Many of the articles at BBL and STTF begin with a question, and this piece is no exception. Ufology inherited much about exploring the unknown from those who had gone before, from Forteans, science fiction fans - to mystics and spiritualists. When asking how a UFO-related concept originated, it’s often a bit like the chicken or the egg conundrum. The topic in question was prompted by a high-profile UFO interview.
One of ufology’s most prominent figures was awarded the title “UFO Researcher of the Year” in February 2017, and the following October, he was interviewed on The Joe Rogan Experience. Rogan asked where the alien Greys come from, and the guest replied:
“I don’t know. I do know that there’s connections to -umm, eh, you won’t even f***ing believe it... Atlantis... There’s a connection... a very advanced group that left after a catastrophe and hung around in a small outpost here, and throughout time would push civilization forward, and that’s who the Greek gods were... and that’s why it’s very interesting when the Roswell wreckage, there’s Greek writing... It’s online, type in Roswell wreckage... Roswell I-beam, you’ll see it, and it’s got these Greek markings...
Kevin Randle wrote about the source of the visual evidence:
“... about Greek writing found on the Roswell wreckage... The photo they bring up at that point is a shot of the I-Beam... created by Spyros Melaris as part of the alien autopsy hoax.” - A Different Perspective, Oct. 31, 2017The Greek inscription was part of a hoax, but what about the rest - was it based on any better evidence? Even some scientists have given some support to a hypothesis that there is a connection between UFOs and Atlantis.
Dr. Eric Davis works with Dr. Hal Puthoff at EarthTech, formerly a sub-contractor to Robert Bigelow for the Advanced Aerospace Weapons Systems Application Program run by the DIA, often referred to as the “Pentagon UFO Study.” On June 24, 2017, Eric Davis was interviewed on the radio show Coast to Coast about his role in the project. Host George Knapp asked if the study found the answer to the “big questions” about UFOs. Dr. Davis replied:
We know what they are not... They’re not made here, George, but we don't know where they come from. Hal (Puthoff) has a favorite hypothesis, he calls it the Ultraterrestrial Hypothesis. They could be advanced technology - aerospace technology that are produced by a group of evolved hominins that split off from the main human race and they might be that fourth unidentified hominin that was discovered and announced in the news over the last couple years, they are the fourth one after the Denisovans. So yeah, you have Homo Sapiens, Neanderthals, and you have the Denisovans, and there's the genetic evidence of a fourth hominin, and so maybe they split off and they became very advanced, they could be the basis or the foundation for the legend of Atlantis, for all we know. And they saw the human race arising, they didn't like our warlike nature and they probably went underground and shielded themselves with their advanced technology to protect themselves from us, and they're the ones who have the Tic Tacs and other UFOs. ...that’s a hypothesis.That ultimately set the question in motion, and I wondered:
How did flying saucers get connected to Atlantis?
The myths and arguments about Atlantis itself are not the question; we’ll just be looking at how it was tied into UFOs. In The Coming Race, the 1871 novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, there was a hidden race who were descended from people who in ancient times, escaped “the flood,” by taking refuge in mountain caverns which led to “the bowels of the inner earth.” They created a technological utopia, and their greatest achievement was mastery of the force, the “Vril,” an energy that could be used as a weapon or to heal. The story has been incredibly influential and laid the foundation for much since, from science fiction to spiritualism and ufology.
As to Atlantis itself, Ignatius Donnelly is to blame for reviving and popularizing it. A passage from his presentation of Plato's History of Atlantis from The Antediluvian World, 1882 by Ignatius Donnelly:
“Now, in the island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire... shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind; for she was the first in courage and military skill...”
The Atlantean civilization was said to have art and science beyond the rest of the world, and as the legend was retold, it was updated with more miraculous technology to keep ahead of the present day.
Atlantis was embraced by mystics, and they were the ones to connect Atlantis to outer space, but in a dreamy, quasi-religious sort of way. Gareth J. Medway wrote that Madame Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society, in her
“...key work Secret Doctrine was taken up with the theory (derived in some obscure way from Hindu scripture) of the seven "root races" of humanity, of which we are the fifth. The fourth race had lived on Atlantis, and the Third on Lemuria, these two being lost continents of the Atlantic and Pacific respectively. Atlantis, whose legend goes back at least as far as the time of Plato, had recently been publicised in a book by Ignatius Donnelly...
