As far as I am aware AFU, Archives for the Unexplained, is the worlds largest UFO/Fortean archive and library. But perhaps we also have the oldest still active UFO society in Sweden? On October 1, 1958 Malmö UFO-Sällskap (Malmö UFO-Society) was founded. In 1962 they adopted the new name Malmö Interplanetariska Sällskap (MIS) (Malmö Interplanetary Society). They are still very much active with monthly lectures and what is even more remarkable, one of the original members, Mr. Ebbe Johansson is today the energetic chairman. Ebbe recently celebrated his 85th birthday.
In the autumn of 1958 Karl and Anny Veit from the Deutsche UFO/IFO Studiengesellschaft (DUIST) were invited to Sweden by Edith Nicolaisen, founder of the Parthenon publishing house. Karl Veit lectured in Malmö and Helsingborg. To advertise the lecture a large poster was printed which was carried around in the streets of Malmö by the then young ufologist Alve Holmqvist. Unfortunately no journalist or photographer immortalized this original idea. Partly as a result of the Veit lecture MIS was founded, basically as a lecturing society.
Karl Veit in Edith Nicolaisens´ apartment in Helsingborg 1958
The poster carried around in Malmö by Alve Holmqvist
Alve Holmqvist in June 1972
MIS was not the first UFO society in Sweden. Together with Brita Rodosi, secretary in the Götaland district of the Theosophical Society (Adyar), new age activist Edith Nicolaisen succeeded in founding Sällskapet för interplanetariska studier (The Society for Interplanetary Studies) at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg on March 19, 1958. This group of UFO-interested technology students soon disbanded but it was the first attempt to found a UFO society in Sweden. Not more than four days later, on March 23, 1958 Ifologiska sällskapet (The Ifological Society) was founded in Stockholm. This group was also an offshoot of the Theosophical Society in Sweden (Adyar). Ifologiska sällskapet folded in 1969.
Since 1958 Malmö Interplanetary Society has arranged a lecture every month except during the summer time. Subjects are UFOs, astronomy, space research, ancient mysteries, parapsychology, mysticism and a whole range of other topics, sometimes presented by academic scholars. Besides lectures MIS has arranged many types of social activities: study tours, field trips, Christmas and jubilee festivities, even masquerades. In 1988 MIS published a small jubilee booklet with the ingenious title Thirty Years in the Twilight Zone.
Ebbe Johansson and Svend Pohlman entertaining at a MIS party
Ragnar Olssson and Ebbe Johansson at a MIS lecture September 4, 2009
Ebbe Johansson is one of the real oldboys of Swedish ufology. He joined MIS already in 1958 and has during various periodes acted as chairman and has also been a well known lecturer on UFOs in different organizations and clubs. His interests ranges from astronomy and speleology to electronic voice phenomena (EVP) and philosophy. In 2010 MIS joined the national organization UFO-Sweden which for us felt like a historical moment and an honour to have incorporated the oldest still active UFO society in Sweden - and perhaps in the world?
There are two basic ideas or themes presented in my latest book Gudarna återvänder. Ufo och den esoteriska traditionen (Return of the Gods. UFOs and the Esoteric Tradition). First and foremost I have documented the ideological influences of the Esoteric Tradition on the historical development of the global UFO movement. Secondly the book is an attempt to interpret the various aspects of the UFO phenomenon using the esoteric worldview as a paradigm or working hypothesis. Esotericism as presented by Helena Blavatsky, Charles Leadbeater, Geoffrey Hodson, Cyril Scott, Alice Bailey and Henry T. Laurency.
The perhaps most controversial part of the book is my theory that some of the first generation physical contactees were actually involved in an test by a secret, benevolent, earth based group with access to an advanced "vimana" technology, possibly in co-operation with an extraterrestrial group. I specifically refer to Orfeo Angelucci, George Adamski, George Van Tassel, Daniel Fry and Howard Menger. The test put a tremendous psychological strain on the contactees who sometimes acted irrationally and didn´t understand what was happening to them.
