Passport to Magonia

“Up the airy mountain,

          Down the rushy glen,

          We daren’t go a-hunting

          For fear of little men…”

—                 William Allingham,

“The Magic Casement”


          “We can make the old young, the big small, the small big.”

Hoo, boy. I just finished reading Passport to Magonia, and two other books by Jacques Vallée. Apparently the events described in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell are happening all around us all the time, at least if the folklore—which has been remarkably consistent down through the centuries—has literal validity.

First, a bit of background info (via Wikipedia):

UFO Research and Academic Work

            In the mid-1960s, like many other UFO researchers, Vallée initially attempted to validate the popular Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (or ETH). Leading UFO researcher Jerome Clark[4] argues that Vallée’s first two UFO books were among the most scientifically sophisticated defenses of the ETH ever mounted.

However, by 1969, Vallée’s conclusions had changed, and he publicly stated that the ETH was too narrow and ignored too much data. Vallée began exploring the commonalities between UFOs, cults, religious movements, demons, angels, ghosts, cryptid sightings, and psychic phenomena. Speculation about these potential links were first detailed in Vallée’s third UFO book, Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers.

As an alternative to the extraterrestrial visitation hypothesis, Vallée has suggested a multidimensional visitation hypothesis. This hypothesis represents an extension of the ETH where the alleged extraterrestrials could be potentially from anywhere. The entities could be multidimensional beyond space-time, and thus could coexist with humans, yet remain undetected.

Vallée’s opposition to the popular ETH hypothesis was not well received by prominent U.S. ufologists, hence he was viewed as something of an outcast. Indeed, Vallée refers to himself as a “heretic among heretics”.

Vallée’s opposition to the ETH theory is summarised in his paper, “Five Arguments Against the Extraterrestrial Origin of Unidentified Flying Objects”, Journal of Scientific Exploration, 1990:

Scientific opinion has generally followed public opinion in the belief that unidentified flying objects either do not exist (the “natural phenomena hypothesis”) or, if they do, must represent evidence of a visitation by some advanced race of space travellers (the extraterrestrial hypothesis or “ETH”). It is the view of the author that research on UFOs need not be restricted to these two alternatives. On the contrary, the accumulated data base exhibits several patterns tending to indicate that UFOs are real, represent a previously unrecognized phenomenon, and that the facts do not support the common concept of “space visitors.” Five specific arguments articulated here contradict the ETH:

  1. unexplained close encounters are far more numerous than required for any physical survey of the earth;
  2. the humanoid body structure of the alleged “aliens” is not likely to have originated on another planet and is not biologically adapted to space travel;
  3. the reported behavior in thousands of abduction reports contradicts the hypothesis of genetic or scientific experimentation on humans by an advanced race;
  4. the extension of the phenomenon throughout recorded human history demonstrates that UFOs are not a contemporary phenomenon; and
  5. the apparent ability of UFOs to manipulate space and time suggests radically different and richer alternatives…


Interpretation of the UFO evidence

Vallée proposes that there is a genuine UFO phenomenon, partly associated with a form of non-human consciousness that manipulates space and time. The phenomenon has been active throughout human history, and seems to masquerade in various forms to different cultures. In his opinion, the intelligence behind the phenomenon attempts social manipulation by using deception on the humans with whom they interact. [emphasis mine]

Vallée also proposes that a secondary aspect of the UFO phenomenon involves human manipulation by humans. Witnesses of UFO phenomena undergo a manipulative and staged spectacle, meant to alter their belief system, and eventually, influence human society by suggesting alien intervention from outer space. The ultimate motivation for this deception is probably a projected major change of human society, the breaking down of old belief systems and the implementation of new ones. Vallée states that the evidence, if carefully analysed, suggests an underlying plan for the deception of mankind by means of unknown, highly advanced methods. Vallée states that it is highly unlikely that governments actually conceal alien evidence, as the popular myth suggests. Rather, it is much more likely that that is exactly what the manipulators want us to believe. Vallée feels the entire subject of UFOs is mystified by charlatans and science fiction. He advocates a stronger and more serious involvement of science in the UFO research and debate. Only this can reveal the true nature of the UFO phenomenon.

Agents of deception. That’s fascinating. Speaking in his official capacity as a scientist and student of folklore, Jacques Vallée believes UFOs are being used by elusive, interdimensional beings to implement a global deception on the human race. Does this remind you of anything?

Early in his book, Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: Alien Abduction, UFOs, and the Conference at M.I.T, C. D. B. Bryan gives a summary list of a few of the more ingenious explanations given by the occupants of UFOs for visiting mankind. All of them, it transpires, are blatant lies:

            [“Doctor” Daniel Fry] had an undisclosed job at New Mexico’s White Sands Proving Ground when an “ovate spheroid” allegedly landed near him and whisked him to New York City and back in thirty minutes. Fry’s saucer’s occupants told him they were the survivors of a great war between Atlantis and Lemuria, and that they had contacted him instead of someone more highly placed because it would upset the “ego balance” of the Earth’s civilizations if they were to reveal themselves.

