Monday, July 8, 2024

The Professor's Message from Space

In 1952, UFO reports seemed to indicate an impending invasion by monstrous aliens:

June 1952: News of Oskar Linke’s 1950 sighting of a landed saucer with two occupants.
July 1952: Jets pursued UFOs invading the airspace over Washington, DC.
Aug. 19, 1952: A Florida Scoutmaster was attacked by a fiery blast from a saucer.
Sept. 12, 1952: People in West Virginia were menaced by the alien Flatwoods Monster

As the year was winding down, there came a plot twist: 

Nov. 20, 1952: In the California desert, a flying saucer landed. A beautiful man from Venus emerged with a message of peace and brotherhood. 

Spiritualism, the Occult, Theosophy and other notions had been thriving in California since the late 19th century. An example bridging that scene to the UFO topic would be Guy Ballard of the “I AM’ movement, who claimed that at Mt. Shasta in 1932, he met twelve Ascended Masters from Venus. Another was Meade Layne of San Diego, a longtime student of paranormal topics, who in 1945 founded the Borderland Sciences Research Associates. Years before saucers, some of BSRA’s members already strongly believed in non-human intelligences from beyond our planet. Other Californians, whether in clubs, churches or cults, believed, too.  One believer was also a teacher. His students called him “Professor,” and he was the one in 1952 who made contact in the desert.

George Adamski

Long before space visitors became central to his teachings, George Adamski (1891-1965) was the charismatic leader teaching his own spin on Theosophy in a monastery in in Southern California in 1934. According to FBI records, his family moved Poland to the U.S. in 1893, he served from 1913-16 in the Army, then worked various manual labor jobs, until 1926 when he began lecturing on philosophy, within a few years he founded his own religion.

“Tibetan Monastery, First in America, to Shelter Cult Disciples in Laguna Beach” in the Los Angeles Times, April 8, 1934, reported on the formation of Adamski’s monastery and quoted him saying that he’d studied under masters in Tibet. "I learned great truths up there on the roof of the world... to cure the body and the mind and to win mastery over self and soul. I do not bring to Laguna the weird rites and bestial superstition… but the scientific portions of the religion.” Members of his Royal Order of Tibet wore ceremonial garments adorned with pendants of a twenty-four-point star. “Robes and ritual, Adamski admits, help the novice to set his feet firmly in the path he elects to follow.” 

The Order didn’t last, and by 1940 Adamski and a small group of followers moved away, eventually setting up at the base of Mt. Palomar in 1944 (near the famous observatory being built there). His student Alice K. Wells owned the property, a campground and collection of cabins named "Palomar Gardens." Its centerpiece was a little Café that sold mostly hamburgers and hotdogs. Adamski set up his a few telescopes on the property creating a small observatory for the tourist trade, frequently lecturing at the café.

North County Times, June 4, 1948, observatory photo from his 1953 book.

The first trace of hint of Adamski’s flying saucer future might have been in his 1946 booklet, “The Possibility of Life on Other Planets,” which stated, “There is no longer a question as to whether there are other inhabited planets in the universe but as to the type of beings who live there.” Speculating, he described what might be the first draft of his angelic aliens:

“…on planets having lighter atmospheric conditions the forms would be of a more delicate nature... different than our own. The atoms composing them would not be so intensely concentrated... In consequence, the brain cells would also become more active and the race as a whole would turn more to the solving of intellectual problems… [Their] bodies would not be great muscular forms in that case but probably more slender and lithe.”

1949 was the year things really took off.

The book and The Banning Live Wire, Dec. 29, 1949

Then in 1949 Adamski published a book, Pioneers of Space: A Trip to the Moon, Mars and Venus, while presented as fiction, he wrote, “it will not be long before all this will become a reality.” It was an interplanetary tale of alien contact with some familiar Theosophical elements. Earth had many scientifically advanced ancient civilizations, including Atlantea and Lemuria. However, abusing their technology, they came to “destroy themselves.”

“That is the great reason why the Earth people are so far behind [Mars and other planets]... Now it looks like earth is going to have another destruction, for the present civilization is getting very [technologically advanced] but without the wisdom in the way of living ... and it is the very thing that destroyed Atlantea. The people on Venus are still farther ahead ... they have had no such destruction at any time.”

Throughout his life, Adamski used ghost writers, but the thoughts and messages were his. Later in the story, it was revealed that visitors have been coming to our planet since ancient times.