This theory is not in line with mainstream "scientific" ufology who usually regard these contactees as totally unreliable frauds and myth makers. But my many years of in depth investigation of physical contact claims in Sweden and abroad finally convinced me that the answer was not always that simple. I noted that in some instances there were circumstantial evidence, witnesses, that contactees actually did interact with strangers from somewhere who obviously possessed an advanced technology. American ufologist Ted Bloecher reached a similar conclusion after studying the Woodrow Derenberger case. A renewed study of the contact experiences and philosophy in the more intellectual and academic presentations of the Esoteric Tradition then added interesting data and new perspectives on the modern ufo contactees. I am of course aware of that this is tricky and controversial territory and to seriously enter this domain for many academic scholars and ufologists equals intellectual harakiri. In this respect I prefer to be a heretic among heretics adhering to the motto of Riley Crabb, for many years director of Borderland Sciences Research Foundation: "If I have one goal in life it is un uncompromising search for Truth, whatever that might be, and wherever it may lead."
Howard Menger, who died in 2009, is one of the more interesting of the 1950s contactees, in part because of his open admission that he didn´t really understand all of what happened to him and his speculation that the people he met could actually have been a secret earth based group and that he was also involved in a sociological experiment conducted by the Pentagon. Unfortunately no American ufologist or journalist have have made an in depth study of his experiences. I have for many years collected documents relating to Menger. Timothy Good kindly sent me the whole transcript of his interview with Howard Menger in 1978 and the 1980s I corresponded with psychiatrist Dr. Berthold Schwartz, who knew the Menger couple and reached the conclusion that "the contact claims or case of Howard Menger is far from being an open and shut or black and white matter."
In several interviews Howard Menger speculated that the individuals that contacted him were actually a benevolent secret earth based group. In the Timothy Good interview he stated: ""It´s possible that they don´t want us to know that they live here on this planet, that they would probably throw us off the track by telling us, you know, Venus or Mars". Relating to this idea is an interesting quote in Mengers´ book From Outer Space To You (1959) p.159: "There are also space craft... which are built by people of this planet. These people are in communication and in service with people from other planets. They are people who possess a high spiritual understanding and have reached an awareness of natural law..."
If there is any truth in this statement this secret group would in contact with ordinary people of necessity have to work like classic intelligence agents, sometimes using mild forms of deception to remain undiscovered. In the case of Howard Menger there are many such clues. Code words were used by his contacts. In The Song of Saturn (1968), Connie Menger mention a meeting Howard had with one of the visitors at the local post office: "He smilingly spoke the code word to Alyn (Howard) which Alyn recognized immediately as one of the means of identification between friends and agents of the visitors from other planets." (p. 109).
There is a very interesting comment made by contactee George Van Tassel in his magazine Proceedings, February-March 1957. Van Tassel personally investigated the Menger contact claims and interviewed several of the witnesses. His defence of the Menger story reveals a fascinating detail: "In my contact with the four men who landed here on August 24th of 1953, they gave me information which they told me to use as a "key" to establish authentic, or phoney, contactees in the future. Howard Menger used the words of this "key" properly and correctly." (p.5).
George Van Tassel
If some of the 1950s UFO contactees actually were involved in a test or experiment orchestrated by unknown benevolent visitors, the really deep mystery is: Who are they? I have made a detailed study of the world view and philosophy presented to the contactees by the visitors and especially the books written by Adamski, Angelucci, Fry and Menger are somewhat simplified but very clear expositions of the Esoteric Tradition, even in specific details as the claim that our planet is quarantined and a sort of interplanetary Alcatraz. Could therefore this test have been made by a group belonging to the hidden custodians of the Ancient Wisdom, the Esoteric Tradition or Science of the Multiverse. If this is the case Howard Menger was not only involved with Pentagon and the CIA but also with what I refer to as the HIA - Higher Intelligence Agency.
The well meaning and naive man or woman on the street naturally ask: if this group actually exist why don´t they show themselves in the open? I think the best answer was given by the "Venusian" Bill to journalist and esotericist Paul M. Vest: "Upon your earth the mere colour of one´s skin - a slight difference of religious belief - merely belonging to a different race or country - in fact the most trivial deviations precipitate animalistic belligerencies, hideous brutalities and the bloody slaughter of millions of your fellow creatures. Can you then truly be surprised when I tell you the the beings of certain other worlds view earth as earthlings might look upon a den of deadly serpents stinging each other to death."
This week we had the pleasure of having Bob Rickard as a guest at AFU. He is one of our foremost donors of books, magazines and clippings on UFO and Fortean subjects. With his typical Fortean humour Bob has found an appropiate name for Clas Svahn and his UFO-Sweden collegues who every year "pester" British organizations and authors with requests for donations to AFU - The Viking Raiders!
