Monday, December 3, 2007


My first UFO History Keys column in the Australian newstand magazine UFOLOGIST back in the middle of 2006 ended with the following update. To get the background to the piece, my article "Australian UFO History Wars - Lessons and approaches to the Australian UFO controversy" can be accessed at the following link:


In the Ufologist issue Vol. 10. No. 2 2006 (the 2006 - TENTH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL COLLECTOR's ISSUE) my article “Australian UFO history wars” highlighted the dubious nature of the anonymous Wikipedia article “Australian ufology”. Within days of the Ufologist issue appearing in newsagencies there was a frenzy of editorial activity by the writer of the Wikipedia piece, “correcting” the errors in his Wikipedia piece I had outlined in my article.

I have to offer high marks indeed for the person of “vufors” (not to be confused with the group VUFORS) – the anonymous author of Wikipedia “Australian ufology” piece – but unfortunately only for entertainment value only! Sadly there are many more problems, both of fact and bias, and just plain misrepresentation. So the total piece is still the stuff of “the Emperor’s new clothes” – a nakedly biased piece, dressing up in the digital clothing of the internet - his distorted take on Australian ufology. Good luck to all those silly enough to rely only on his poor excuse for UFO history.

After the “corrections” “vufors” undertook to try to correct all of his confusing and contradictory declarations on where all the government files were and went, he still leaves us with more silly confusion. According to the new confused mantra of the Wikipedia entry the government UFO files apparently must have gone backwards and forwards (repeatedly it seems) from his hypothesised Victorian “intelligence cell” to Canberra being vetted by controlling officers, to a “temporary” home in Canberra, to then be shuffled back to Victoria. Well, during my 4 visits to the Canberra headquarters of the Department of Defence (DoD) from 1982 to 1984, if we believe the Wikipedia piece (and I don’t), it must have been a trying time for this strange fantasised “intelligence cell” setup. I saw classified files in 1982 and these same files through to 1984. More realistically I suggest the files were found and brought together and largely stayed in Canberra for the duration, and have been there ever since, rather than the bizarre convoluted antics declared by the Wikipedia “Australian ufology” editor. Or should we accept “vufors” dubious takes as more evidence of the dubious response of military intelligence to UFOs, just like with the UK MOD efforts. Still, I would not impose “vufors” Wikipedia declarations on the real story of the government role in the Australian UFO controversy. I would rather anchor consideration of their role in serious open and transparent analysis and study, than skewed and agenda based anonymous declarations from largely hidden or uncooperative parties.

The anonymous Wikipedia “Australian Ufology” editor confirmed his dubious credentials with his continuing efforts to distort the history of my group UFOIC. The corrections I made to his distorted piece were deleted after being left in place for more than 2 months, apparently due to “duplication”, according to “vufors”.

Here is the original distorted and incorrect piece, now restored by “vufors”:

UFOIC eventually disintegrated under Mr Fred Phillips and Bill Moser and
UFOIC lapsed into silence. But the old power troubles remained right up and into
the 90's. In 1991 a new breed of New South Wales group emerged under the name of UFO Research New South Wales (UFOR(NSW)). This caused problems when Mr Bill Chalker who claimed that the new group had ‘stolen’ the name from him, however, Chalker was unable to justify his rights to the name, to counter this action Chalker registered the defunct UFOIC name for his independent private use. Apart from these power struggles newer groups of the 1990’s, bridged this power divide that some well known individuals still hold to this day. (Auchettl:1985)

Here is the corrected piece I edited into the “Australian Ufology” Wikipedia document:

Following the tragic accidental death in 1969 of long time UFOIC president (serving from 1958 – 1969) Dr. Miran Lindtner, the organization UFOIC itself went through a difficult period or adjustment and reorganization. In 1973 David Buching led an active team which re-energized the group. In line with some other state groups, UFOIC was renamed UFO Research (NSW) in 1976, continuing an energetic phase of investigation and research. By the early 1980s the group reconfigured itself into a loose networking organization, to better work with national networking initiatives, initially with ACUFOS and later UFORA. In 1991 a new breed of New South Wales group, which preferred the old style of public group, emerged registering the name of UFO Research New South Wales (UFOR(NSW)). This development led Bill Chalker, the coordinator of UFO Research (NSW) (1976 – 1991) to readopt the original UFOIC name, allowing it
to continue the networking style organization, while the new UFOR(NSW) introduced its own public group approach. While initially the 1991 appropriation of the UFOR(NSW) name caused tension and confusion, the two groups UFOIC (under Bill Chalker’s continuing direction from 1976) and UFOR(NSW) (under Wendy Burnham’s presidency), have forged good cooperative ties, while pursuing different approaches to research and investigation.