The captain of Bethurum’s “space scow” was Aura Rhanes, “queen of women,” whose “smooth skin was a beautiful olive and roses.” Aura’s planet, Clarion, Bethurum reported, was in our solar system, but because it was always on the opposite side of the sun from us, we have never seen it.

Angelucci, an aircraft mechanic, recounted seeing a saucer land in a Los Angeles field. While inspecting it, he was told by a “space brother” that Earth’s “material advancement” was threatening life’s evolution. Angelucci’s subsequent meeting with the aliens took place in a Greyhound bus depot.

Bryan, a UFO skeptic who seems to believe that people are having a genuine psychological experience, devotes an entire chapter of his book to the story of a woman who was abducted by “aliens” and repeatedly told, “You will only eat cow things!” Bryan ultimately met and interviewed the woman: as it happens, she was only able to eat cow things. Anytime she tried to eat other things, she would start vomiting furiously.

According to Dr. Vallée, the utter absurdity of these stories has a long precedent in Faerie literature. “They never taste anything salt,” say the Irish, “but eat fresh meat and drink pure water.” At 11:00am on April 18, 1961, Joe Simonton of Eagle River, Wisconsin was visited by three men in a strange, saucer-shaped craft who “resembled Italians,” and who gave him a cake made of buckwheat, which was later given to the Air Force. In the mythology of Ireland and Scotland, buckwheat is a staple ingredient in Faerie food.

Curiously, on the same day as the Soccoro encounter (April 24, 1964), Gary Wilcox witnessed the landing of an egg-shaped craft, and was approached by two diminutive, human-like beings who showed an inordinate fascination with fertilizer. “The two beings were interested in fertilizers and expressed considerable interest in their use,” writes Vallée. They stated that they grew food on Mars, but that changes in the environment were creating problems they hoped to solve by obtaining information about our agricultural techniques. Their questions were quite childish, and they appeared to have no knowledge of the subject whatever. Each one carried a tray filled with soil.”

“‘When they talked about space or the ship, I had difficulty in understanding their explanations. They said they could only travel to this planet every two years and they are presently using the Western Hemisphere,’ Wilcox reported.”

They concluded the visit by requesting a bag of fertilizer.

On November 6, 1957, two men in different parts of the country both reported being visited by strange creatures who tried to steal their dogs. The first was twelve-year-old Everett Clark of Dante, Tennessee, whose dog, Frisky, was nearly taken up into a flying craft. The second was John Trasco of Everittstown, New Jersey. “In his path he found a being three feet tall ‘with putty-colored face and large frog-like eyes,’ who said in broken English: ‘We are peaceful people, we only want your dog.’”

Quite a lot of the comedy in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell centers around the gullibility of humans who are willing to believe anything a Faerie tells them, no matter how preposterous. In Chapter 26, we learn that in all Judas Iscariot’s last actions “he was following the instructions of two men called John Copperhead and John Brassfoot whom Iscariot had believed to be angels” (pg. 269). Vallée actually goes so far as to suggest that the Mormon religion may have begun this way…

As in the novel just quoted, Dr. Vallée’s descriptions of these otherworldly beings seem first whimsical, and then ominous. In recent stories of encounters with aliens, the aliens seem to be using some kind of mind control to assure us of their benevolent intentions. Maurice Masse, a French farmer, says he was suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of how good the creatures were—the Good People. Somehow—he was never quite sure how he knew it—he knew that they meant no harm… “They were not hostile to him, only indifferent. As he stood facing them, during that long minute, he suddenly was overcome with the certitude that they were ‘good’—a belief he is unable to rationalize, because at no point did he understand their strange language.”

In Chalcix, Dordogne, France, on October 4, 1954, Mr. Garreau, a man who is regarded as trustworthy by local residents, saw a round flying object, the size of a small truck, shaped somewhat like a cauldron. It landed in his field, and a door slid open. Two “normal” men in brown coveralls came out. They looked like Europeans and shook hands with Garreau. Then they asked: “Paris? North?” The poor farmer was so taken aback that he did not answer. The two men stroked his dog and flew away.

For these and other reasons, Dr. Vallée suspects that these encounters are elaborate and carefully-staged spectacles that have been orchestrated by the beings in question for the purpose of disrupting and potentially transforming human cultures, traditions, religions, and mythologies.

And, to add to the complexity of the deception, he submits that human agencies are now exploiting the UFO phenomenon for the sake of controlling the masses. Vallée manages to construct a plausible explanation for the Bentwaters/Rendlesham UFO sightings that involves the U. S. military performing psychological experiments on members of the British Air Force. In several of his more recent books, he warns of the potential for cults to create widespread destruction by wielding the absurdity of believers’ faith in extraterrestrial beings like a potent and irrepressible weapon. It’s the very irrationality of these beliefs that makes them unassailable, which is why governments who try to whitewash the validity of the phenomenon are playing right into the hands of whoever is behind it. “When the establishment is rational, absurdity is dynamite.”

