Last week I went to see the new film, The War of the Worlds
. I still remember how frightened I was by the 1950s film, and I had always been fascinated by the 1938 Halloween incident, when millions mistook Orson Welles’s radio dramatization of the 1898 H.G. Wells novel for a real report of invaders from outer space. Having grown up in New Jersey, I wanted to see how “Grover’s Mills” or its analogue Garden State village would be portrayed in this Steven Spielberg remake. His film has Bayonne as the landing place of the aliens, and Tom Cruise as a divorced longshoreman who, with his weekend-visiting children, spends 90 cinematic minutes fleeing the death-dealing robotic invaders.
Wells’s story is said to have been inspired by Boston astronomer Percival Lowell’s writings about the “canals on Mars.” (Lowell mistranslated Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli’s canali–lines–for human-constructed “canals”) Lowell’s books on Mars were bestsellers, and though dismissed by professional astronomers, he singlehandedly spread the idea–still, amazingly, alive at NASA, witness last year’s Mars lander hype–of life on Mars. But for Americans in 1898, there was a much more dramatic possible inspiration for Wells’s story of visitors from another planet.
In American skies from California to Texas and north to Minnesota, in late 1896 to early 1897, thousands of people saw strange, unknown craft that they called "airships." Airships were variously explained as kites, balloons, the planet Venus, the star Sirius, or just plain hoaxes or fakes. Many explained what they saw as ships from an abandoned civilization on Mars.
The people who saw the mysterious airships also saw and heard the ship’s “pilots” and/or passengers. During the first sighting in Sacramento, several people reported hearing voices from the ship, including one that said: “Well, we ought to reach San Francisco by tomorrow noon.” Others heard laughter. Within a week or so, the airships were seen in San Francisco, by even more observers, and on December 2nd, two Italian fishermen offshore from Pacific Grove, watched a craft swoop down and land on the beach. When three occupants emerged and carried their ship into the woods, the fishermen headed into shore to speak with them. One of the aeronauts stopped and argued with the fishermen, and then allowed them to approach. Coming closer, they saw a 60-foot long cigar shaped object with retractable wings.
The next night, in Twin Peaks California, a similar craft crashed. Witnesses noticed a foul-smelling gas coming from the structure. A man calling himself “J.D. DeGear” emerged and said that this was the airship’s initial flight, and was not connected with any of the other ships sighted.
After a few months quiet, on April Fool’s Day in 1897, the airships started to appear again, this time in Kansas City, Missouri. Around 8 PM a powerful searchlight swept the air, the streets, the housetops and bluffs around the town, attracting attention, and the streets were soon filled with people watching the show. For more than an hour it hovered and wobbled, flashing its light beam along the horizon, then finally it lifted off, growing smaller as it climbed swiftly and vanished to the Northwest. A few minutes later, it was sighted over Everest, Kansas, sixty miles away.
There were thousands of witnesses to the Kansas City sighting, including the governor and many other officials, professionals, and ordinary citizens. All agreed that the unknown vehicle had made abrupt changes in direction and made other strange maneuvers. Once, for a few moments, it had extinguished its light and hung over the city as a dark, motionless mass. Then finally, after almost ninety minutes of aerial display, it was gone.
Suddenly, it seemed as if the heartland of the nation was under siege by an aerial armada of searchlight-equipped airships. The first week of April saw hundreds of reported sightings in Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri, then the phenomenon spread northeastward to Burlington, Iowa. The airships then turned east through Illinois, appearing in Chicago on April 10. People watched the flickering green and red lights from the top of a downtown skyscraper.
Again, there were reports of “close encounters.” In Springfield, Missouri, a traveling salesman was driving his wagon when he suddenly saw an airship on the ground – and two creatures "dressed in nature's garb." Hopkins described to his local newspaper how the odd naked couple had communicated with him telepathically, inviting him into the airship, which then began to rise. Hopkins panicked and jumped off before it got far off of the ground.
Mysterious, advanced technology spacecraft. Naked, mind-reading aliens. The smell of fire & brimstone. Nonsensical stories. April Fool’s Day. In 1897, nearly fifty years before what is regarded as the official beginning of the “UFO era,” in 1945.
Things have only gotten wierder since then. I did a quick search for the week of the release of War of the Worlds
and found: Over Jalapa Mexico, a huge flotilla of UFOs were seen by thousands on successive nights; television crews filmed them. UFO reports came in from New Hampshire, Michigan, Arizona, Connecticut, Texas, Oklahoma. A 22-year-old woman in Queensland, Australia, who saw while driving, a 7’ tall, scaly, ashen-colored creature with the torso of a man and the head of a locust. In South Bend, Indiana, a number of people called police to report an escaped kangaroo, but there was no zoo in town from which it might have escaped. The same day, War of the Worlds
star Tom Cruise snapped at a German magazine reporter who asked him about his allegiance to Scientology and his belief in life on other planets: "'Are you really so arrogant as to believe we are alone in this universe? Millions of stars, and we're supposed to be the only living creatures? No, there are many things out there. We just don't know."
