Thursday, May 03, 2012

Telling Tales Out of School

Stories about NASA and UFOs are legion, as are photos, films, and videos. One of the most cryptic-- yet potentially most damning-- concerned the Apollo 11 crew.

Contrary to popular misconception, it was originally reported as apocrypha, as the author of the article it was first aired within couldn't confirm (or deny, apparently) its authenticity. From a special UFO issue of Saga magazine in 1972:
Aldrin and Armstrong were making their rounds some distance from the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) when Armstrong excitedly exclaimed: “What was it? What the hell was it? That’s all I want to know."
“These babies were huge, sir…enormous… Oh, God, you wouldn’t believe it… I’m telling you there are other spacecraft out there… lined up on the far side of the crater edge… They’re on the moon watching us… “

The author of the piece was one Otto Binder, one of the most remarkable figures in 20th Century pop culture.
Whipsmart and mind-bogglingly prolific, Binder wrote thousands of comic book stories for Fawcett, DC and Marvel, spanning over several decades, as well as scores of science fiction novels and short stories. He was also the editor of Space World magazine in the early 60s, which was a big cheerleader for JFK's ambitions for the space race.

He was co-author of the original "I, Robot", which was adapted into not one but two different episodes of The Outer Limits. Although some UFOlogists have often labeled him a "NASA insider" --a claim debunked by James "Truculent Walrus" Oberg and never claimed by Binder himself-- the writer's resume is extraordinary nonetheless.

And Binder's connections to NASA are not entirely imaginary, by any means. On the contrary, he was deeply and intimately connected to the space program from its earliest days. From an article on Binder and the UFO controversy:
(Binder) authored over 300 non-fiction articles on scientific and UFO subjects, and articles in science yearbooks on chemistry, astronomy, physics and biology. He was a member of the American Rocket Society, American Interplanetary Society, National Spaceflight Association and Aerospace Writers Association.
He was also founder and editor of Space World Magazine from 1959 til 1963, subscribed to by high school and university students, as well as professional people....

In 1963 he was awarded an honorary Master’s Degree in Astronautical Science by NASA, and from 1965, until his death in 1974 wrote extensively in the field of Ufology, with books and articles on analyses and statistics.

What so outraged shills like Oberg was that Binder went off-script and wandered off the reservation. As detailed in Jeff Kripal's Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics and the Paranormal, Binder was a man of science who was fascinated by UFOs and ancient astronauts. And unlike his cowardly, brow-beaten peers he was not afraid to say as much in public.

But as we've seen with Star Trek and the Villas Boas abduction or The Outer Limits and possible intelligence Leslie Stevens might have been privvy to through his powerful family, Binder might have been hesitant to openly write about sensitive information he'd gotten through his own high-placed connections in the military or aeronautical fields.

Remember, many UFO stories we take for granted today were suppressed- if not actually classified-- in the 1940s and 50s
(such as, oh, I don't know, aliens being telepathic, maybe?). And the story we're about to take a look at is still a touchy subject for obvious reasons. It's also one of the strangest and most enigmatic stories of a particularly strange and enigmatic period in comics history.

This story was printed in Strange Adventures #82 in 1957, the same year Jack Kirby was unleashing all of his AstroGnostic madness. Binder wrote a lot of stories for this sci-fi anthology, most of them pretty tepid stuff. But this story is interesting on several different levels. Straight off the bat is that we're dealing with telepathic aliens roughly in the Grey family, whereas aliens came in all manner of shapes and sizes in these stories.

The story has a sci-fi writer-- clearly modeled on Binder himself-- looking to do a story on flying saucers and happening to spot one near a nuclear plant. Notably unphased by the encounter, the writer and the aliens confront each other, frustrated by their inability to communicate.

The aliens aren't here on a lark;
they've sensed that the reactor is about to meltdown. While the authorities try to figure out what they want, danger strikes and the UFO springs into action.

Using "neutronic foam", the aliens contain the meltdown.
The writer convinces the generals that the aliens aren't hostile and the nukes don't need to be launched, but the aliens clearly have other plans.

