This summer marks the 50th anniversary of my major involvement in ufology, for it was then that I bought in one of the Manchester bookshops, now long gone, a copy of the magazine format Flying Saucer Menace written by Brad Steiger in the days before he found the New Age. It was 64 pages of sensationalist text, photos of UFO luminaries and lots of photos of UFOs, of varying degrees of dubiousness. This re-kindled my enthusiasm for the subject and shortly thereafter I got hold of paperback copies of Frank Edwards’ Flying Saucers Serious Business and Coral Lorenzen’s Flying Saucers the Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space, as well as the much more sober and worthy Challenge to Science by Jacques and Janine Vallee, not to mention Arthur Shuttlewood’s Warminster Mystery.
The source of most of my books at that period was Lionel Beer who sold loads of UFO books that weren’t regularly in the shops. I started to develop an interest in historical UFO reports and come up with theories that I tried out on Lionel.
It was from him that I started to get copies of Flying Saucer Review, the first being the September/October 1967 issue which featured a headline “Was it a landing at Marliens?", which was about a hole in a field in France. Holes in fields in those days were taken as evidence of UFOs landing. It also featured the mysterious tale of the 'Extraordinary Happenings in Casa Blanca' about some extremely strange things seen by a group of Californian children back in 1955. Had this story been dated 1967, we might have assumed that the youngsters had found the stash of mom and dad’s less than legal substances - but 1955? For Christmas that year I got some back issues of FSR, a copy of their special issue The Humanoids and a couple of more Steigers: Strangers from the Skies and Flying Saucers are Hostile, the last co-written with Joan Whritenour, the editor of a magazine called Saucer Scoop.
You are starting to get the picture of the obsessions of late 1960s ufology, it was blood, guts, burnings, and generally nastiness attributed to flying saucers. Two more titles add to the mix, one edited by Steiger and Whritenour entitled Flying Saucer Invasion Target Earth and another by Ray Palmer The Real UFO Invasion.
These themes of invasion and hostility marked the turbulence of the times, as UFO wave followed UFO wave, the TV screens were filled with the battle images of the Vietnam War, China was convulsed by the Cultural Revolution, youth cults abounded. Britain had two major UFO waves in 1967, one in the summer, another in late autumn. Britain had its own troubles, an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, then in the autumn there was devaluation which the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson assured us would not affect the pound in our pockets and there was own mini-Vietnam, Aden, which marked the final symbolic defeat of the British Empire. The world was stumbling towards the apocalyptic year of 1968, the year in which a little duplicated magazine called the Merseyside UFO Bulletin was born.