In 1883-6 Frederick S. Oliver, then a teenager living with his parents near Mount Shasta in northern California, penned a lengthy manuscript entitled A Dweller on Two Planets... an entity called Phylos the Tibetan had dictated it to him... More than half the narrative concerned the author's past life as Zailm, an Atlantean, with many details of that civilisation. They had developed "vailxi", aerial ships of torpedo shape which could travel at hundreds of miles an hour (an incredible speed in the 1880s)."
"Beyond the Reality Barrier, Part One: Many Mansions,” Magonia 94, January 2007
Atlantis and Space Ships
There was a widespread interest in Atlantis without the spiritualism, and it was assimilated into popular culture. The immensely popular newspaper comic strip Buck Rogers by Philip Nowlan and Dick Caulkins featured a serialized that began in 1930, the “Sunken City Of Atlantis.”
Science fiction to millions of readers, was Buck Rogers. In the story, the Atlanteans had advanced technology, even flying machines, but after surviving the sinking of the island they lived in secret, but sent expeditions out monitor and influence civilizations on the surface world. The Atlantis serial can be read at the Roland Anderson site, Old Comic Strips: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
The story was adapted into a Big Little Book in 1934 as Buck Rogers in the City Below the Sea, and also part of a Buck Rogers game, as “Search for the Secrets of Atlantis.”
Peeling the Aquatic Onion
Frederick G. Hehr was a Fortean and “deeply learned in occult matters.” Using his initials as F.G.H., he was a frequent contributor to Meade Layne’s Round Robin, the journal of the Borderland Sciences Research Association (BSRA) which accepted “a great mass of psychic and occult data as factual, as established...”
Hehr was talking about spaceships, Atlantis and extraterrestrial seventeen years before the big Kenneth Arnold story broke in July of 1947. Here’s a portion of his letter of criticism to the early science fiction magazine, Air Wonder Stories, May 1930, edited by Hugo Gernsback.
"Then your space flying stories, every one of them is based on cheap excitement raised by the introduction of war. As it is self evident that the rulers of the universe would never permit the knowledge necessary to conquer space to get into hands morally unfit to hold them. Please read up on the legends about the flood and Atlantis and about former visitors from space and you may detect a certain law pertaining to the distribution and use of power.
May I add for the peace of mind of timorous souls that a malevolent incursion from space is an impossibility and that benevolent incursions will come as soon as we are morally fit to entertain visitors, from space. I wish I had the writing ability as I would like to write a story based on actual conditions on the planets of our solar system. "
Hehr was not alone in this type of thinking. In 1943, Richard Shaver wrote to Amazing Stories magazine with “Mantong,” a lost ancient alphabet and language, which was supposed to be “definite proof of the Atlantean legend.” From there, Shaver wrote "A Warning to Future Man," and editor Ray Palmer rewrote it and published it as “I Remember Lemuria.” Thus, "The Shaver Mystery" was born, which was the stepping stone between Theosophy and the imaginative side of Ufology. Shaver’s story was about ancient extraterrestrials, the Titans and the Atlans who had lived under the surface of the earth in Lemuria. The backdrop for Shaver’s stories were a virtual blueprint for tales of ancient aliens.
When the flying saucer wave hit, Frederick G. Hehr was ready with an explanation. He sent a letter to Meade Layne who relayed it to BSRA members in a postcard on July 13, 1947. As FGH, Hehr stated that the flying saucers were flown by:
“an old Atlantean Arcane Order, which has held them in caches; their present mobilization is for trial and for training of crews; they will be used for emergency rescue craft and to gather key personnel and material. They have gravity control, and a speed up to 4000 mi./ hr. above the atmosphere. They become invisible by bending the light rays around them, and are invulnerable to attack by our own forces."The Mystery of Unidentified Flying Objects: 1896—1949, Loren Gross (1971) page 308.
The BSRA opinion only circulated amongst their members, but early ideas of an Atlantis-saucer connection were mentioned in the newspapers, but as just one of many ideas circulating.
“Utahns sure sky saucers no delusion”The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah), July 6, 1947, p. 8A:"Flying saucers" continued to confound sky-gazing Utahns... Explanations for their strange and fleeting appearances ran the gamut from “Atlantis” to “atomic”...
