George Adamski played a crucial role in the development of the UFO myths of the twentieth century. Though little remembered today, his theories about UFOs, the beings behind the UFOs, their mission and what it meant to Earthlings, are still being carried forward by UFO believers today.

George Adamski was born on April 17, 1891, in Poland. His parents emigrated to the US about a year later. From 1913 to 1916, he was a member of the US cavalry stationed on the Mexican border. Between 1916 and 1926, he was a maintenance worker at Yellowstone National Park, a flour mill worker and a concrete contractor. In 1926, he started teaching Eastern philosophy (he was self-taught in the subject). During the 1930's, he took the title "Professor" and started The Royal Order of Tibet Monastery in Laguna Beach. Why a monastery? Because he could get a special license to make wine for religious purposes during prohibition. He later remarked, "I made enough wine for all of Southern California!" Prohibition ended, however, and put him out of the sacramental wine business. If this hadn't happened, he explained, "I wouldn't have had to get into this saucer crap."

During WWII, he and his wife Mary helped run a hamburger stand on the road that led to the Mount Palomar Hale telescope called Mount Palomar Gardens. Adamski got his own telescopes and became an amateur astronomer and photographer. He also continued to give lectures on Eastern philosophy at the establishment. On June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold saw some objects in the sky that he told the press, "flew like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water." This would become Adamski's new career.

Here's what Adamski claims happened: he saw his first saucer while watching a meteor shower on October 9, 1946 (before Arnold, you notice). He started watching in earnest and spotted flying saucers on a regular basis, including a procession of 184 flying saucers he saw in August 1947. In 1949, two men, Joseph Maxwell and Gene Bloom of the Naval Electronics Laboratory at Point Loma near San Diego, stopped in at the hamburger stand for lunch. Adamski talked to them and claims they asked him to take photographs of the flying saucers and send them to the lab. He attached his camera to his telescope and began to search for photographable flying saucers. He was lucky, he got several pictures, two of which he considered good quality (and they were indeed). These he said he turned over to Bloom.

Adamski then turned into a minor local celebrity. He would give lectures (for money) and show his photographs to the crowd and tell them all about the flying saucers and how he thought they worked and what he thought their mission was. He would tell people that people at the Naval Electronics Laboratory were collaborating with him on the saucer hunt and that they had verified his photos as genuine.

In 1951 and 1952, Adamski heard of flying saucers being spotted in the desert east of Mount Palomar and made many trips out to see if he could see them, but he had no luck. However, on Thursday, November 20, 1952, he set out into the desert with a small party of his friends in two cars. Suddenly, they saw a huge cigar-shaped space ship! Adamski said, "Someone take me down the road - quick! That ship has come looking for me and I don't want to keep them waiting!" His friends drove him down the road and dropped him off. He told them not to come back for an hour, unless he signaled. The large UFO left the area, but a smaller scout ship showed up (which he took pictures of). Suddenly, he realized he wasn't alone and, turning around, met his first "Space Brother".

The space man looked just like a regular human, but more beautiful and serene. He was wearing a one-piece outfit with a built-in belt that was loose in the arms and legs but tight at the ankles and wrists. They had a conversation using hand signals, a few words of english and mental telepathy (more on the substance of the conversation later). The space man left some special footprints in the dirt that had weird symbols on them. The space man then took him back to see his space ship (which looked just like the one in the photos, of course), but wouldn't let him ride in it because he had to leave. The visitor did, however, promise to return. Before he left, he asked Adamski for one of his films (they were individual films, not a roll), promising to return it. Adamski rejoined his friends and they made sketches and plaster moulds of the footprints.

Adamski waited with quivering alertness and not in vain. Later that year, on the 13th of December, he saw a craft approach his location and hover overhead (he took more pictures). A window opened and a hand dropped the film holder out of the window. The craft then left, but not before one of his friends also snapped a photo of it, using a Brownie camera. When developed, the film turned out to be a double exposure, with his photo and another photo of a "symbolic message", which he turned over to some scientists for evaluation.