In closing, once again I call for a history that is documented in open, transparent cooperation, where issues that emerge, that seem contentious, are resolved where ever possible through dialogue and friendly and professional debate that has its firm foundations in verifiable and accessible documentation and research. This approach is certainly far better than “history” rooted in anonymous or unverifiable proclamations backed up by “war games” to defend perceived positions or “turfs”? Sadly the Wikipedia “Australian Ufology” piece is an example of the latter sorry approach. Let us continue with the former open and friendly cooperative approach. I will certainly be doing my best to champion that approach with this column and in other forums. Until next time …

I returned to this matter in my third column:


Finally a brief revisit to another unfortunate manifestation of Australian UFO history is appropriate. Regular readers of this column and magazine will understand my criticism of the Wikipedia internet document “Australian Ufology”. It seems now that experienced Wikipedia players are also aware of the shortcomings of the article. The author of the piece - “vufors” took it upon himself to nominate his own article for a Wikipedia “Good Article” nomination. His dubious efforts meet with failure, when in the “discussion” section of the article “Pascal.Tesson”, a Wikipedia player, failed the nomination for the following very illuminating reasons:

“I am failing the good article nomination for this article for a number of reasons.
First it is not particularly well written or organized.
It is in violation of WP:POV (Wikipedia Point of View policy) . Sentences like "The strange twist to this event was the person who should have had the chance to see all the files, the past President of CAPIO & VUFORS, Mr Peter Norris, had departed ufology just under 17 months prior to the changes in policy." or "The subject came under attack by bureaucrats in an attempt to stifle the Australian public debate." (among others) are clearly pushing an underlying conspiracy theory hypothesis.
I am concerned about the fact that very few users are contributing to the page. Vufors (talkcontribs) probably has half the edits. This is not a healthy way to build an article and I think explains the POV problems. It also makes the whole article look like a violation of WP:NOR (Wikipedia: No original research policy).
The depiction of the agencies is dubious to say the least.
A number of urls are dead. A bunch of references are dubious. I don't think that any book entitled "Awakening: How Extraterrestrial Contact Can Transform Your Life," can pass as a reliable source.
The talk page has been moved to Vufors (talkcontribs) talk page but concerns about his management of the article have been erased by the user himself.
Not only is this as clear-cut a failure for GA (Good Article) -status as can be but it's also clear that it should not have been nominated in the first place: surely a page that has been nominated twice for AfD (Article For Deletion) in its six-month existence (with a non-consensus the first time around) should not be nominated so soon. As the nominator Vufors most certainly knows this page has a long history of edit wars. I am tempted to view the nomination as a disingenuous attempt to provide an undeserved credibility to the article.”

I placed my own brief respond in the same “Discussion” section:

“Pascal.Tesson seems to have picked up on the problems with this article. My own concerns with this article were raised in a detailed article published in the "Australian Ufologist" magazine. It has been placed on the web at: Make you own mind up, but I see the "Australian Ufology" article as a poor example of the objectives of Wikipedia. Given the games "vufors" has played with "controlling" edits on this article, few serious researchers would bother with trying to add or correct content. Any attempts to do so usually get edited out, so why bother.Regards, Bill Chalker”

The games some people play …

So where is the Wikipedia "Australian Ufology" piece now (December 2007). It is a somewhat leaner piece, but one still underminded by its skewed and agenda driven editing. "Mainstream" Wikepedians have in part caught up with the excesses of the "edit wars" that made it an unattractive destination for researchers interested in a serious history of Australian ufology. Despite the problems encountered in trying to get some reasonable balance and increased accuracy into the article, possible keys to its "anonymous" author may possibly be found in looking at the more recent "Phenomena Research Australia" (PRA) entry on Wikipedia. It is virtually completely sourced from the skewed "Australian Ufology" entry, proclaiming the same "hidden history" as the "true" history of PRA, a history that is alleged to go back as early as 1949. If this was truely the case then it would be fascinating stuff indeed.

