Toronto Aetherius Society: Jesus, Venusians, and Some Bad Astronomy
My best friend Terry has, for the want of something to occupy his time, decided to become the leading expert on the Betty and Barney Hill UFO abduction case. I keep promising the listeners of my Conspiracy Skeptic podcast that I’m going to have him on as a guest and blow the lid off the claims of many of the prominent Ufologist who have built careers around the idea the Hill Case is a slam dunk for Ufology. (Note, this “blow the lid off” claim is my hyperbole, not Terry’s.) Terry is “still working on it”. Every time he thinks he’s got the full skinny he discovers the onion has another layer. Terry is a perfectionist. I have learned in my 30+ years of friendship with him it’s impossible to rush him. Genius eventually tumbles out of his brain.
The Hill case is usually described as the first UFO abduction case and created the template for what is consider legitimate features of the abduction mythos: grey aliens, invasive medical experiments, and missing time. The 50th anniversary of the Hill case actually passed in September 2011 with little fanfare. This was not too surprising as much of North American culture was concerned with the 10th anniversary of a demonstrably real and more terrifying event that took place on Sept 11, 2001.
Previous to the rise of the UFO abduction myth, 1950s Ufology was populated with “contactees”. Contactees were people who claimed to have been contacted by space aliens and were usually given a very contemporaneous message. The 1950s was the start of the Cold War and to many in the West, it seemed a war the godless Soviets were winning. The Soviets seemed to be winning in the race to space and in nuclear weapons development. No doubt many people would take solace in a belief that benevolent space aliens were up there, standing ready to enforce the peaceful use of space and save us all from nuclear madness.
Many skeptics are probably vaguely familiar with the contactee movement via the seminal work on cults and cognitive dissonance called When Prophecy Fails. A UFO cult formed around a contactee who predicted the end of the world on a specific date. When Prophecy Fails documents what happens to the members when, as the researchers suspected, the world didn’t end. How did they rationalize it?