, 1947. 



While there was no mention of Martians or other aliens, it talked about Air Pirates, landing on the moon, and Space Rays, with “Fantastic facts for future pilots inside every box.”  “Gripping stuff about future planes changing shape after taking off… how jet planes fly… how radar sees the unseen! Man, it’s dynamite!”


 

The Coming of the Saucers 


Two days after the Kix "Strato Pilot" ad, Kenneth Arnold had his famous sighting that launched the flying saucer craze. He spotted nine unidentified objects he estimated were travelling at 1200 miles per hour, but initially he was reluctant to speculate on their origin and make up. The next month in Pendleton, Oregon, the UFO pioneer lectured on his experience and the newspaper headline for the story was, “Kenneth Arnold Suggests ‘Flying Discs’ May Make Use Of Atomic Power.” The East Oregonian, July 17, 1947 reported he said,

 “Any object traveling at that speed (1382.40 mph) would run into wall of air molecules which would make flight impossible. That wall of atmosphere would have to be destroyed to clear path for the plane.”

The Oregonian reported, “A cyclotronic device mounted in the nose of disc could destroy the atoms in its path and perhaps use their energy as fuel, [Arnold] theorized.”


 

We just have to wonder. On that fateful day in June 1947, what did Kenneth Arnold have for breakfast? 


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Edna Spencer: The Flying Saucer Apostle of Detroit

Edna Sophia Spencer (June 5, 1915 - February 18, 2005) was a UFO activist, organizer, and lecturer  active in Detroit, Michigan, but also reached a national audience.  It was 1959 when Edna's flying saucer interest became more focused in 1959 when she encountered the Aetherius Society. From Mysteries of the Unknown: The UFO Phenomenon, Time-Life Books, 1985:

“[The Aetherius Society was] founded in 1956 by George King, a former taxi driver, in London. King, who had an interest in Eastern mysticism… sitting in a trancelike state one day when he allegedly received messages from extraterrestrial beings. Through them he learned, he said, that Jesus and several saints were alive and living on Venus. …the members of his society believe in ‘thought power’ and ‘prayer power.’”

George King’s message was derived from Theosophy and the Contactee belief system, and he taught that flying saucers were the vessels of peaceful spiritually advanced Cosmic Masters who could save us from destroying ourselves. King was the vessel for their message, and on May 21, 1959, King demonstrated contact by channeling an extraterrestrial voice on the BBC TV program Lifeline.

Lifeline: "Mars and Venus Speak to Earth"

Enter Edna Spencer

Shortly thereafter, King sailed to the USA to spread the word, lecturing across the country on his way to a flying saucer conference. In June, King lectured in Detroit, Michigan, where he caught the attention of Edna Spencer, 44, who was employed as an executive secretary. She’d left the Episcopal church several years earlier after developing an interest in psychics and spiritualism, and had “dabbled for some time in metaphysics and flying saucer groups.”

Afterwards, Edna ordered King’s booklet, The Twelve Blessings, and studied King’s teachings. “I had already satisfied myself that flying saucers were real, and that they were trying to be of help to Mankind – but I never realized that they were tied to the Master [Jesus]. I was just astounded.” Edna was persuaded to join the cause, and in February 1960 organized the Aetherius Society branch in Detroit. Initially, the group met at the YWCA, led by Edna, who was aided by her sister, Mrs. Vivian Ramesbottom. Together they built up a small core group, and with visitors, there were usually about forty people attending meetings.

After King’s stop in Detroit in 1959, he continued west across the US, and spoke in July at Los Angeles, California. The event was organized by Gabriel Green, the first Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America Convention in July, where King lectured alongside most of the major Contactee figures. King set up house there, and by the next year, he was able to incorporate the Aetherius Society as a non-profit spiritual organization, which helped establish credibility for him and the enterprise.


Operation Starlight

In her day job, Edna Spencer was seldom in the spotlight, but as the leader of the Detroit branch of TAS, she was a local celebrity and even was featured in nationally syndicated newspaper stories. She said, “I wouldn't have believed 10 years ago that I’d be on radio and TV or making lectures.” 