“There have been many great souls sent to earth to teach the way of life ... You call them messiahs, masters, and all sorts of names, but they have come from higher planes of life to start the people of earth on the right path of life ... the last of our messengers whom you call Jesus, was crucified ...” 

Skipping ahead for a moment, Pioneers of Space was later mentioned in Frank Scully’s 1950 book, Behind the Flying Saucers, as if it were non-fiction, and Adamski was described as a scientist. Scully and Adamski became friends, and later attended some of the same saucer conventions.

The Escondido, CA, Times-Advocate, June 20, 1951, carried a short item, “Noted Author Visits Palomar Gardens,” about Frank Scully.  It reported that “Scully and Professor George Adamski spent many hours discussing their forthcoming books, which will sequel their first publications on interplanetary space travel.”

Having a book to promote made Adamski more marketable as a lecturer, and he began speaking more frequently to audiences outside of Palmar Gardens. The Blade Tribune, (Oceanside, CA) March 8, 1950, reported on an upcoming George Adamski lecture. His message was usually optimistic about space visitors, but here Adamski talked about the possibility of hostile invaders:

"He avers that if our Earth people suddenly found themselves threatened by attack from another planet, they would lose no time uniting as one in the common defense. Even Stalin would be preaching cooperation and anxiously seek our alliance and friendship."

The Blade Tribune, (Oceanside, CA) March 8, 1950

Adamski’s saucer career continued to escalate with him producing a series of photographs of spaceships in the sky. He was credited as the co-author of Flying Saucers as Astronomers See Them” in Fate magazine, Sept. 1950. In that article, Adamski was not committal about his UFO photo being a spaceship, saying it might be just “a type of electric discharge… We sincerely doubt whether they have any connection with visitors." A few months later, Adamski had changed his mind. “…in February, 1949, was I successful in getting my first picture of space ships.”  

In “I Photographed Space Ships,” Fate July 1951, he published seven photos and described his career:

“I was guest speaker for the Fallbrook, California, Rotary Club where I talked about the reality of space ships. This was the first of many similar lectures before service clubs in Southern California, which continued through the year of 1950.”

By that time, Adamski had begun selling copies of his photographs, both at his base in Mount Palomar and at his lectures. The photos began appearing in newspapers, but it was the saucers were in the spotlight, not Adamski himself.

Green Bay Press-Gazette, April 14, 1952

Matt Weintstock’s column on the editorial page of the Los Angeles Daily News, June 26, 1952, reflected Adamski’s status at the time. 

“Photos of what are purported to be flying saucers have shown up at KTTV. Owners now say they bought them for $1 each from a prof. George Adamski of Mt. Palomar. Scoffers say the prof really runs a hot dog stand near Palomar and the photos are a, shall we say, sideline. Moreover, they want to see the negative.”

The Adamski lecture for a science fiction convention in San Diego on June 28, 1952 was not well received. (We’ll examine this convention incident in a later article.) Despite their fondness for interplanetary tales, science fiction fans were generally skeptical of flying saucer tales. Many of them walked out on Adamski’s presentation of uncorroborated stories and pictures. Maybe it motivated him to produce more compelling evidence.

Meanwhile, Adamski got another publicity boost in the summer of 1952.


Billboard Aug. 23, 1952

The Coming of the Saucers by Kenneth Arnold and Ray Palmer reprinted several of Adamski’s photographs from his Fate article and once more introduced him as “Professor.” Seeing this prompted George Hunt Williamson (1926-1985) to connect with Adamski. In a Oct.19, 1952, letter to a friend, Williamson said that in radio conversation with from aliens:

“We have been told that a man will contact us… there will be a landing in this vicinity by special ship direct from Mars within two or three weeks from now!... Professor George Adamski is in on this too. He is a very great man indeed.”

Blade Tribune, Feb. 4, 1953

The Phoenix Gazette, November 24, 1952

Adamski and a small party of followers were out in the California desert on November 20, 19521, but he alone made contact. The first press on his contact was in The Phoenix Gazette, November 24, 1952, “Flying Saucer 'Passenger' Declares A-Bomb Blasts Reason For Visits” by Len Welch. The story was told by Mr. and Mrs. George Williamson, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Bailey, who claimed to have witnessed the events from a distance. “Professor Adamski described the saucer as... about 20 feet in diameter, translucent but not transparent, with a shining silver finish on the exterior, portholes on the side, and three ball bearing devices underneath.” The man from the saucer communicated primarily in gestures and indicated he was from the planet Venus. “According to the Williamsons and Baileys… the intentions of the visitors is peaceful.” When Adamski asked the visitor why he was here, the spaceman used his “arms to indicate mushroom-shaped clouds associated with atomic experiments... radiation from explosions is causing his people some concern and fear that blasts will destroy everything.”