Putting it into the Mainstream
Desmond Leslie (1921 - 2001) was a British writer who went on to co-author Flying Saucers Have Landed with George Adamski in 1953. In an advertisement from the British Book Centre he was described as “Desmond Leslie, Historian,” and it states that, “He spent years in research gathering information about flying saucers from ancient times to present." Leslie said he was inspired by finding a copy of The Story of Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria by William Scott-Elliot, which described “airships” that he thought sounded like flying saucers. See the clip from UFOs: The Contacts – The Pioneers of Space by Michael Hesemann, 1996.
From The Saucers That Time Forgot:
Leslie began researching the connection and asked Meade Layne if he had seen the
“... detailed occult account of the VIMANAS or ancient aircraft in Scott Elliott’s “ATLANTIS”: the exciting Sanskrit reference to an ‘airlift’ to evacuate Atlantis in (Helena Blavatsky's) SECRET DOCTRINE Vol III, their use in war in the ancient Indian poems such as the RAMA BHARATA, also an account of a working drawings seen in James Churchward in his MU books.”
Leslie went on to say that he’d been obsessed with the subject, "for over two years ever since I first read a flying saucer report and realised it was synonymous with accounts of the VIMANAS as the disks were called in the Sanskrit.”
Leslie’s discovery led him to write Flying Saucers Have Landed, and title a chapter, “Saucers in Atlantis.” The connection made in Desmond Leslie’s mind of flying saucers to Atlantis is directly responsible for giving us the “Ancient Aliens” version of ufology. It might not have mattered if it hadn’t appeared in a best-selling book, but it was a tremendous influence.
Leslie’s use of the term, “Vimanas” for saucers was embraced by many followers and the notion of ancient ET visitations became a given, a canonical UFO belief, and later popularized by Erich von Däniken. Leslie’s connection of Atlantis to saucers, however, was less widely accepted, but there were some notable converts.
|George Hunt Williamson and Daniel Fry|
George Hunt Williamson’s 1953 book, Other Tongues, Other Flesh, shows that he was an early adopter.
“...during the catastrophes that struck both Lemuria and Atlantis, groups of people were evacuated from the Earth and taken to other planets. Especially Mars and Venus.”
Williamson also said, “The Vril Stick was used in Atlantis and later in Egypt.”
Daniel Fry, author of The White Sands Incident, told his story at the first annual international Flying Saucer Convention in 1954, how he’d taken walk in the desert one night and encountered a landed flying saucer. A voice from it spoke to him, the voice of a spaceman operating it by remote control from a parent ship. The Herald-Express reported:
The spokesman, whose name was A-Lan, told Fry his ancestors originally came from earth. They got away in a hurry after the big battle in which Atlantis and Mu destroyed each other with weapons that would make the hydrogen bomb look sick. Now A-Lan’s people were figuring on another descent to earth. They needed samples of our air and the bacteria it contains to see if they could take it.
- The Los Angeles Herald-Express, June 5, 1954, “Space Pilots Give L.A. Smog Wide Berth”
Gavin Gibbons’ 1956 book, The Coming of the Space Ships, covers the flap of UFO sightings that began in June of 1954 in the UK and he was on board with Leslie’s notions of saucers from Atlantis. As his title suggests, Gibbons regarded flying saucers as extraterrestrial space ships, and like Leslie, Gibbons preferred the Atlantean/Sanskrit term “vimanas” (chariots of the sky) for disc-shaped scout craft, and notes:
In 30,000 B.C. Lemuria was destroyed... The few survivors of this cataclysm founded Atlantis. Some survivors from the Atlantis disaster are believed to have escaped disaster by fleeing in machines to another planet, from whence they now send out their patrols to scan the Earth for signs of further atomic activity.
In 1957, The Case for the UFO, M.K. Jessup said:
"The traditions agree that "Atlantis" or its equivalent, was destroyed about 9,000 years or so BC. ...we are interested in showing that such an antiquity did exist, and that it is conceivable that some very early race, 200,000 years ago or so, may have developed space flight, and after the cataclysm of 12,000 years ago may have chosen to stay in space, thinking it a safer habitat than this uncertain planet.”
The Atlantis-UFO meme was transmitted to and from such figures as Harold T. Wilkins, George Van Tassel, Brinsley Le Poer Trench Ruth Norman of Unarius, and even Charles Berlitz, the mainstream best-selling author, connected Atlantis to UFOs - and the Bermuda Triangle. Today, it’s mainly up to the Ancient Aliens camp to keep up the Atlantis-UFO connection vital.