The aliens then provoke the military who launch a nuclear strike. But the attack has an unintended effect; rather than destroy the aliens it transforms them. And now the story gets weird; Binder is trying to say something here that he can't say out loud.

The aliens are now gods, straight out of ancient mythology.
They explain to the humans that their world ran out of the uranium they needed to transform themselves from little green men into a strange blend of Horus and Hermes.

Some of you might be familiar with Zechariah Sitichin's theories--some 20 years later, mind you-- that the Anunnaki depleted their ozone layer and came to this world to mine gold and were likewise regarded as gods by earthlings. Except in Sitchin's story it was the earthlings who underwent the transformation from pygmies to gods.

Binder would write about all of that well before Sitchin but we've been down that road several times before. It's interesting to see it all in allegory and flipped around, but the main plot of the story is much more interesting, given Binder's long-running connections to the space program and the rest of it.

A plot even more interesting in that Binder puts an obvious version of himself in the story
and obviously portrays himself not only as someone in the know about aliens but also on good terms with the military brass.

I'm talking about an issue that would have been extremely touchy during the Cold War-- the disturbing interest UFOs were said to have taken in nuclear installations. From a paper entitled "Do Nuclear Facilities Attract UFOs?"

On numerous occasions, UFOs have been reported over nuclear power plants as well as nuclear research facilities and nuclear weapons storage bunkers at military bases...Highly trained government scientists and military personnel, who had been granted top-secret military clearances, made many of these reports.

In a well-documented series of incidents in early November 1975, nocturnal lights and unidentified “mystery helicopters” visited a wide spectrum of American military bases and missile sites across the northern tier of this country...

A similar rash of incursions occurred in December 1948 (Los Alamos), December 1950 (Oak Ridge), July 1952 (Hanford AEC, Savannah River AEC, and Los Alamos), August 1965 (Warren AFB near Cheyenne, WY), March 1967 (Minot AFB, Malmstrom AFB, and Los Alamos)...
These reports led some to speculate that the intelligences behind UFOs have an interest in nuclear weapons and nuclear power. One feature of these reports suggesting a direct link deals with light rays or energy beams being focused on nuclear materials...In addition, there have been unsubstantiated rumors from enlisted men that the telemetry of the weapons at some sites had been changed or that other weapons had been rendered inoperative.

Some researchers have suggested that the occupants of UFOs have a deep concern about the safety of nuclear power, and our proliferation of nuclear weapons, and are therefore keeping a close scrutiny of these sites.
During the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster on April 26, 1986, technicians reported that they observed a fiery sphere, similar in color to brass, within 1,000 feet of the damaged Unit 4 reactor during the height of the fire, about three hours after the initial explosion.

Two bright red rays shot out from the UFO and were directed at the reactor. It hovered in the area for about three minutes, then the rays vanished and the UFO moved slowly away to the northwest.

Radiation levels taken just before the UFO appeared read 3,000 milliroentgens/hour, and after the rays the readings showed 800 milliroentgens/hour. Apparently the UFO had brought down the radiation level.

That last story is particularly interesting if it can be verified.
It's worth noting that the UFO and abduction wave-- whatever you personally make of it-- coincided with the nuclear anxiety of the Cold War, as well as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. It's worth noting that abductees often report lectures on nuclear power and weapons by their captors, whatever you personally make of the stories themselves.

We discussed this issue a while back when a UFO was spotted on national television at the Idaho National Laboratory during the wildfires in the area. What interests me is why Binder would write about and go so far to put himself in the story. The story itself is stylistically different than a lot of the other stories he wrote for Strange Adventures, which tended to be somewhat over the top and childish.

Given Binder's deep connections he may well have heard about the UFO's interest in nuclear installations from his sources within the military and used this very silly sci-fi comic to tell this tale out of school, as it were.
Why he chose to double that up with the AAT stuff is beyond me, but perhaps the Watcher/Igigi theories were being bandied about then.