All of this was pure bunk, of course. In later years, all of his friends and the people at the Naval Electronics Laboratory would recant or claim that Adamski invented most of it. The photos were good, but we can now tell that they were just too good. In retrospect, it's obvious that he made up a model and photographed it at a distance with his telescope. You have to give him credit, though, for thinking up "contact" methods that couldn't be proved wrong: anything could have made the footprints and a film is a film, there's no way to prove that a space man didn't expose it.

Adamski wrote up his story and quickly got it into a British UFO book that was just going to press called Flying Saucers Have Landed, which sold over 100,000 copies. After this success, he got some rides in the space ships (and had lengthy conversations with the Space Brothers) and was able to write Inside the Spaceships and Flying Saucers Farewell (this last being mostly philosophical, rather than an account of more contacts).

Before we move on to the message, it's important to review the state of UFO knowledge and the world at the time. The Air Force was investigating, but had released no large, official reports. The biggest stir so far had been an article by Donald Keyhoe in True magazine titled, The Flying Saucers Are Real. The article was widely read and instilled the beginnings of what are now universal memes: disk-shaped objects have been seen, they are alien spacecraft, they can do things no human craft can do, they are here to observe human activity (especially the atomic bomb tests of the time) and the US government is trying to cover the whole thing up to prevent panic. (note that the coverup idea goes all the way back to January 1950, when that article appeared). It's also a good idea to note what we knew about space travel at the time: zilch. The average American was completely ignorant of any kind of astronomical or astrophysical knowledge (much like today, but perhaps more a charming innocence than today's willful ignorance). No one knew what conditions were like in space or on any of the other planets. We didn't even have good knowledge of our own atmosphere. Lastly, it's worth mentioning that the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still came out in 1951, setting standards for how spacecraft and alien visitors should look and act. Adamski toured his message all over the world, even meeting heads of state and other dignitaries.

The message that the Space Brothers gave Adamski over his several meetings was straight out of his Eastern philosophical background:

  • advanced human beings inhabit all of the planets, even the gas giants (the moon, too, since it has an atmosphere - but all of the cities on the moon are on the other side)
  • the planets themselves are all living beings as well - they grow old and die
  • the Space Brothers travel between planets using natural lines of magnetic force and there are really twelve planets in our solar system.
  • they live very long lives due to their advanced mental states and lack of stress (and they were all vegetarians who only ate meat in emergencies)
  • they believe in a "Creator of All", but they understand much better and adhere to the "Laws of the Creator" and not the "laws of materialism" as crass Earthmen do
  • the purpose of their visit is to see what these dangerous Earthmen were up to: our testing of nuclear bombs was releasing radiation into space (where it was more powerful and dangerous than on Earth) and we might just mess up the whole solar system, maybe the galaxy, by our clumsiness
  • no matter what, they would never use violence and would never hurt a human being because advanced people never hurt others

Added to this, Adamski had some conclusions of his own:
  • he extensively used Biblical quotations to "prove" that the earth has been visited by men from other planets over the years and that they are part of Gods' plan - he also ties in the Great Pyramid, Stonehenge and other ancient artifacts and writing as part of this proof
  • he claimed that "all the various governments of the world" had evidence of UFO visitations, but were witholding the evidence. He knew this by direct conversation with various high officials and heads of state. (curiously, they didn't bother to keep their secrets from him at all)
  • he believed that a secret organization, which he dubbed the "Silence Group", was trying to prevent him from telling his story
  • the reason that space craft started showing up in the US in 1947 was because the US bounced a radar beam off of the moon in 1946. This beam "hit the edge of the moon and richocheted into space, alerting watchers at their instruments on Mars and Venus". They subsequently investigated the source of the radar pulse, thinking it had been a distress signal. Since the pulse came from the US, that's where they investigated first.
  • radio communication between the space men and earthly scientists was commonplace in the 1950's and early 1960's. Evidently, the various governments of the world kept the scientists hushed up.
  • He claimed the spacemen live among us, working in the scientific community, trying to help us achieve better technology. Once, on a train, he accidentally bumped into a space man and shared a compartment with him.

