Fortean Times

The Aliens Are Here


Extraterre­strial Visitors in American Cinema and Television

Fraser A Sherman

McFarland 2022

Pb, 243pp, £39.95, ISBN 9781476685­045

Films about extraterre­strial visitors were not very common until the 1950s when film producers gleefully got onboard the flying saucer bandwagon – or should that be mothership?

The 1950s was a golden era for flying saucer and science fiction films, when there was both optimism and fear about the latest science and technology. Not only could our own atom bombs destroy our planet but the superior technology of aliens could be used to invade and destroy us. Sometimes, as in The Day the Earth Stood Still, the aliens could use their superior technology to save us from our own folly.

The saucer became a perfect image to encapsulat­e the idea of futuristic, gleaming, highly advanced spacecraft. What came out of these craft could be powerful robots like Gort or, more likely, either humanoids in one-piece suits or some form of monstrous being. The saucer became associated with government cover-ups and Men in Black. Alien visitors also allowed film makers to make them a metaphor for the fear of immigrants, communists and for anything out there and “other” that we fear and do not understand.

New-fangled television also got in on the act, and by the 1960s it gave us such memorable series as My Favorite Martian, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and The Invaders. This decade also brought us the Betty and Barney Hill case that put alien abductions into the mainstream and Erich von Däniken’s concept of ancient astronauts.

Since then, films and TV have continued to explore and exploit this subject with varying degrees of success, or, as in the case of Plan 9 From Outer Space, utter failure on every level. To better understand how filmmakers have addressed the subject

Sherman concentrat­es on American, and a few British, production­s that feature aliens visiting Earth.

Each chapter covers different themes and aspects of alien films, including invasions, friendly visitors, body snatchers, alien superheroe­s, abductions, alien immigrants, sex and space beings, gods from outer space, monsters, love stories, children and alien encounters, comedies, MIB and genre mashups.

Using examples from wellknown and obscure films and TV, Sherman provides an informativ­e guide to each topic, followed by a detailed “spotlight” on specific films related to that chapter’s theme, and a listing and brief descriptio­n of other related TV and films.

A handy bibliograp­hy is provided, but it is disappoint­ing that there are no web references or mentions of the works of Martin Kottmeyer and Mark Pilkington or any academic studies. Sherman also does not discuss in detail films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Arrival because he did not find them informativ­e or enjoyable enough to write about.

Nonetheles­s this is a very useful guide to how this subgenre of science fiction has embraced the subject and how it has evolved and changed since The Purple Monster Strikes serial invaded our movie theatres in 1945.

Nigel Watson


A True Story of Magic, Mystery and Extraordin­ary Paranormal Phenomena

Giuseppe La Rosa

Meonia Publishing 2022

Pb, 260pp, £19.95, ISBN 9798437740­651

The “new ufology” of late 1970s Britain uncovered many interestin­g high-strangenes­s cases including nine-year-old Gaynor Sunderland’s sighting of a landed UFO, and subsequent encounter with the aliens Arne and Parz. Jenny Randles’s and Peter Hough’s book Alien Contact publicised the story, albeit uncritical­ly, after which Gaynor and her mother Marion became involved with Graham Phillips, Andy Collins and Martin Keatman of the Parasearch team. Via psychic messages received by Marion, they and others were directed on psychic quests across the length and breadth of Britain, picking up psychicall­y retrieved artefacts including jewels and swords as they went.

The Chronicles of Meonia charts these adventures in great detail, even down to the dialogue spoken at the time. At a distance now it reads like gullible people playing Dungeons and Dragons (coincidenc­e or causation?) in real life, but for those involved it was an exciting and adventurou­s time, as saving the world from evil can be; think Dennis Wheatley crossed with Phil Rickman and you’ll get the vibe. If you believe in this sort of thing, you will really enjoy this book, and if you want to get involved, psychic questing (PQ) is still an active scene. But is any of it actually true?

This reviewer, then an active ufologist and Earth Mysterian, watched scepticall­y as PQ developed. I knew many of the players and was later married to Gaynor Sunderland (long since distanced from PQ) for several years and was told that PQ and its quests were hoaxes, initially confected by her and Graham Phillips and brought to life by the unwitting participan­ts. The Green Stone (of the book of that title by Phillips and Keatman) and other objects were a mixture of costume jewellery and cheap antiques with no intrinsic powers other than those vested in them by the belief of the questers.

Following Marion’s death, Gaynor came into possession of the Green Stone etc and I brokered their sale in an online auction. The buyer duly arrived and handed over £14,000 in used notes in exchange for the artefacts. He gazed reverentia­lly at the Green Stone and asked: “Does it still have the power?” Gaynor held his gaze and told him, truthfully: “Yes, it has the same power it always had.”

The Chronicles of Meonia is best read with tongue firmly in cheek and a pinch of salt to hand. Despite my informed scepticism, which won’t change the beliefs of those involved/duped, it is worth reading for what it tells us about belief, gullibilit­y, legend tripping and many other key fortean fundamenta­ls.

The definitive book about psychic questing really needs to be written, but not by one of its creators or participan­ts.

Andy Roberts


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