. . .
Epilogue: Another Warning to Future Man
In the September 1946 Harper's Magazine, William S. Baring-Gould took a look at science fiction and its fandom in “Little Superman, What Now?” He highlighted a passage from Thomas S. Gardner’s article in Fantasy Commentator, bringing the criticism to a much wider audience. It was a scathing condemnation of proto-Ufology, of Ray Palmer’s “Shaver Mystery” in Amazing Stories - and of the readers who bought it.
"The crackpots, as they are usually called, number at least a million in the United States. ... A great many harbor seriously delusions of ancient civilizations superior to ours, believe in pyramidology and the like. Indeed, there are today in this country several esoteric societies based on Lemuria, Mu, Atlantis... In fact, these groups are in a way semi-religious... and some have gone so far as to state that they abhor mathematics and allied modern sciences because they disprove their beliefs…Nevertheless, these crackpots constitute a large potential buying-power... To capture these readers it is only necessary to publish... stories which propitiate these crackpots’ views... Palmer has instituted this very trend.”
|Harper's Magazine, Sept. 1946|
Ray Palmer left Amazing Stories shortly thereafter, but went on to create Fate with Curtis Fuller in 1948, a non-fiction magazine devoted to just the stew of esoteric topics that Gardner had railed about. In Fate, ghosts, telepathy, reincarnation and Atlantis were regarded as scientific fact, right along with flying saucers. Seventy years later, not much has changed.
. . .
Sources and Further Reading
Frederick G. Hehr, for more information see:
“Of Biographical Interest,” by F.G.H., Round Robin April 1947
BSRA Principles (Letter to Roger Graham, Oct. 1946)
Many of Ufology's concepts had their origins in 19th century mysticism. Here's a discussion of those occult ideas from Astounding Science Fiction, May 1947, "Pseudoscience in Naziland," by Willy Ley. https://archive.org/stream/Astounding_v39n03_1947-05_AK#page/n89/mode/2up
Desmond Leslie, “Desmond Leslie, George Adamski, and Ancient Aliens”
On Atlantean airships and ancient astronauts: “How to Write a Bestseller” by Gareth J. Medway, Magonia 81, May 2003
“When Atlantis became popular in the late nineteenth century...”
Coast to Coast, Dr. Eric Davis interview, "Pentagon UFO Study,” June 24, 2017.
Also, a special thanks to:
Roberto Labanti, author of “Totò e i dischi di Atlantide”
UFO - Rivista di informazione ufologica No. 43, Sept. 2017 pps. 38-43
Isaac Koi, for his preservation of UFO documents.
. . .
Bonus: A Book Review of Venus Speaks
From Uranus Vol. 1 No. 2, Oct. 1954, edited by E. Biddle, a review of Venus Speaks by Cyril Richardson, Regency Press, 1954:
It is claimed that the contents of this little book were obtained by direct telepathy from the Chief Scientist of the planet Venus! It is a book which will appeal to some, while others will be strongly repelled by it.
The Venusians, we are told, were originally natives of Earth and lived here in the days of' Atlantis and the old Inca civilisation of S. America. Until one day strangers filled with greed came to the land of the Incas (we are not told who the strangers were but it was evidently long before the days of the Spanish conquistadores). Where upon the Incas took to flight in spaceships and after finding the Moon unsuitable, went on to Venus, where they settled and lived in peace and harmony, despite what must have seemed a very trying climate. From time to time they kept an eye on the Earth and of late have been very active in the Flying Saucers. Their motives are wholly friendly and they promise us instant and decisive help should an atomic war start. If, however, their help is on a par with their scientific knowledge as expounded in this book, we should do well not to rely too much on it!
The latter part of the book contains interesting remarks on Diet, Sound Vibrations, the Power of Thought etc.
Quite fantastic and entirely contrary to elementary scientific facts, however, are many of the statements regarding the origin and end of worlds, conditions on other planets (including Venus!), the past history of the Earth, etc.
Indeed, I find it impossible to take this part of the book seriously, though others may think differently, of course. If you have an inclination towards the hazier forms of Theosophy, Occultism, Spiritualism, etc you may be glad to have this book. If, on the other hand, these things are anathema to you, you will do better not to listen to the voice of Venus....