Thursday, December 16, 2021

A 1947 Pioneer of the UFO Extraterrestrial Hypothesis

 

Long before flying saucers, science fiction editor Ray Palmer had primed the pump for otherworldly spaceships in Amazing Stories by citing Charles Fort’s speculations about extraterrestrial visitors, printing sighting reports, and by presenting the Shaver Mystery as nonfiction. Fortean author John Keel was a reader of Palmer’s magazine and had observed the birth of the UFO era. Keel wrote that when the flying saucers of 1947 arrived: 

“Aside from Palmer's readers, two other groups were ready to serve as cadre for the believers. About 1,500 members of Tiffany Thayer's Fortean Society knew that weird aerial objects had been sighted throughout history and some of them were convinced that this planet was under surveillance by beings from another world ... The second group were spiritualists and students of the occult, headed by Dr. Meade Layne, who had been chatting with the space people at seances through trance mediums and Ouija boards. They knew the space ships were coming and hardly surprised when ‘ghost rockets’ were reported over Europe in 1946. Combined, these three groups represented a formidable segment of the population.”

John Keel, “The Man Who Invented Flying Saucers.” Fortean Times, Winter 1983: 52-57. 

We’ve previously written about The UFO Prophecy of Frederick G. Hehr, an occultist who since the 1920s had been writing about spaceships from other worlds coming to guide humanity. He was not alone. 

Ole J. Sneide

Ole Johannes Sneide (1886 - 1947) was born in Norway, and immigrated to the US in 1898. He was an accountant, and on his retirement, devoted his energies to the study of the occult. When flying saucers made headlines in 1947, Sneide was the first person featured in the newspapers to seriously state that the UFOs were actually extraterrestrial spaceships. 

Portrait of the occultist as a young man.

On July 3, 1947, a letter about flying discs by Sneide appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, which was subsequently reprinted by United Press for national distribution across the United States. The version below is from The Ford Islander (a Navy newspaper, Pearl Harbor, HI), July 21, 1947, and has paragraph breaks added for readability. 

Editor – Anent the speedy disk objects so many observers have seen crossing the sky off and on during the last 40 years, the latest being nine flying saucers reported by Kenneth Arnold, Pendleton, Ore., and a lone disk reported by Frank M. King and companions, San Leonardo. The first of these things, I recall were three similar objects seen at night out of Ely, Minnesota, over 30 years ago, crossing the entire sky from horizon to horizon in a matter of less than a minute. They were brilliantly lighted, but could not have been meteors, as the three traveled parallel to each other all the way, did not deviate from the path or burst up as meteors will do when they strike the atmosphere. Here is the romance of it: the flying disks are oblate spheroid space ships from the older planets and other solar systems.

Usually they travel in outer space with speeds approximating that of light by use of anti-gravity devices and hyperspace. In our space they travel much slower and, of course, become visible either by intent or by accident, for in their travels they use the invisibility screen. The space navigation has really been going on for millions of millions of years, these “Navo” having come into our galaxy originally from the Greater Magellanic Cloud via the Lesser Magellanic Cloud, 47 Tucanae, Omega and Alpha Centauri Clusters. Came to our solar system from the last-named place before our planet Earth was born. They have made a great many visits to our planet, mostly in hyperspace and so invisible to humans.

Their masters planted the original humanities here and which did not develop sui-generis. They made the cosmic astronomy of the painted and sculptured Symbol Rocks of the Castle Crags Monument, Dunsmuir, and to which I have the key. They have been absent from our planet since before the fall of the Roman Empire, when the Great Master left Earth for the outer galaxy by fohatic teleportation. He is now back, and what is going to be done depends upon mankind, but my advice is that physical man set up no belligerence, for a small concentration of these disks just beyond the range of our atmosphere could clean the surface of our planet completely in a matter of less than 24 hours.

Their present local headquarters is on the unseen side of the moon. I discovered this by teleportation visits hither and yon in and beyond our galaxy, where one travels in minutae with speeds far beyond that of light. Royce Brier et al. would not believe this, but mankind will just have to learn their physics all over again, someday, if they live. Ha! If they live!

San Francisco, Ole J. Sneide

The Cincinnati Enquirer, July 4, 1947

Sneide’s letter was widely quoted in newspapers, most frequently in stories featuring a wide range of saucer origin speculation. The Associated Press version of the Sneide story assumed he was writing “tongue-in-cheek,” but they were badly mistaken. See clipping below.  

The Paris News, (Texas) July 3, 1947. 

At least two national magazines noted Sneide’s pronouncement about the origin of flying saucers, Newsweek and Life.