The "facts" behind this hidden history seem locked up in two documents that few Australian UFO researchers are privy to - namely PRA director John Auchettl’s 34 page 1985 VUFORS document “The Roots of Australian Ufology” and the 6 page Brian Boyle document “The Early Years: From Saucers to UFOs”. Valid history is built upon verifiable documentation. Until these and other confirmatory data are actually accessible to researchers outsided the PRA "bunker" then this interesting but unconfirmable "hidden history" remains just that.

Attempts to confirm this proclaimed history, authored by anonymous sources, have not advanced much at all. Back in early 1996 while researching The OZ Files - the Australian UFO Story I asked PRA director John Auchettl about the origins of PRA I got a completely different story. He told me then that Bill Campbell Hicks of Southern Air Services started the process of PRA back on June 7th 1969 as essentially "a closed group of army & aviator people based in Victoria." Auchettl characterised the PRA of 1969 as having a membership of about 100 focusing on a phenomena basis - "everything was "flying saucers"then." Auchettl indicated he joined PRA in 1973 via his aviation connections. He joined the better known Victorian group VUFORS - Victorian UFO Research Society - in 1975. Auchettl left VUFORS in 1990 after some problems, resurrecting the old PRA which by then was at a low ebb. The flagship of the new PRA in late 1990 was the PRA journal and it was proclaimed "PRA is not a competive group or society. It is financed by advertising, and or, by Mr. John William Auchettl, and wholly controlled by the founder!"

PRA would later proclaim a legacy back to 1961. What happened to 1969? Perhaps it was Brian Boyle's "missing" 1961 "history" that changed things?: For example "1961-2004 - 43 YEARS OF RESEARCH SERVICE." The appearance of the anonymous Wikipedia "Australian Ufology" piece early in 2006 claimed a PRA lineage back to 1949, as now pointedly proclaimed in the Wikepedia entry for Phenomena Research Australia. Once again it seems the "roots" of this claim lie buried in documentation PRA itself seems unwilling to share with the wider research community.

Does any of this matter? Perhaps not, but PRA claim to be custodians of all sorts of UFO data, some of which is suggested to go back to the early years of ufology. One small problem ... PRA doesn't seem to want to share this claimed data, except on a very limited basis. For example the Kelly Cahill case of 1993, for which, sadly in restrospect, I faciltated PRA's involvement, the claimed PRA investigation, after 14 years, still lies restricted to PRA. Kelly Cahill herself has not had the benefit of full access to this data. The credibility of Kelly Cahill's experience, may or may not be well served by access to PRA's restricted data on the case. There are other examples but given the sorry history of trying to get PRA to share that data it seems pointless to get into details.

It seems that part of the claimed "roots" back to 1949 may be in "the ties that bind" - family connections perhaps - Jack Seers is reported as forming the group AMPR with Brian Boyle back in 1949. The Auchettl and Seers families are related, so perhaps valid blood ties between the claimed entity AMPR and PRA exist. This may be the stuff of fascinating history, but it is a story that will have to await the pleasures of PRA, at a time that suits them.

Until next time …

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I have been examining the early history of my group UFOIC – the UFO Investigation Centre based in Sydney, NSW. Formed in November 1956 from the remnants of Edgar Jarrold’s founding group AFSB (Australian Flying Saucer Bureau) (1953-55) and its immediate successor AFSRS (Australian Flying Saucer Research Society) NSW branch (1955-56), UFOIC continued in various forms through to today – 50 years later. I became a NSW north coast member in the late 1960s, but only joined the UFOIC committee in 1975.

This focus on the 50 year history of UFOIC (1956-2006 and beyond) had some fascinating and potent resonances with my recent detailed explorations of the Chinese UFO experience. My 2005 trip to China, led to many deep connections with UFO research there as well as the wider dimensions of the controversy in China. (I followed that up with a research trip into Thailand and China in 2006). Inevitably with the profound depths of history in China I also reflected on any earlier intersections of western ufology with Chinese manifestations.

An unexpected intersection came with the early history of UFOIC, in the person of Andrew Tomas (1906-2001), of whom I wrote an obituary for the Ufologist (Vol.5 No.6 2002). Andrew Tomas became a key associate of Edgar Jarrold’s pioneering group back in period from 1953 to 1955. Originally from Russia, he came to Australia in 1948, as part of the stream of people fleeing the turmoil in China, a place he had spent considerable time in particularly exploring the mysteries of the orient. In 1935 he met his spiritual mentor, a fellow Russian, the mystic artist and explorer Nicholas Roerich, in Shanghai. Roerich was lecturing and it was his description of a strange experience in August 1927 in northern China that captured Tomas’ attention and anticipated an obsession to come.