We shouldn't let the wacko nature of all of this overshadow its intellectual achievement. Adamski was the first contactee and he set the stage for the whole New Age interpretation of the UFO phenomenon that was to come. The Cold War was flaming hot in the early 1950's and this sort of tale was lapped up by people all over the world who wanted with all their heart to believe it was true. Generations of UFO mythologists such as Erich von Däniken, Zecharia Sitchin, Graham Hancock and Whitley Strieber owe him for inventing the field. It's hard to imagine that Sitchin doesn't get at least some of his propensity to misinterpret the Bible from Adamski and it's pretty coincidental that his whacky cosmology has twelve planets in our solar system as well. Hancock loves to bring the Great Pyramid into his ufology, but Adamski plowed that ground long ago. Strieber's aliens are creepy, but Adamski had the contact idea when Whitley was in grade school (and his "aliens" were humans who could be cute and sexy - much easier to sell than "creepy"). Of course, Adamski can't take credit for the parts he cribbed from The Day the Earth Stood Still, but he gave back to the genre far more than he took.

There's a lesson here about pseudoscience. Adamski was, by all accounts, very honest and well-intentioned in his demeanor. He looked like a benevolent uncle, with iron gray hair and very pleasant features. His story sounded credible, he even had pictures to back it up (showing that a man good with his hands could put together really good fake UFO photos in the 1950s). He had contact with the FBI and other government sources (they were telling him not to use them to back up his story, but he just turned that around and said that they told him to keep quiet about certain things) and he had witnesses who swore in writing that they saw parts of his tale happen (of course, what they swore to and what he printed in the book turned out to be somewhat different). The average American at the time simply had no facts to bring to bear that would refute his tale. The answer, of course, is the scientific method. No matter how credible his claims, they don't stand up to the basics of science. None of it was repeatable. No one else -outside his circle of friends- was seeing these saucers that practically littered the sky around Mount Palomar. None of it fit into the existing body of science. In fact, much of it, like his magnetic propulsion system and his civilization on the moon and his tale of space being full of twinkling fireflies of light were at odds with high school physics. None of it could be falsified. As with much pseudoscience today, it just doesn't wash - even if you don't have a lot of facts or aren't familiar with the field you can still spot pseudoscience if you know how. As everyone should know by now, "Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof".

So, in the end was Adamski a lunatic who dreamed up a sort of alternate world where his Eastern philosophy could flower to the point of being a universal truth; a balm to the worried masses? Or was he a cynical con artist who milked the cold war fears and longing for a better world that he found in his fellow humans for all it was worth? I think the answer is between the two extremes. There seems to be fair evidence that Adamski really believed his philosophy. He gave impromptu lectures on Eastern philosophy at Mount Palomar Gardens for free. As far as we know, he never conned anyone out of any large sums of money (and I think he could have if he had wanted to). I think he had a philosophy - a way of thinking - a utopian dream - and he saw the UFO phenomenon as the best way to get that philosophy out to the masses. If he made a buck in the process, well that was a good thing.

He died in 1965, shortly after shooting some spectacular 8mm film of his Space Brothers coming to meet him after a lapse of many years. I, for one, hope he rests in peace. He was a very lovable nut.


Sources:

Flying Saucers Have Landed, © 1953 Desmond Leslie & George Adamski, published by The British Book Centre, Inc.

Inside the Space Ships,, © 1955 George Adamski, published by Paperback Library, Inc

Flying Saucers Farewell, © 1961 George Adamski, published by Abelard-Schuman, Ltd

Watch the Skies!, © 1994 Curtis Peebles, published by The Berkeley Publishing Group, ISBN 0-425-15117-4

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