Newsweek July 14, 1947

Spots Before Their Eyes

Perhaps the flying saucers were interplanetary space ships manned by two-headed Martians with radio antennas growing out of their head.  Perhaps they were the new secret weapon of an unnamed foreign power.  Maybe they were just the reflections of sunlight glancing off faraway planes, or a new American jet ship, or an advertising stunt ...  In the absence of evidence, those who believed the saucers were visitors from another planet felt reassured.  Ole J. Sneide of San Francisco announced the disks were "oblate spheroid space ships from the older planets." In San Diego, Mead Layne, publisher of an occult magazine, announced that he had received a message, through a medium, from one of the saucers. The people aboard it, he said, wanted to live in the United States for a while.  "They come with good intent," said Layne.

Life July 21, 1947 

A San Franciscan, Ole J. Sneide, explained that the saucers were space ships sent out by "The Great Master," who left the earth in disgust after the fall of the Roman Empire and now resides on the dark side of the moon. 

What the national news coverage missed was the illuminating follow-up piece by the San Francisco Chronicle, on Tuesday, July 8, 1947, a lengthy interview with Sneide where he elaborated further on flying saucers, extraterrestrial life, and the fate of Earth.

Thanks to Louis Taylor for the scan of this image.

The Sneide Letter

Occultist, Who Is 61 (Physically, That Is), Expands His Disc Theories

By J. Campbell Bruce

Perhaps the most startling and widely discussed theory advanced so far on the flying disc was the one set forth in the now-famous letter to The Chronicle’s Safety Valve by Ole J. Sneide. 

Sneide (rhymes with Friday) spoke of space ships, invisible screens, headquarters on the dark side of the moon. His letter was picked up by the newspaper wire services and reprinted over the Nation. It brought a flood of letters and telephone calls to The Chronicle. Sneide, overnight became famous. Just like the discs, he appeared out of nowhere and flashed across the horizon of headlines.  

Who is Ole J. Sneide? 

He's a retired cost accountant who has lived quietly in a cramped, dim, little room on the second floor above 1232 Market street. Until he wrote his letter to the editor, he had lived a serene existence, delving into the mysteries of the occult.

When he was interviewed yesterday, he had just come back from a quick trip into outer space. And he appeared a bit dejected.  

They Knew

He's gone all the way out there to pick up the straight dope on these flying discs - and he's been turned down flatly. “I projected myself into outer space,” said Sneide, speaking in a puckered sort of way.

“I didn't need to ask about the discs. They knew what I was after. They appeared in a blinding flash of light. And the answer was in two words: ‘Information refused’”.

Sad as he was about the failure of his mission, Sneide nevertheless had his own theories. The discs were, he felt certain, one of these: 

1- Nimbre A. Theatos apparently dropping Metaboblons here and there. (He’d gotten that much from an earlier flight.) 

2-  Enemy scouts from Asia - well, Russia, then. (“They've been experimenting with atomic energy for a long time.”) 

3- A prank being pulled by a branch of our own Army. (“If so it's foolish to fly them around like that and scare people.”) 

Continent of Mu

He even conceded that, lacking more definite knowledge, the discs might be piloted by wandering “dero” or survivors of the lost continent of Mu finally emerging from the depths of the Earth. But he couldn't be sure about that. 

Born in Norway and reared in Minnesota, Sneide attended the University of that State and his framed diplomas from an accounting school and the Chronological College of California (class of ‘04). He retired as a cost accountant and stenographer 11 years ago to devote his time to the study of the occult.

He conducts these studies in his one-room apartment which is almost removed from the worldly tumult of Market and illuminated by lightwell in the day and a frosted globe at night. The walls are covered with old prints by Charles Dana Gibson, Maxfield Parrish, Edward Penfield, A. B. Frost and a smiling photograph of Clark Gable.  

Physical Age

Sneide is 61 (“physically, that is”), is slightly pallid has blonde curly hair that is comb-resistant, wears is a Hoover-type collar, a stick pen and a lapel ornament which is “Ole” in a flourish of gold wire script on a on a slab of mother-of-pearl. His source of information is the Dhyanis, rulers of creation.

In his Safety Valve letter, Sneide mentioned his discovery of the headquarters of spacemen on the dark of the moon, whither he’d gone by teleportation. He amended that yesterday to say the dark of the moon was the “subsidiary” or branch office. He recalled seeing buildings and people they're not much different than San Francisco, but it wasn't too vivid, as he didn't stay long. 

One person wrote in to complain that Sneide had given away the ”Scarlet Secret of the Scintillating Saucers.” Another said he had difficulty with the fuel mixture and trying to get to the moon. “They don't make sense,” Sneide snorted. “Pure nonsense”.  

Under-Earth Dwellers

But his eyes lighted at mention of a communication by one Larry Sweet, 436 O'Farrell street, who theorizes the discs were tentated by people of Mu who have been living in secret recesses within the earth (except for those who “packed up and left for other galaxies” after that ill-fated continent sank. Sneide said Sweet might be right - he wouldn't know.