A few nights after this, to “illuminate” listeners whose curiosity and fears about alien invasion might be rekindled by Spielberg’s movie, Larry King had on a panel of “experts” who succeeded in muddying the waters of knowledge about extraterrestrial life, UFOs, and alien abduction even more than it might have already been in their own minds. Too bad Larry wasn’t able to invite Cotton Mather, who would certainly have recognized these sky visitors as demons, or an expert on the Koran, which teaches that the jinn (which translates to mean “something hidden from view”) are beings that attempt to turn humans from God. Mather would no doubt have quoted the Apostle Paul, who wrote, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the powers and principalities of the air." Indeed.
The battle with these powers and principalities -- demonic denizens of an unseen world -- has been going on for millennia, but the 20th century, especially in America, saw the demons, the jinn, increasingly make themselves temporarily at home in our world. In 1897 it was only telegraph lines that went haywire when the airships appeared; today, UFO sightings routinely see: cell phones and television sets and computers go dead; car alarms sound; hundreds of electronic door locks in shopping mall parking lots all seize up simultaneously. A few cattle, sheep, and chickens disappeared from midwest farms in 1897; in recent decades, livestock and domestic pets have been found mutilated in ways that baffle both seasoned ranchers and wildlife biologists, but not exorcists and demonologists. The turn of the century episode saw a few fishermen and farmers who encountered fairly friendly spectral airship pilots. The last half century has seen millions of Americans claim that when they were lifted aboard spaceships, the occupants performed horrific acts upon them, akin to what prisoners at Abu Ghairab and Guantanamo have suffered at the hands of their captors.
Many people who have been abducted –and tortured– claim that their captors are really benevolent, interested in the destiny of humankind. They return from their nighttime wanderings with messages from the aliens that man must stop destroying the earth, or they will soon perish. John Mack, the Harvard psychologist, who, with funding provided by Woodstock's own Laurance Rockefeller, celebrated alien abduction as a “transformational experience,” wrote: “The aliens stress the evolutionary aspect of the species-joining process, the repopulation of the Earth subsequent to a total environmental collapse.” How can one love the earth, and wish to preserve it, if one’s ‘love of the earth’ is the product of abduction, terror, and violation of one’s human integrity?
Similar salvific messages come from a host of channeled voices, many of whom claim to be angels or gods who actually created humanity. Prominent among these voices are ones who identify themselves as “Melchizedek,” “Enoch,” and “Metatron.” Metatron is the name of an Archangel. Enoch is an Old Testament prophet deemed immortal. Melchizedek is identified in the Old Testament as Abraham’s master, thought to represent humanity’s original and perennial knowledge of Truth.
If there is anything one can say about the slippery jinn who have been pouring through the fissures opening up between the subtle world and our physical world, it is that they have little relationship to the Truth. Indeed, their hallmark is deception. If, as Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them,” a cursory review of the history of airships and UFOs and alien abduction will provide a cornucopia of rotten fruits.
Here in the daylight world of Woodstock, the myth of the UFO is rather unappealing, and rather unworthy to be spoken of or thought about. Yet it is a myth -- and a sinister reality-- with which I believe we all need to reckon. It is a “sign of our times,” that the “visitors from outer space” are insistently telling us that “higher beings” are preparing to usher in mankind’s true cosmic destiny. This is not an April Fool’s Joke, but a counterfeit of an imminent truth – that not Christ, but the being who is “the ape of God,” the Antichrist, is finding a convivial home on the planet at this time. All of the contemporary responses to UFOs – the view of the aliens as redeemers of humanity and the planet Earth; the suspicion of dark govenmental conspiracies seeking to cover up the “reality” of UFOs and aliens; even the scientistic rejection of all eyewitness and other physical evidence as pure projection and hallucination– only serve the ends of the fallen jinn, in their perennial, and presently fully apocalyptic quest to deceive and confuse humankind.
Never since the beginning of the Christian era have demons appeared so openly and extensively as today, and their message is crystal clear: “Prepare for a savior; however, expect deliverance, not from the Christian revelation and faith in an unseen God, but from vehicles in the sky.” We do need to prepare ourselves for this ersatz savior, this impersonation of Christ, and one of the precursors to recognizing this false savior is to see his preparatory legions for what they are – superficially clever, cloyingly solicitous, and existentially absurd, pests. That a lifeform so much lower than the human has maneuvered itself into a position of being worshiped is a clear sign that the time is ripe for a much larger deception to play itself out on the stage of human history.