Tobias Lindgren, Bob Rickard and Anders Liljegren
Bob Rickard is perhaps best known as the founder and editor of the magazine Fortean Times, formerly The News and The Charles Fort Institute. Many books and articles have come from his pen and I still remember my fascination, in the 1970s, when reading his classic Phenomena. A Book of Wonders, written together with John Michell.
Bob stayed four days at AFU, studying our collections, especially to search for data on levitation and Japanese folklore on alien visitors. Thursday evening we had dinner and a pleasant chat at a Chinese restaurant in Norrköping. Bob tried his best to order his dinner in Chinese, only to find out that the waitress didn´t speak the language!! But we had a great time and hope to meet our Fortean friend again soon.
Anders Liljegren and Bob Rickard
Saturday, November 15, the UFO-Sweden board meeting was held at AFU. Eleven members of the board discussed plans and projects for the coming year. 2015 will probably result in much media exposure as a result of a one-hour documentary on UFO-Sweden and the Ghost Rockets planned for viewing on Swedish, Norwegian and Danisk televison during next year. A large-scale field investigation project in Södermanland is also planned for the summer of 2015.
UFO-Sweden chairman Anders Berglund
Clas Svahn showing a small preview of the documentary
Clas Svahn and Håkan Ekstrand during a coffee break at the board meeting
The lack of active female ufologists has often been discussed in our organization. But now we are happy to welcome Jennie Backman as a new member of the board. Amanda Fredriksson is already a member of the board since 2009. We hope for more gender equality in the future.
Finally I must mention a fascinating historical document found by Clas Svahn and me among donated archival material. On August 23, 1966 Swedish ufologist Sven Olov Larsson, from Borlänge, distributed an appeal to form a national UFO organization in Sweden. This appeal was sent to the seven or eight UFO groups existing at the time. As far as we know this was the first attemp to form a national UFO organization in Sweden.
UFO-Sweden was founded in 1970. Sven Olov Larsson was an avid collector of UFO books and magazines. Unfortuntely his relatives threw away all his files when he died, including a volumious correspondence. One of the important UFO collections that AFU was too late in saving. A reminder to all involved in UFO and Fortean subjects to remember Archives for the Unexplained as a custodian of historical documents when discussing what to do with old collections.
From a larger cultural perspective the impact of the UFO phenomenon on society after the Second World War has been tremendous. It has engendered a military, scientific, religious and popular culture response. But first and foremost it has generated a world wide movement of private organizations and groups dedicated to investigating and documenting an unknown and intriguing phenomenon. The history of the UFO movement and the ideas and activities of the diverse personalities involved is for me almost as fascinating as the phenomenon itself. I have been a part of this heretic underground movement since a teenager so it has become sort of homebase. This has also made me aware of the importance of documenting the UFO movement for future generations and researchers.
One of my activities at AFU is arranging the thousands of organizational documents and files from the Swedish UFO movement: annual reports, protocols, correspondence, historical records, clippings, photographs, audiovisual material etc. Since 1970 there has been some 130 local groups belonging to the national organization UFO-Sweden. The files of the local groups are now placed in separate binders and arranged according from what city the operated. This is primary source documents of great value to historians, journalists and ufologists who wish to study the sociological aspect of ufology.
Files and historical records from local UFO-Sweden groups
My interest in the history of the UFO movement resulted in a monograph, published in 2010: En resa i tiden. UFO-Sveriges historia 1970-2010 (A Travel in Time. The History of UFO-Sweden 1970-2010). As I have stated in several blog entries the Swedish UFO movement was implemented by active members of the Swedish Theosophical Society (Adyar) in 1957-58. When the national organization UFO-Sweden was founded in 1970 it represented the first systematic attempt to investigate and document UFO experiences from a more critical and scientific viewpoint. Since then UFO-Sweden has been the foremost UFO organization in Sweden working together with and in close partnership with Archives for the Unexplained (AFU).
When I study the historical files and records of the various local UFO groups in Sweden I am often amazed at the large amount of social activities these groups arranged. A good example is Enköpings UFO-förening (Enköping UFO Society), active between 1976-2010. For many years they organized study circles, auctions, festivities, visits to interesting places and other local groups and most impressive, open house at the club house every Wednesday for more than thirty years.