Roerich’s travel diary “Altai-Himalaya”, the chronicle of his 1924-1929 Asian expedition, describes what happened:
“On August 5th – something remarkable! We were in our camp in the Kukunor district not far from the Humboldt Chain. In the morning about half-past nine some of our caravaneers noticed a remarkably big black eagle flying above us. Seven of us began to watch this unusual bird. At this same moment another of our caravaneers remarked, “There is something far above the bird.” And he shouted in his astonishment. We all saw, in a direction from north to south, something big and shiny reflecting the sun, like a huge oval moving at great speed. Crossing our camp this thing changed in its direction from south to southwest. And we saw how it disappeared in the intense blue sky. We even had time to take our field glasses and saw quite distinctly an oval form with a shiny surface, one side of which was brilliant from the sun.”
Roerich had no immediate explanation for what he and his fellow travellers had seen. When Andrew Tomas met Roerich in Shanghai in 1935 he suggested the aerial object was an “aircraft or spacecraft from Shambhala”. Shambhala was the hidden civilisation than Roerich, Tomas and others spent much of their lives seeking – simplistically captured in the classic book “Lost Horizon” (1933) and the 1937 movie of the same name, which immortalised the myth of the hidden paradise of Shangri-La. Tomas would return to this theme and the 1927 incident in some of his books, particularly “Shambhala: Oasis of Light” (1977). Some points have become confused, not the least the year it occurred in. Many suggest 1926, but it in fact occurred in 1927. Roerich himself would change his perception of the strange big bird that heralded the unknown aerial object. In his book “Shambhala – In search of the new Era” (1930) Roerich calls the bird a vulture.

I found it bizarrely coincidental that another strange bird figured in further 1927 events in a UFOIC investigation I undertook which focused on the small settlement of Fernvale, in northern NSW. Fernvale was haunted by giant bird like creatures, UFOs, and other bizarre events in an extraordinary mirror of events that would be played out again 40 years later in West Virginia USA, which in turn have been popularised in John Keel’s UFO-gothic classic “The Mothman Prophecies” (1975). The 1927 events near Murwillumbah, NSW, and indeed the Chinese Shambhalic apparition and others, prefigured the modern birth of the UFO controversy in 1947, and thus I call it “the 1927 prophecy”.

Examining the UFO controversy from a historical perspective

Here I begin what I hope will be an informative and entertaining examination of UFO history using a number of different keys. These diverse entry points will open a number of different doors, and thus will lead to different ways of embracing, understanding and hopefully solving aspects of the UFO controversy.

I take my key perspective unashamedly from the outstanding book “History in Three Keys – The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth” by Paul Cohen (Columbia University Press, 1997). Anyone who contemplates the recent history of China knows that the so-called Boxer rebellion of 1900 was a dramatic watershed event in the much larger tapestry of Chinese history. Paul Cohen approached his subject in a superb way. He examined the Boxer phenomenon through three main historical keys – as event, experience and myth. To elaborate, as event he was representing a particular reading of the past, by experience he was revealing the lived or experienced past and lastly he examined his subject as myth – “an impressing of the past into the service of a particular reading of the present.” (Cohen, xii) Each of these keys in turn approached the gaol of explaining the phenomenon and how it was connected with earlier and later historical developments; offering “the thought, feelings, and behaviour of the immediate participants in different phases” of the experience; and finally exploring of the myths that have grown in response to the event, which are often “symbolic representations designed less to elucidate the (phenomenon) than to draw energy from it and score points, often (but not always) of a political or overtly propagandistic nature, in the post-(event) present.” (Cohen, xiii)

These keys help inform my historical takes on the UFO phenomenon and the controversy it has produced. I hope you enjoy this journey through the UFO mystery.

I will be using as a backbone for this site my UFO HISTORY KEYS column in the UFOLOGIST magazine from Australia which began in back in the middle of 2006. This will make the issues and information from that column more widely available and will act as a catalyst to develop the topic touched in them.

I look forward to feedback on these matters of UFO HISTORY.

Photo: At one of my own historical keys - the historical plaque at Mittagong for William Charker/Chalker (1775-1823) - my first ancestor to come to Australia (in 1802) and the first settler in the area which was originally called "Chalker's Flat" (Photo - copyright B. Chalker)