PETER BROOKESMITH sur­veys the lat­est fads and flaps from the world of ufo­log­i­cal re­search

Fortean Times - - CONTENTS -

As promised ( FT360:28), Alan God­frey’s book Who or What Were They? has been pur­chased, read twice, and here is a con­sid­ered opin­ion.

Like the cu­rate’s egg, it’s good in parts. Let’s get the bad bits out of the way first. The type­set­ting is con­spic­u­ously am­a­teur. Hav­ing been brought up with hot-metal set­ting and the crafts­men who came with it, this (a prod­uct of no train­ing and the pit­falls of desk­top pub­lish­ing) drives me nuts. And then there’s the Near English, as in: “The met­al­work shook as it dipped be­neath the Ir­ish Sea and a cir­cle closed in a cos­mic sym­phony rid­dled with co­in­ci­dence.” Parse that, and de­spair, even be­fore you try to pick that weird metaphor apart. From ge­niuses to job­bing hacks, all au­thors need an ed­i­tor (TS Eliot knew he did; so should you), and Oz Fac­tor Books should at least have em­ployed a de­cent proof­reader be­fore com­mit­ting to print.

As to the story. There are two, pos­si­bly three, books strug­gling to fit into this one vol­ume. One is Alan God­frey’s strange ‘ufo­log­i­cal’ ex­pe­ri­ence on Tod­mor­den’s Burn­ley Road in 1981 and its not very help­ful hyp­no­sis-in­duced epi­logue. An­other is God­frey’s biography and time as a beat po­lice­man be­fore the days of quo­tas, boxtick­ing and po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. This is si­mul­ta­ne­ously dispir­it­ing and re­fresh­ing to read: how things have gone awry since the days of leav­ing Mr Plod to ex­er­cise com­mon sense and his own judge­ment – but the way th­ese blunt but de­vi­ous York­shire cop­pers dealt with bright-spark new in­spec­tors with daft new wheezes is both comic and right­eous. Then there is the fall-out, and strange in­ter­nal po­lice pol­i­tics, from God­frey’s ‘UFO’ en­counter or, per­haps more ac­cu­rately, from the at­ten­tion and pub­lic­ity he had be­cause of it. Granted, th­ese strands are not al­ways wholly dis­tinct, but a greater sep­a­ra­tion and rein­te­gra­tion would have made a bet­ter-struc­tured, and ergo eas­ier to fol­low, story.

Although we lack any other side of the story, it seems that God­frey was in­deed per­se­cuted as a re­sult of his strange ex­pe­ri­ence and, in bait­ing him, on some oc­ca­sions one hand of the po­lice hi­er­ar­chy didn’t know what the other was do­ing; so he would be for­bid­den to speak about UFOs one day, then given per­mis­sion to do so, then re­ceived a right bol­lock­ing for it the day af­ter. It doesn’t seem to have oc­curred to God­frey why the West York­shire Po­lice brasshats wanted him to shut up and, prefer­ably, be off the force. I’d imag­ine it was be­cause they feared that should he one day have to ap­pear as a key wit­ness in a ma­jor case, a de­fence barrister would surely bring all this up to un­der­mine his cred­i­bil­ity. None­the­less, his se­niors seem to have had as much skill in man-man­age­ment as a pig has in poledanc­ing, but with­out the porcine sense of hu­mour. To his credit, God­frey with­stood their de­vi­ous, de­ceit­ful bul­ly­ing – al­beit at the ex­pense of veer­ing dan­ger­ously near al­co­holism – un­til a fra­cas ag­gra­vated an old in­jury and he re­tired on health grounds.

Which leaves us with his ‘UFO’ ex­pe­ri­ence. God­frey is al­most ret­i­cent about this, although it’s his main claim to fame. There is more in­for­ma­tive de­tail about it in Jenny Ran­dles’s The Pen­nine

UFO Mys­tery (Granada, 1983), out of print lo, th­ese many years. God­frey seems to as­sume that his read­ers are al­ready fa­mil­iar with all that, which is a stretch, af­ter so long. And he doesn’t ad­dress any of the ques­tions raised by forteans, no­tably the de­tailed anal­y­sis of the case pre­sented first at the FT UnCon in 2008 and printed, greatly ex­panded, in FT it­self ( FT269:44-47 and FT270:46-49) in 2010/11. He does make a pass­ing men­tion of the fly­ing- saucer-shaped Fu­turo house in Tod­mor­den: “That house would fig­ure in my story years later and gave noc­tur­nal plea­sure flights over Tod – if you be­lieve some of the more imag­i­na­tive UFO skep­tics!” This is as daft (and in­ac­cu­rate) as the claim that crit­ics say that ‘fly­ing light­houses’ were re­spon­si­ble for the Rendle­sham For­est In­ci­dent. So God­frey, how­ever un­in­ten­tion­ally, joins him­self to the ‘I know what I saw’ bri­gade of UFO ex­pe­ri­ents. In par­tic­u­lar, he doesn’t dis­cuss his other vi­sion­ary ex­pe­ri­ences, which are re­counted in Jenny Ran­dles’s book, and are scarcely with­out bear­ing on his ‘UFO’ episode. Self-ex­am­i­na­tion is not God­frey’s strong­est point, it seems. We don’t get much about the story he told un­der hyp­no­sis ei­ther, ex­cept the grim af­ter-ef­fects – and three or four ac­counts of his throw­ing up may count as too much in­for­ma­tion.

Jenny Ran­dles adds an Af­ter­word, in which she sticks to her in­sis­tence that there’s such a thing as a plasma vor­tex the size of a bus, and spec­u­lates about par­al­lel uni­verses. ‘New wit­ness’, bus driver Bob Coates, who was on the same road as God­frey at about the same time as his sight­ing, saw noth­ing more than a small whirl­wind whip­ping up some leaves, which doesn’t re­ally prove a great deal about the ‘UFO’.

It’s an odd book, then. But def­i­nitely worth a look; es­pe­cially if you’re in­ter­ested in the mu­ta­tions of po­lice cor­rup­tion, alias nor­mal prac­tice, in the 1970s and ’80s.

ABOVE: A Fu­turo house; Alan doesn’t think the one in Tod­mor­den had any bear­ing on his close en­counter.

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