Arnold Idebring, chairman of Enköpings UFO-förening 1980-1998
All this social activity for so many years both in local UFO groups and among the board of directors has of course established deep bonds and friendships among members. Several of the active members of UFO-Sweden have known each other since the 1970s. Traditions have been formed within the organization and oldtimers often mention that UFO-Sweden is like a family. Perhaps this is a unique situation for the Swedish UFO movement. There is much talk about dissension and infighting from UFO organizations around the world. Of course there is intense debate and sometimes rather heated discussions also in UFO-Sweden but goodwill has prevailed and made the organization a secure and pleasant homebase for old and new members.
Part of the UFO-Sweden gang at the annual conference in May 2010
Happy smiles at dinner after the annual conference in May 2012, Pia Hellertz and Gunnar Karlsson
Clas Svahn and Linda Friman
Clas Svahn and Tobias Lindgren at the annual UFO-Sweden conference 2010
This week I have arranged the organizational files of Köpings UFO-förening, one of the most active and prominent local groups in UFO-Sweden history. It was founded already in January 1973 and folded in 2004. During its heyday 1973-1980 it was directed by chairman Thorvald Berthelsen, who changed his name to Bevan Berthelsen in 1980. Bevan and Köpings UFO-förening, in many respects, laid the groundwork and changed the direction of ufology in Sweden to a more serious and scientific endeavor.
The organizational files of Köpings UFO-förening
Thorvald Berthelsen entered the ufological scene with a fervent commitment and soon became a leading public figure and spokesperson for the Swedish UFO movement. Together with collegues from Köpings UFO-förening he started a massive information campaign ranging from November 10 to December 15, 1975. During these weeks he lectured in 22 different Swedish cities and travelled more than 200 Swedish miles. In many cities there were hundreds on listeners. A second information campaign was conducted between February 3, and March 23, 1976. As a result many local UFO groups were founded all over Sweden and many of the active ufologists today began their ufological career after hearing a lecture by Thorvald Berthelsen in the 1970s.
The local press reporting on the information campaign
In March 1976 Thorvald was elected the new chairman of the national organization UFO-Sweden. He immediately started reforming the handling and investigation of UFO reports and entered an informal cooperation with Swedish military and intelligence authorities. He initiated better and more critical investigative procedures and was one of the first to recognize that some UFO reports were in fact launchings of Russian satellites.
Thorvald Berthelsen at his home in March 1976
In order to improve the quality of investigation Thorvald together with the Köping group started the first weekend seminars for field investigators in September 1977. Since then hundreds of field investigators have received their basic UFO education in the annual seminars. This helped to improve the quality of investigation and documentation of UFO observations and incidents.
Nerikes Allehanda reporting on the first field investigation seminar in 1977
February 24, 1978 was the opening night in Stockholm for Steven Spielberg´s film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Thorvald and the Köping group entered a massive advertising and media campaign in collaboration with Warner-Columbia. Information about UFO-Sweden was printed in the Warner-Columbia leaflets. Largerly because of the heavy media coverage the UFO-Sweden annual conference in Stockholm on March 18 was attended by 1.300 listeners. The largest annual conference in Swedish UFO history.
The next great PR event initiated by Thorvald and the Köping group was a large UFO exhibition at the Köping Museum in the summer of 1978. With economic help from the Köping municipality the exhibition became a huge success with more than 10 000 visitors. A large flying saucer model visible from the E18 highway attracted families on summer vacation. The model was 5,5 meters in diameter and weighed 250 kilo (551 pounds).
The many years of intense and dedicated activism for the UFO cause took heavy toll on Thorvald´s health and in 1979 he retired from his post as chairman of UFO-Sweden. At the annual conference on April 7, 1979, Birgitta Andersson was elected as new chairman.
Birgitta Andersson and Thorvald Berthelsen at the annual UFO-Sweden conference April 7, 1979
This is the open and visible history of Thorvald Berthelsen and his UFO research activity in the 1970s. But there were also a few intriguing and unexplained events not generally well known in Swedish UFO history. Some of these events were mentioned by Thorvald when I interviewed him on October 10, 1992. In the beginning of the 1970s he regarded UFOs as a "ridiculous, laughable" subject. But something happened in the summer of 1972 that was to change his life.
My interview with Bevan Berthelsen October 10, 1992
In the middle of one night in the summer of 1972 Thorvald left his bed sleepwalking. He put on his clothes, left his house and bicycled about two kilometer (1,4 miles) to an uninhabited plateau (Slätängen) with a few deserted crofts situated between the towns of Köping and Arboga. At this plateau he suddenly woke up, wondering what he was doing there in the middle of the night. Rather irrationally he picked a few flowers, found his bike and went back home where his wife naturally was curious to know what he was doing in the middle of the night, as he had been gone for several hours. Thorvald could give no logical answer as he was not a sleepwalker. To this day he is still puzzled by the event.