While not previously a climber, in 1960, she was among a select group of believers making annual pilgrimages to “holy mountains” charged with spiritual energy by the cosmic masters from space. King called the venture, “Operation Starlight.” 

Operation Starlight on Castle Peak, May 2, 1960

Edna organized events and press coverage for King’s appearances in Detroit, and she played a big role in the publicity the Aetherius Society received in the USA and Canada. The photo below is from King’s appearance on a Detroit radio show during the promotion of You Are Responsible!, his book published in late 1961. 


As King’s fame grew, so did his status and titles. By 1962 King was being described as “reverend,” and shortly afterwards he began billing himself as “Dr. George King.”

A sampling of Edna's 1962 media appearances.

Edna regularly traveled to participate in King’s special events and she also spent her Christmas vacations every year at the Los Angeles headquarters of the Aetherius Society. During some of her trips, she also spoke to the press about the organization and its work.


Fish Invaders and the Moon Landing

In 1964 Edna travelled to lecture in Pennsylvania, sharing the word of TAS via tapes of Dr. King channeling messages from Venus. She explained how our planetary brothers provided protection for our planet. “Earth was saved from destruction March 5, 1962, when friendly forces from Mars and Venus staved off an attack by fishlike creatures from another galaxy which coveted our vast water supplies.” 

Edna’s incredible story came from a reputable source, chapter 5 of King’s book, You Are Responsible!, where he described water-dwellers from planet “Garouche” and their sinister plan saying, "The idea of these monsters was to kill all humanoid life on Earth and then inhabit the seas which cover a greater part of the surface." How King was able to write about the events before they happened is a mystery, but then he had sources in high places.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 3, 1964

Edna was spreading the message across the USA, but Not everyone appreciated the effort. The National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) was down on Contactees, seeing them as crackpots harmful to the credibility of the UFO topic. NICAP's Affiliate / Subcommittee Newsletter, May 28, 1965 featured Richard Hall’s top “Five Most Wanted List” of people to watch out for. 

Hall later cautioned that out of libel concerns, the list was “…intended to be private background information… not to be quoted verbatim.”  The NICAP article stated that George King was a probable psychotic and that the Detroit TAS chapter was headed by Mrs. Edna Spencer. Hall was mistaken; Edna was unmarried.

For Edna’s lecture for high school students in Belle River, Ontario, Canada, she apparently toned down the religious aspects, instead focusing on the message that flying saucers are real, they appear worldwide, and they are harbingers of peace. 


Edna’s TAS branch was frequently featured in the Detroit Free Press, and their Sunday Detroit magazine, April 2, 1967, carried the 3-page article on them from Booby Mather, “How to Keep an Earthly Eye Cocked on the Cosmic Masters.” The author’s take was that Edna was interested in forming a tight unit of Aetherians and explaining their mission to the public, not in campaigning for new members.

Link to PDF of the full Detroit magazine article.

Later the same year, Edna was interviewed for another Detroit publication, Fifth Estate # 39, magazine, Oct. 1-15, 1967, “‘Master Jesus on Venus’ Claims Detroit Group.”  She told them that the Cosmic Masters in flying saucers “are not allowed to interfere with our free will in anyway nor force anything upon us which is one of the reasons why they cannot land openly until our governments or the majority of people have invited them or, at least, we have become aware of these things.”

NASA’s manned landing on the moon prompted reporters to ask Edna about her thoughts on the events, and stories were carried nationwide by the New York Times News Service and the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA). Edna explained that insisted that primitive man was not allowed to go beyond the earth, but our small steps toward enlightenment had earned us permission to go to the moon. However, we’d be allowed to go no further until mankind ended war, materialism, and accepted the Master of Aetherius.

The Detroit Free Press, July 21, 1969 (Excerpt)



  

Operation Prayer Power

George King created a "Spiritual Energy Battery" that contained ground crystal that he said would allow the power of prayer to be stored until needed to deal with times of crisis in the world. In 1973 King launched “Operation Prayer Power,” where he led pilgrims in chanting the holy mantra, “Om mani padme hum,” while a team leader redirected their collective energy of love into the battery.