Sometimes, a bad cover of a song becomes a bigger hit than the original. That’s a bit like what happened with Adamski, his story repackaged what had come before. Back in the 1920s, Theosophy’s believers like Frederick G. Hehr had promoted the notion of angelic beings from Venus come to earth to teach humanity. Others religious figures like Guy Ballard and Eugene Drake had claimed contact with such space people, but most of those claims were on the psychic, not physical plane. 

As for the notion of aliens saving us from destroying ourselves with atomic weapons, that had been floating around in science fiction since at least 1947.

"Will the ancient gods... come back in time to avert an atom war?" From Fantastic Adventures  Nov. 1947"Son of the Sun." by Millen Cooke (as Alexander Blade) illustrated by James Settles.

Most in the press and general public were unaware of what had come before, so it was news to them. Also, the props helped sell the story. Not only did Adamski have multiple witnesses, and photographs, there was physical evidence. The Venusian had left footprints behind, and the soles of his shoes had left behind alien symbols. Williamson even had the foresight to bring along plaster to cast the footprints. 

As his fame spread, so did the confusion that the “Professor” who saw flying saucers was associated with the Mt. Palomar observatory.

Blade Tribune, Jan. 22, 1953

At the time of the first encounter, Adamski had a few low-quality photos of the saucer, but shortly afterwards he produced clearer photos, which he sold at his lectures.

Beginning March 12, 1953, The Corona Daily Independent ran a series of three articles on “Dr.” George Adamski’s lecture given at the Corona Lion’s Club. Justin Hammond wrote an article about Adamski’ lecture and continued the coverage of it in his "Ring Around" column. His story describes the Venusian as looking “just like we do except unusually handsome and that his eyes were somewhat slanted. He had long black hair, very beautiful and wavy.” He quotes Adamski as saying, “Mainly we conversed by mental pictures...”

Hammond didn’t share a description of the saucer, but said, “The good doctor showed us three photos he took of the flying saucer which looked me - undoubtedly I’m wrong - like an out-of doors picture of a three-bulb electric light fixture.” The series made no mention of warnings of atomic bombs, instead focusing on the novelty of the alien encounter. “Dr. Adamski says that spacemen have been visiting Earth for many years. He also said that there may be thousands of them walking the streets of Earth today.” 

An epilogue of sorts appeared a few days later, a letter from the Mayor of Corona, C.R. Miller who said, “no one in his right mind would take any stock in” Adamski’s yarns.

Adamski’s 1952 story was packaged with an a previously completed manuscript by a UK author, Desmond Leslie. Their book was published in the Fall of 1953, Flying Saucers Have Landed. Leslie’s foreword discussed the teachings of Theosophy: 

“About eighteen million years ago… came a huge, shining, radiant vessel of dazzling power and beauty, bringing to earth... human beings, of perfection beyond our highest ideals; gods rather than men…” 

The latter part of the book was Adamski’s story of meeting the man from Venus. It became an international best seller, enormous publicity for him. 

Evening Star, December 13, 1953

The Daily Telegraph, Sydney Australia, Oct. 4, 1953

Daily Press, Oct. 23, 1953 

In the months and years that followed, he was considered a flying saucer expert, in demand as a lecturer and frequently interviewed for newspapers, magazines, radio and television programs.

1954 press conference. From Flying Saucer Pilgrimage by Bryant & Helen Reeve, 1957.

Adamski on Long John Nebel’s late-night TV show on WOR, April 30, 1960.

The Times-Advocate (Escondido CA) Jan. 2, 1954, sought his expertise when a fiery object was reported in the skies. Adamski thought it was from Mars, explaining that malfunctioning saucers are blown up before they crash. The falling debris turns to gelatin and disintegrates, to prevent crashed saucers or their debris being retrieved.

Adamski’s success inspired many imitators who became known as Contactees. They virtually took over the flying saucer business, and were supported by George Van Tassel’s annual Giant Rock Interplanetary Spacecraft Convention, which provided a forum and marketplace for the Contactees and their fans.