It need hardly be said that this is precisely how Christopher Goodman employs the “flying light discs” in the Christ Clone Trilogy.

People who have studied the development of alien and UFO folklore carefully—among them Carl Jung, Jacques Vallée, Carl Sagan, and Christopher Hitchens—believe that these sightings are laying the foundation for a new mythology—perhaps even a new religion. I think that’s probably true. This is why in my own story, the Elsians—who can take any appearance—will eventually materialize in support of our primary villain when he seizes power in America. But of course they’ll need bodies in order to operate effectively, which is why “Acheryanism” is necessary. The people behind it will never suspect that they’re being exploited by other-dimensional beings…

And of course, they will also have ray guns:

            On February 20, 1838, a girl of eighteen, Jane Alsop, of Old Ford, near Bow, London, heard a violent ringing of the front door bell. Going out, she faced the “most hideous appearance” of Springheel Jack. He wore shining garments and a flashing lamp on his chest. His eyes resembled glowing balls of fire! When Miss Alsop uttered a cry, the intruder grabbed her arm in clawlike fingers, but the girl’s sister rushed to her rescue. The visitor spurted a fiery gas in Jane’s face, and she dropped unconscious. Then Jack fled, dropping his cloak, which was picked up at once by another shadow who ran after him.

            In 1877, wearing tight garments and shining helmet, Jack was seen again at Aldershot, Hampshire, England. On that occasion he flew above two sentries, who fired at him. He answered with a burst of blue fire, which left them stunned, and vanished. Vyner believes that Jack was again to blame for the scare in late August, 1944, in Mattoon, Illinois. He was seen at night peering through windows “as in search for someone known to him by sight.” Most of the witnesses were women; some of them reported falling unconscious after a device was pointed at them by the visitor, who left a strange cloying smell.

And the power of causing paralysis in multiple people:

            As soon as he saw the object and the entity, Gatay tried to run, but he found himself helplessly nailed to the spot. He was thus “paralyzed” during the whole observation. So were his seven coworkers, in a unique case of collective physiological reaction. None of them had previously believed in the reality of the so-called saucers.

Doors that appear out of nowhere:

            In Nithsdale a fairy rewards the kindness of a young mother, to whom she had committed her babe to suckle, by taking her on a visit to Fairyland. A door opened in a green hillside, disclosing a porch which the nurse and her conductor entered. There the lady dropped three drops of a precious dew on the nurse’s left eyelid, and they were admitted to a beautiful land watered with meandering rivulets and yellow with corn, where the trees were laden with fruits which dropped honey. The nurse was here presented with magical gifts, and when a green dew had baptized her right eye she was enabled to behold further wonders. On returning the fairy passed her hand over the woman’s eye and restored its natural powers.

(“Elfland,” writes Vallée, “. . . is made visible and tangible only to selected people, and the ‘doors’ that lead through it are tangential points, known only to the Elves.”)

“Luminous stones”:

It is noteworthy, too, that in France some fairies are supposed to bear a luminous stone, an object that is often part of the equipment of flying saucer occupants. Many a “little man” has a light on either his belt, chest, or helmet.

And, weirdly, brightly-lit metal batons:

            Less than thirty feet away, above him on the slope, was a man: his head was covered with an opaque glass helmet with a visor coming down to his chest. He wore gray coveralls and short boots. In his hand he held an elongated object: “It could have been a pistol, or it could have been a metal rod.”

In the Carazinho case of July 26, 1965, five dwarfs dressed in dark uniforms and small boots were seen. We are told that “one of them had in his right hand a brilliantly luminous object like a wand.”

Famously, James Tilley Mathews claimed that the Air Loom Gang carried metal batons which, being waved, would instantly transport them out of sight.

Finally, Vallée explains the unparalleled potential of this current moment:

When the phone rings in Wright-Paterson Air Force Base, and a local intelligence officer transmits the observation of a motorist who has just been “buzzed” by what he describes as a flying saucer, we are really witnessing the unique conjunction of the modern world—with its technology—and ancient terrors—with all the power of their sudden, fugitive, irrational nature. We are in a very privileged position.

That’s the only real problem I have with Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: it’s deliberately antiquated. But of course the story it narrates takes place over 200 years ago. Any sort of modern rendition of the Faerie mythology would have to incorporate the remarkable technologies that they’ve apparently acquired in the last hundred years. It’s that combination of the Wicked Awesome and the Totally Irrational. There’s really something extraordinary about it. Who wouldn’t want to read about invisible, interdimensional beings with ray guns, teleporting batons, the ability to manipulate space and time, and a habit of speaking nonsensically in broken English while trying to kidnap your dog? I think it’s safe to say, we have a winner. The person who could write that book, would be worth a small fortune.  


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