Edna and her group joined King at a meeting in Utah to add their prayer power to charge his battery.

Story of a Battery collection, and of the claim of a successful discharge.

In 1974 Edna Spencer delivered a lecture that would inspire the future leader of the branch. Gary Blaze wrote at the Facebook page of The Aetherius Society - Royal Oak (Michigan), saying, 

“My first TAS activity was in 1974, Edna giving a lecture about the Holy Mountains of the World..... her absolute [certainty], conviction, sincerity, and joy in her Work was enough for me to stay and find out more.”

Gary Blaze joined the group and was also featured in the article, “Detroit’s Aetherians: Waiting for wisdom from the Cosmic Masters” in the Detroit Free Press, Sunday magazine on July 25, 1976. Alan Mass’s article profiled the organization and featured biographical details on Edna, and it documents that at that time, the Michigan branch did not have their own prayer battery. They just had a mock-up to practice on. Without King’s crystals, it was just a box on a tripod.

Link to PDF of the full Detroit magazine article.

The Contact We Crave

What drew Edna Spencer and others to George King’s religion? Almost anyone who spends much time looking at the sky will see a distant UFO, but only a relatively few people experience closer encounters. King allowed a closer connection. He presented himself as a person who had traveled beyond our planet and a vessel for the higher beings in the universe; their voice on Earth to teach a message of peace and love. But it was more than that. Most religions involve some sort of audience participation through prayers, song, or rituals. King took that further, incorporating technology like the prayer battery, allowing followers to take an active part by contributing their energies for the sake of the world. Edna was dedicated, proud to serve the cause, and proud of the devout members of her branch, saying, “We have no deadwood.”

Edna’s Detroit branch’s faith was rewarded when they finally received their own prayer battery. On the Facebook page of The Aetherius Society - Royal Oak (Michigan), March 6, 2010, Gary Blaze posted a photo of George King “Presenting a spiritual power battery to the Detroit Branch Organizer, Edna Spencer.”


Around this time, King was expanding the franchise, introducing new operations, concepts and products, such as King’s book, You Too Can Heal, 1976. 

Throughout the rest of the 70s, Edna continued her work in representing the Aetherius Society, lecturing in the area and appearing on television to spread the word.

Clippings from the Detroit Free Press and the Windsor Star, 1977 – 1979.

In 1980, Edna Spencer turned 65, and after retirement, she permanently moved to California to join worship at their Los Angeles headquarters. While she remained active in TAS, her role in Los Angeles was far quieter than her days in Detroit as the public face of the organization.

George King died on July 12, 1997. Edna S. Spencer died in Franklin, California, on February 18, 2005 at the age of 89. Her sister Vivian Jean Ramesbottom died on March 27, 2009, and her memorial service was held at the Aetherius Church in Royal Oak, Michigan. 

The last mention we found of Edna Spencer in UFO literature was in Douglas Curran’s 1985 book, In Advance of the Landing, where he spoke to her in California at the US headquarters of TAS. She reflected on meeting George King in 1959: 

“It was amazing, it was like a fever! ... back at that time flying saucers were brand new and there weren't all these movies on flying saucers around. It amazes me to realize that there's a generation who grew up with that — they don't know anything different.”

From Douglas Curran’s 1985 book, In Advance of the Landing.
“Members of the Aetherius Society charge a Spiritual Battery. Hollywood, California."

 . . .

For more information on the story of George King and the Aetherius Society, see the article at the World Religions and Spirituality Project site, and Farewell Good Brothers, the 1992 documentary on Contactees directed by Robert Stone.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Lost UFO Book of Otto Binder

Inour previous article on  Our Space Age by Otto Binder, we covered the basic history of the 1960s flying saucer newspaper series. Thanks to Louis Taylor, we now have more episodes from the feature, and insight to Binder's plan for a UFO book based on the series. 