But Sneide was certain of one thing. You need to have no fear of the discs, “unless they're from Russia - and then there's plenty of peril.” If they’re Nimbre A. Theatos, everything's under control. 

“These,” he explained, “are scouts for spaceships. I don't know exactly what they're doing here, but they may be sent to do certain things before Armageddon, which should be in the offing anytime.”

“There are reports that small things were dropped from them. They would be Metaboblons, from the ancient archaic Greek. I wouldn’t know what they’d be, but maybe they’re dropped to protect certain areas – or if they’re from Russia, they may be bombs to be detonated at the proper time. But if some fell in the bay, as is said, then they are Metaboblons, which may be mechanisms to counteract atomic radiation. The Dhyanis a gave me the name.” 

Sneide saw no danger of the world’s end from all this. He predicted earth with last 6,000,000,000 years yet and “then probably be dissolved into thin air and started all over again in a fohatic whirlwind.”

(See the glossary after the article for some of the obscure terms used by Sneide.) 


Sneide’s Lost Legacy

Ole J. Sneide’s Market street residence was just less than a mile from the United Lodge of Theosophists on the same street. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence of his membership there - or to any other occult associations, but it’s clear he was well-schooled in Theosophy, and he was also familiar with fantasy and science fiction like the Shaver Mystery. 

The San Francisco Examiner, Feb. 26, 1938 

There’s no telling how influential Sneide might have become in the studies of aerial phenomena; his career as a ufologist was cut tragically short. Sneide died on August 31, 1947, barely 2 months into the flying saucer era. However, Sneide had a plan for his work to live on. In 1937 he set up a will with instructions and funds for his writings to be published. Sneide also left money for the construction of a statue of the goddess Aphrodite, whom the Romans knew as Venus.

The San Francisco Examiner, Oct. 10, 1947

Sneide also asked that his manuscripts on occult affairs in the vaults of the Bank of America be published at a cost of $3000 and that the title be "Heimrhibeat" (German meaning "homework"). Also that his ashes be scattered from the Golden Gate Bridge.  

Sneide may have been unaware, but the state law forbade scattering cremation ashes from the shore or even a bridge. His siblings had objections about other parts of the will. The San Francisco Deputy City Attorney, Lawrence S. Mana, sent a letter to the Art Commission of the City and County:

"Please be advised that the heirs of Ole J. Sneide on October 29, 1947 filed a contest of Will which contest is now pending in the Superior Court of the State of California... As a consequence of the filing of the contest, the Will has never been admitted to probate.” 


The money went to his relatives, and there’s no record of the publication of "Heimrhibeat." Apparently none of Ole J. Sneide’s wishes were honored; there was no book publication, no statue, and no scattering of his ashes. Except for his flying saucer letter, Sneide’s work has been lost. Sadly, he became another one of the many Ufologists That Time Forgot.

. . .

 

A Glossary, Notes, Sources, and Further Information

Many of Sneide’s terms and concepts were derived from Theosophy. The Theosophical Society was an occult organization founded in 1875 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a set of beliefs about the cosmic origins of mankind cobbled together from various ancient myths, religions and fiction. Theosophical concepts were very influential on many writers of early fantasy and science fiction such as H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Fohatic - "a bit of theosophical bafflegab that appears in Madame Blavatsy’s The Secret Doctrine (1888) ... It has been described as a spinning electro-spiritual force, a sun-based holy energy, executed by Fohat, an agent of the Sons of God.” From Conflicting Drives: A Broken Promise in theFaith Why Science Should Study UFO Reports” by Martin S. Kottmeyer, SUNlite Volume 5 Number 1 January - February 2013

Dhyanis - is the plural of Dhyani, and seems to refer to the Dhyan-Chohans, as described by Helena. P. Blavatsky in Lucifer Theosophical Monthly September, October, 1894:

“... Dhyan-Chohan, a 'celestial Buddha,' or what a Christian Kabbalist might call a 'planetary spirit' or one of the Elohim... a class of the planetary spirits or 'devas'  ...so to say, the guardian angels of men...”

Metaboblons - Metabolon is probably what Sneide was talking about when he’s quoted as saying “Metaboblons." It was a term first printed in 1903 in relation to atom fragments and radiation.

Report on the UFO Wave of 1947 by Ted Bloecher, 1967, was one of the few UFO books to discuss material from Sneide’s 

Martin Kottmeyer, “Varicose Brains, Part 3: Headhunt.” (Originally published in Magonia 44, March 2007)

Allan G. Smorra, “Another San Francisco Original,” October 5, 2014

Maurizio Verga, “Ole Sneide,” Flying Saucers in the Sky - 1947: When UFOs Came from Mars, 2020

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