About a week after this curious episode Thorvald became intensively fascinated by UFOs and borrowed all books he could find in the local library. He soon contacted the UFO-Sweden organization and formed the local group Köpings UFO-förening in January 1973. On March 11, 1973 Thorvald, together with three witnesses from his workplace, observed a cylindershaped object silently passing over Köping. No explanation was found to this observation which was reported in local media.
Thorvald Berthelsen reporting his observation
Thorvald Berthelsen and his wife lived in a country house with good views in all directions. On the same day his UFO observation was mentioned in the local newspaper a man knocks on their door. Bevan is met by a man in his thirties, dressed in a brown suit and white shirt. He has dark hair, appears suntanned and his eyes are slanted but still not Asian looking. The man ask Bevan how he is feeling and continue asking about directions. He says thank you and leave. "I thought, who the hell was that? I ran out and looked for him. The road was straight in both directions. If he had come walking I would have seen him. His eyes were slanted. That caught my attention. Afterwards I felt this experience was weird". For ufologists this is a classic men-in-black (MIB) experience. Or was it just an unusual man looking for direction?
Bevan Berthelsen in 1992
Were these events unusual coincidences? Or were Thorvald Berthelsen somehow "tagged" by whatever was behind the phenomena, as reported by several contactees and close encounter witnesses? To this day he has no idea and has refrained from speculating. In 1980 Thorvald left his UFO engagement and inspired by his wife entered Subud, a spiritual movement founded in the 1920s. He then changed his name to Bevan Berthelsen. When I asked him if he ever regretted his involvement in the UFO movement the message was clear: "No, it was fantastic years. A wonderful time."
As usual there is a steady stream of visitors to AFU. Guiding groups and presenting all our eleven premises takes quite some time so my collegue Anders Liljegren and I use to limit the presentation to four or five premises. This is more than enough for most visitors to get a good grasp of the staggering amount of books, magazines, clippings, correspondence and other archival records preserved at AFU. We don´t want interested beginners to develop mental exhaustion at their first visit to the archives.
On October 11 we were visited by Christian Forslind and Mattias Lövgren from the nearby city of Linköping. And on October 13, Anders and I guided a group of librarians with friends from Norrköping Public Library. It is always a pleasure to present the AFU collections to my librarian collegues as they of course are curious to enter and understand the literature of the strange underground world of ufology, Forteana and paranormal phenomena.
Librarians and friends from Norrköping Public Library
Librarian Tommy Jansson with alien
Anders Liljegren telling about Charles Fort
Our new visitors had a chance to peruse the impressive donations that recently arrived at AFU. 260 boxes of books, magazines etc from donors in England: Lional Beer, Bob Rickard, Omar Fowler, Busty Taylor, Bill Foley (Contact International), Peter Rogerson, Edwin Joyce (FSR), Bob Digby and the late Steve Moore. Especially fascinating was the large collection of books on the Kennedy assassination and related conspiracy theories from Peter Rogerson. There is also a small film clip from the C-archive on You Tube taken by Clas Svahn, which gives a good estimation of the size of the latest donation to AFU.
Recently donated books ready to be cataloged
Unpacking the boxes I always feel like a small boy on Christmas. So many new and interesting titles and so little time to read. Below some titles from the Peter Rogerson collection.
While perusing the shelves at AFU I become acutely aware of the heretic nature of our subjects and data. How distant we are from mainstream science and religion and the usual interests and hobbies of "normal" everyday people. Especially as we have the audacity to claim there are a vast array of phenomena out there that neither orthodox science nor religion understand or care to investigate. Those cultural and intellectual heretics who enter this world of Forbidden Science often becomes an embarrassment to mainstream society as they open a crack in the wall of materialist/reductionist science and philosophy. Serious ufologists, Forteans and paranormal investigators are the gnostics, cathars and hermeticists of today. Representatives of the third intellectual force in Western history. Allen Hynek understood this well when he named his group of investigators the Invisible College. An interesting comment on this was presented by Jacques Vallee in his foreword to the reprint of his 1975 book The Invisible College. You can read his new foreword in the 2014 edition at the Amazon site.