On June 29, 1966, Otto O. Binder wrote a proposal to publisher Joe Simon about a non-fiction book on UFOs. Binder was a science fiction writer who also had a distinguished career in comic books scripting the Captain Marvel characters. Joe Simon, along with Jack Kirby created Captain America and characters in the 1940s, but in 1966 was editing a line of comics for Harvey, a group of adventure and super hero comics branded as “Harvey Thriller.”

Louis Taylor, host of Information Dispersal, recently obtained a rare item, Binder’s proposal for the UFO book, along with photostats of the pages that were intended to make up its content. Binder’s plan was for a 64-page collection reprinting the UFO episodes of his syndicated comic strip feature illustrated by Carl Pfeufer, Our Space Age. Binder had over 200 panels of UFO illustrations with more in production. He planned to supplement the 43 pages of UFO reprints with new material, an essay on UFO history, a science fiction short story, a directory of saucer books and magazines, a list of “personalities,” and a page on the very latest UFO sightings and news.



Binder’s plan was for Simon to print it as a black and white comic book, but he hoped that it could be displayed with magazines and seen by adults, not racked next to Batman, Archie and Richie Rich.    

His letter enclosed the below note with a sample of the strips, with hos suggestions about how they could be grouped into themed chapters:

Contactees, History of UFOs, All About UFOs, Theories About UFOs, one on Sightings, and a chapter on witness reports sent in by readers.

Here’s a sampling chosen by Louis Taylor of some of the more interesting of Binder’s submissions from Our Space Age.


These pages appear to be copies of what was sent out by the Bell-McClure Syndicate to newspapers that subscribed to their service. The panels would bet cut and printed Monday - Saturday.
 













The book was never published. Our Space Age continued producing UFO episodes into 1969, so there was an additional three years of material beyond what Otto Binder was proposing to collect in 1966. Luckily for us, we have archivists like Louis Taylor striving to rescue and share lost UFO history.


Friday, February 19, 2021

George W. Earley on the Rational Study of UFOs

 

George W. Earley was an aircraft engineer, a writer, a lecturer, a Fortean, and a strong advocate for the scientific study of UFOs. Since 1940, Earley was an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and active in its fandom, with many of his letters appearing in club newsletters and national magazines.

Startling Stories, Sept. 1949

Earley’s obituary goes into further detail on his otherworldly pursuits:

“For 50 years, George was a prolific freelance writer, exploring a wide range of interests: science fiction, space exploration, photography, Dixieland jazz, conservation, and what he termed ‘unexplained phenomena’… In 1968 he published an anthology of science fiction titled Encounters with Aliens. He wrote letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, and other articles for newspapers on both coasts. He formed a Connecticut chapter of the National Investigation Committee on Aerial Phenomena…”

In 1961, Earley was appointed a national adviser for NICAP’s Panel of Special Advisers and was one of its most an influential members.

On May 15-18, 1967, Earley gave an outstanding lecture on the UFO topic for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Conference at the Americana Hotel in New York City. It was a realistic overview of the first 20 years of the phenomena for the general public, and concluded by insisting that it was worthy of "a more extensive investigation." The NICAP site hosts the entire lecture, Unidentified Flying Objects: An Historical Perspective.

Earley attended a less serious gathering in the same city later the next month. It was Jim Moseley’s New York UFO Convention, but he found it far too full of entertainment and Contactees for a “Congress of Scientific Ufologists.” Earley’s unfavorable review was published in the Hartford Courant, July 9, 1967, called "Hippies, Old Ladies, Over 30 Types Orbit in Flying Saucer Circles." See: The UFO Anniversary and the Giant New York Convention of 1967

Earley’s 1968 book combined two of his greatest interests science fiction and UFOs. Ivan Sanderson wrote the introduction to this collection of stories examining the possibility that UFOs are manned by intelligent beings from outer space, and it was titled, Encounters with Aliens: UFO's and Alien Beings in Science Fiction. The anthology featured works by Theodore Sturgeon, Mack Reynolds, Robert F. Young, Avram Davidson, Richard Wilson, and other authors.