Despite the crowd of competitors, Adamski remained the top brand. His second book, Inside the Space Ships, also became a bestseller in 1955.


Popularity notwithstanding, Adamski had his doubters. Upstart flying saucer magazine publisher James W. Moseley had interviewed Adamski in late 1953, and while he found the “Professor” interesting and charismatic, he had not been convinced. Moseley's Saucer News, printed critical articles and topped it off in the Oct. 1957 “Special Adamski Expose Issue” with articles by Moseley, Irma Baker and Lonzo Dove. It included correspondence with some of Adamski’s supporting witnesses, who admitted that  the story and photographs were untrue.

Saucer News - Adamski Expose Issue

Donald Keyhoe, the director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena rejected Adamski and the Contactees. In his 1959 telegram to a convention promoter, Keyhoe said:

“Your carnival approach to the subject of unidentified flying objects is... offsetting serious work by NICAP and other... fact-finding UFO groups.”

In December 1957, Adamski received a letter on Department of State stationary from R.E. Straith of the “Cultural Exchange Committee,” that stated that the US Government could not officially endorse him, but privately offered their support. The letter was a hoax, a prank by Gray Barker and Jim Moseley. Adamski must have known it was bogus, but he and his followers continued to tout the letter as proof of his credibility. (For further details, see George Adamski, R.E. Straith and the Seven Letters of Mischief.)

Rather than admit to any fraud in his stories and photo, Adamski insisted that it was his critics who were the phonies, part of the saucer cover-up. In Flying Saucers Farewell, 1961, he said: 

"The only way the 'Silence Group' could combat me was to discredit me before the public. If it had not been for the assistance of my friends from other planets, the 'Silence Group' would have achieved its aim.”

From the start, Adamski’s stories escalated into a series of ever more incredible encounters and interplanetary adventures. The entry on Adamski in The UFO Encyclopedia Vol II, 1992, had a section, “Decline and Fall,” where Jerome Clark stated in part:

“Those inclined to accept Adamski at his word... found the story of [his 1962] trip to Saturn more than they could believe. …A postcard written allegedly by space people… was traced to [an address used by] Adamski …Those who replied were asked to contribute money to cover expenses… a scheme to bilk the credulous. …By 1964 Adamski’s name had disappeared even from the pages of England’s widely read Flying Saucer Review… [published by] Adamski's most articulate defender."

Still, George Adamski kept spreading the Space Brothers Gospel. The next year he went on a lecture tour through New York and Rhode Island. He died of a heart attack a few weeks later at the age of 74 on April 23, 1965.


Changing Lives: The Adamski Legacy

Without George Adamski, we would not have had UFO researchers conducting a Remote Viewing program for the U.S. government, Robert Bigelow’s (paranormal study group) National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), or its successors and spin-offs: Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS), the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program (AAWSAP), the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF), the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO). The key figure leading to all of those was theoretical physicist Harold E. Puthoff.

In Jacques Vallee’s Forbidden Science Vol. 4 entry for Saturday 19 July 1997, he documented a meeting of NIDS in Las Vegas where Chairman of the Board, Hal Puthoff disclosed what prompted him to become involved in the UFO topic:
Hal recalls the day when, as a very studious boy, he left his engineering studies in a fit of atypical behavior to wander downtown, got into a bookstore and mechanically picked up Adamski's book, “and it changed my life,” he said, “even after I recognized his story was bullshit!”

Essentially, Adamski was an opportunist who capitalized on the public’s UFO craze. He dressed his old Royal Order of Tibet philosophy up in flying saucer drag and it went over in a big way, changing many people's lives. When Adamski was exposed to be a fraud, some of the faithful denied it and continued to believe in him. More puzzling, many of those who lost faith in Adamski still clung to the concepts promoted in his stories. Though people may have forgotten Adamski himself, his propaganda lives on. To those who want to believe, any report or rumor of a UFO is a hopeful sign that benevolent visitors in spaceships are here to help and guide our planet. 

. . .


Recommended Reading

There's far more to the Adamski story, and many opinions on it. Here are two excellent sources for further study:

Saturday Night Uforia, Saucer Reading Fest part 12 features excellent coverage of the early days of George Adamski.

A Critical Appraisal of George Adamski: The ManWho Spoke to the Space Brothers by Marc Hallet. 

The Professor's Message from Space

In 1952, UFO reports seemed to indicate an impending invasion by monstrous aliens: June 1952: News of Oskar Linke’s 1950 sighting of a lande...