Binder in many ways is the opposite of Kirby-- a deeply-connected man with a sizable resume outside of comics.
But obviously the two men shared many of the same obsessions. But those in power seem to worry most about paper trails and name-namers, and the next chapter in Otto Binder's story got the nodes in my tinfoil fedora vibrating just a little bit...

Hmm, what is the artist trying to tell us?

The same year NASA gadfly Gus Grissom and the Apollo 1 crew died a fiery death on the launching pad, unspeakable tragedy visited Binder.
From the Wiki:

"I'm far from retired, simply because I can't afford it. All the money I made from the Marvels and had saved up went down the drain when, in 1960, I invested as junior partner in publishing Space World, a magazine about astronomics... I think it was a good job I did as editor-in-chief—although the public stayed away from it in droves...

So that left me without money reserves, and it was back to the comics until 1967, when my daughter—our only child—was killed by a car at age 14. For reasons difficult to explain, my wife and I moved from Englewood, New Jersey, to upstate New York where Jack lived. I was pretty broken up and found it difficult to write again up here, but went back to sci-fi, this time as the market hit. "

(Binder's) daughter, Mary, died in 1967. She had been on her way to school one morning when a car jumped the curb, went into the driveway in front of the school and killed her.
Binder would continue to write, particularly on UFOs and ancient astronauts. But by all accounts he was never the same after his daughter's death. A terrible, terrible shame.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to rewatch "Paperclip"....


  1. Again amazing. You honor and keep alive yet another brave human's life efforts, with your astute observations and links to the greater information field. Another person I personally might never have heard of if not for Secret Sun.
    Best wishes as always, Delorus

  2. Great info as always. Wish the ufos would do something about Fukushima.

  3. Indeed. Maybe it could have been worse, who can say? But no force is as devastatingly powerful as the ocean. Fear it.

    Thanks, Delorus- always happy to be of service!

  4. I might add that a lot of the "What the heck was that?"'s that straightforward salt of the earth people were seeing in the back end of nowhere, in the northern upper peninsula of Michigan, when I was about 10 in the early 60's, were sighted to the north. We were about 60 miles south of KI Sawyer, a SAC base loaded, I assume, with missiles. I know we kids were all scared as could be during the Cuban Missile crisis and were sure we were about to be blown to smithereens, because of our proximity to the base. I am not certain that what we saw was not military. I am not one to be certain about much....

  5. Thanks this was a delight to read. You just cured 30 minutes of depression and boredom. Peace Quarky

  6. That's a cool story, D.

    Happy to oblige, QO!

  7. Fantastic post Christopher! Thanks so much for educating me on Otto Binder's work, for your hard work, and for the quality of your handling of these subjects once again. I love the way your mind connects the dots! Every time I read one of your posts, I come away educated, stimulated, entertained, and inspired. Bravo!

  8. @ Delorus, I was born in 1964, and went to the 3rd grade in the Marquette school district, as I lived in a small trailer park in the UP in Guinn, MI...right outside of KI Sawyer pop was in Nam, and everyday we watched the B-52's fly over, multiple times a day. We sure could see great at night up lights...saw a lot of objects we considered...satellites...but we always wondered :)

  9. Hey David! Fellow Yooper! I was raised in Felch and my Grandma lived in Ralph, two towns that sound like intestinal upsets, and can both be reached by main roads (ha ha) and two tracks from Gwinn, through some serious swamp and back country.

    You were in the base's backyard for sure.

    This is what I saw-
    one evening my friends and I were laying in a friends yard, next to the main two lane road through town, looking at stars. It must have been in the fall because I was allowed out but it was dark. We were looking at a very bright orange-red star and I remember feeling very smart and superior and telling my friends it was Mars. All of a sudden this "star' swooped down in less than a flash and was a craft across the road beside the tops of some hemlock trees. It was sort of like a glowing orangy cake pan with windows and shapes moving behind the windows. It was there for a bit- 30 seconds? 2 minutes? I don't really have a grasp of that. I think we were all struck dumb. Then a car came down the road and I remember thinking "They'll see this flying saucer! BUT- the thing dimmed down to darkness when the car got close and went past and as soon as the car was out of sight this thing shot away back into the sky, a tiny dot and then nothing, in less than the time it took for my brain to see it leave. I remember how flummoxed I was when it dimmed- I was not expecting that ploy. I ran home and I am sure I did not tell my parents.