 
Advertisement for the Science Fiction Book Club

Over the years, Earley contributed articles to many UFO and science fiction magazines, Fate magazine, Pursuit, Saucer News, Official UFO, Amra, Beyond Reality, and letters of comment to many, many more. 
Beyond Reality no. 9, May/June 1974, page 39

Beyond Reality no. 31, April 1978, Review of the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

In his UFO writing, Earley interviewed figures from across the belief spectrum, such as skeptic Philip Klass, alien abduction researcher Budd Hopkins, and paranormal researcher Dr. Jacques Vallee. Earley encouraged the exploration of the unknown, but stressed the need for rational evaluation of the data his 1983 letter to the APRO Bulletin:

“There is, it seems to me, a disquieting tendency in some ufological circles these days not only towards uncritical acceptance of many claims/reports, but of accusing those who would question such claims of being [debunkers] or dupes of the CIA.” 


Earley in the the 21st Century

In later years, Earley was a columnist and contributing editor for Bill and Nancy Birnes’ UFO Magazine, and wrote the column, “The Opinionated Oregonian”

UFO Magazine, Oct. 2010 (PDF)

George Earley's connection to the Birnes resulted in him being featured in the first episode of UFO Hunters, “The UFO Before Roswell” about the story of the alleged saucer debris recovered at Maury Island. Later, he was a guest on the Birnes' radio show, Future Theater, July 2011 , where he discussed the history of the Horten wing and addressed Annie Jacobsen’s claims that a was behind the Roswell incident. He also spoke about his research on the Maury Island hoax.

UFO Hunters, “The UFO Before Roswell”

In 2014, Earley wrote  to Loren Coleman, giving an update on his retirement. 

"Be advised this 'dinosaur' of ufology is still alive and reasonably well. At 87, I may be one of the few left who read the original news story on the Arnold sighting..."

Coleman printed the letter as “Old Ufologist Replies To Young Ufologists.” It seems to have been Earley's final published thoughts on the UFO topic.


A Look Back at How it All Began


Finally, we’d like to remember George W. Earley by presenting a collection of his writings from the beginning of his UFO days up until the time he formed a Connecticut chapter of NICAP. 

The first UFO letter we located was from 1955, Earley would have been 28 years old at the time. It was a book review of George Adamski’s Inside the Space Ships.

Hartford Courant, Aug. 7, 1955.

Spaceman: Bookshelf, reviews of Harold T. Wilkins’ Flying Saucers on the Attack, Donald Keyhoe’s The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, and Edward Ruppelt’s The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects.

Hartford Courant, June 3, 1956

Spaceman: Bookshelf, reviews including: Aime Michel’s The Truth about Flying Saucers, Gray Barker’s They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, and Truman Betherum’s Aboard a Flying Saucer.

Hartford Courant, Sept. 23, 1956

Review of Arthur Constance’s promotion of “Saucerian Doctrine” in The Inexplicable Sky.

Hartford Courant, Oct. 27, 1957

Letter to the Editor on UFO sightings and NICAP.

Hartford Courant, Dec. 28, 1958

Saucers Analyzed, reviews of Dr. Carl Jung’s Flying Saucers, and Aime Michel’s Flying Saucers and the Straight Line Mystery.

Hartford Courant, May 29, 1960

Letter to the Editor on the diversity of UFO shapes.

Hartford Courant, Oct. 3, 1961

Letter to the Editor on John Glenn’s “space fireflies.”

Hartford Courant, May 5, 1962

Letter to the Editor on the formation of NICAP-CONN.

Hartford Courant, Dec. 17, 1962

That’s how he got his start, and from there Earley was an important voice for NICAP and a rational advocate in the support of research into unidentified aerial phenomena.

The Bridgeport Post,  May 14,1967

George W. Earley, was born February 15, 1927 and died on October 28, 2020. Below is a link to his full obituary:



 


Space: 1947, Atomic Spaceships

  Before flying saucers, space ships were made famous in science fiction books, magazines, comics, and movies. Toys based on space adventure...