    I know they had friends who would park overlooking a valley and big swampy area looking north towards Ralph and Gwinn and watch the lights darting around. But I still
    had no desire to get all confessional about what we saw. Whatever it was.

    It looked crafty and inhabited. How it manifested, from where, and why- well, that's the question.

    I have a friend who remembers it too but I haven't seen the others much for many years and never think to ask them on the rare occasions we are together- which is usually a situation like in a crowd at a funeral or some such.

    Just because you remember something doesn't mean you can ever make heads or tails out of it.

    Best wishes, Delorus

  10. Hey Chris,

    This whole Otto Binder-Nukes-Aliens-AAT stuff is fascinating. As a kid, realising what Nuclear power was really all about, it terrified me and I became convinced that in a just universe there would be invisible forces ensuring that we didn't nuke the whole planet and destroy ourselves along with the many other lifeforms who exist here.

    I remember reading the abduction accounts and the whole nuke/environmental resonances. I cringed at what I took to be the 'New Age flakiness' of some of it, but in the back of my mind I remember thinking, "Well, yeah, that makes sense. Respect your environment. And don't build reality-deconstructing nuclear bombs and then use them on other humans." It made sense to me.

    I think you might be on the money with the whole 'telling tales out of school' aspect of this. Fiction is often the best place to reveal an unbelievable or politically-sensitive truth, in my opinion. The best place to hide a lie is between two truths, as some say, and conversely the best place to hide a truth is between two lies.

    If there is some kind of elusive spy-network operating within this solar system, I hope and pray that there are benign forces out there who are equally vigilant. I hope it's not simply a case of, "Well, lets ensure that our little experiment doesn't self-terminate, because we've got a lot invested in them." I hope it's more complex than that.

    If this surveillance operation is largely A.I. based, then I hope there are actual dynamic, living intelligences out there who genuinely care about our long-term survival in some way that is above and beyond a very clinical 'watching'. Awesome post as ever, Chris!


  11. Hey Chris,

    Chk this out
    "this early time in Earth's history was revealed to me in 1973 when I inwardly saw great intelligences that were totally one with space, who moved through space as a jellyfish moves through water, but much more refined than that comparison. These beings, it was conveyed to me psychically, were the first original-bodied people spoken of in the text, and they indicated they will become an essence of intelligence. I, like you who have now read this, had no knowledge of such happenings before the inner-world beings brought these texts before my astral vision."

    This is from a website by a spiritual person. I believe the beings are "changelings" "transformers". They ain't nuts and bolts. But a refined form of matter, energy and thought and they take the shape of simple platonic geometry.



  12. The best blogs are the ones that make you want to learn more about the different subjects mentioned!
    I will read more about Binder and go to Hoagland's site - fascinating about these comics from over 40 years ago that could be todays headlines -Fukushima #4 -I read that if that gets blown in another EQ it could release more radioactive cesium than all of the atmospheric nuke tests to date in one go!


  13. Wonderful account of Binder and his era, I sure will link to it from my own 'space age myths and legends page'. I'm glad you point out that Binder himself never claimed he was a 'NASA insider', but like so many other people with 'useful' claims, his credentials were later exaggerated by promoters. I invite readers interested in my take on 'astronaut UFO stories' to visit my home page [easy to find via search engines] and especially my "99 FAQs About 'Space UFOs'", and contact me with critiques.

  14. Otto Binder was my uncle and i adored him, he opened my mind to so many possibilities and helped me to look to the stars! He gets so little credit compared to those bigger names but his heart and imagination were his greatest gifts. He was crushed by the death of Mary, we all were, i miss him. Thank you for appreciating his body of works.