Thursday, January 16, 2014

Out of this world

 An ad for a book in the December 2013 Edward Hamilton catalog caught my eye.

Wow! A true story of a a secret visit to an alien planet by 12 American astronauts? In 1965? That just was too much to resist. I got the book.

Note to those who have not read my blog before: I am not a believer in UFOs or alien abductions or the usual paranormal business. But I am interested in stories about them, and especially when people claim they are true.

In this case, Secret Journey to Planet Serpo, touted on the cover as “A True Story of Interplanetary Travel” by Len Kasten definitely piqued my interest. What the book tells us, in a nutshell, is that Americans were in contact with aliens we called Ebens, and arranged to have them pick up some Americans and take them to their home planet, Serpo, in the Zeta Reticuli system. The book is the story of that journey and that visit — originally intended for 10 years but actually lasting 13 — what they saw, and what they said about what they saw.

And in one chapter, what Steven Spielberg may or may not have known about the expedition.

Whatever else might be said about the book and accepting or rejecting its incredible claims, I see it as a book by a true believer who isn’t trying to convince a skeptic like me. The writer assumes his readers believe the story, aiming at those fellow true believers who are convinced aliens from other planets visit Earth.

However, all books, even those for believers, have to have some form of credibility, and in the case of Secret Journey it is supposedly in a series of e-mails from someone called Anonymous (weakening the case, but it also fits in with an unspoken view of conspiracy and fear of retaliation) to a website called On the masthead of the website’s home page it says, “This site is intended to facilitate the gradual release of confidential documents pertaining to a top secret exchange program of twelve US military personnel to Serpo, a planet of Zeta Reticuli, between the years 1965-78.” According to author Kasten and the website author Bill Ryan, the information is slowly being released to “acclimate” the public for the eventual revelation that yes, we have been visited by and have done business with aliens for over a half century.

But website author Ryan issues a qualifier, giving us a choice of what to believe: the e-mails could be a hoax, the work of a prankster, or they could be disinformation, slightly disguised truth, or the plain truth as far as it is known. I was struck by the “prankster” label, because it would be my assessment.

As of this date, the website hasn’t been updated since July 2012. The book was published in 2013.

The book builds from the history of the UFO mythology/history, from the Nazi secret weapons program to Nazis building a postwar Fourth Reich in Antarctica, to the Roswell crash(es) in 1947, to the super-secret government group calling itself MJ-12, to the living alien visitor (a “guest” of the United States government) and the storage of the dead aliens, to President Kennedy and his request for the aliens to return to Earth and take some Americans to their planet for scientific purposes. It’s a lot to swallow.

After the story of how the Americans got to Serpo via a worm hole in space(1) they are greeted as visitors. Our astronauts(2) were allowed to walk free on Planet Serpo, with some exceptions. The Ebens live in a police state; they are under the control of a military government. They follow very strict protocols, including religious services(3) at a certain time of the day. The military carry no weapons, but are obeyed without question, and apparently the Ebens have a lot of rules to live by. Even the Americans were occasionally accosted and upbraided by members of the military for some infractions or breaches of protocol.

The Americans were allowed to bring 45,000 tons of supplies with them, which were easily handled by the Ebens when put aboard their giant craft (they use anti-gravity, you see; we also have anti-gravity given to us by the aliens, but for whatever reason it isn’t available for the use of our society). Among the items listed, besides food, clothing and medical supplies are weapons, including thousands of rounds of ammunition. Why would a peaceful mission need weaponry, and why would the hosts allow them to bring such an armory to their home planet? Especially since, as claimed, the Ebens had been visiting Earth for 20,000 years or so, and would know that human beings are often warlike, xenophobic, suspicious of strangers and quick on the trigger.

The astronauts were also allowed to bring 10 military combat motorcycles, three M151 jeeps, and even a lawn mower. An asterisk beside that last item said the lawn mower motor could be used for something else…so I ask, why bring the whole lawnmower? The most extraordinary thing is that with all those motorized vehicles they only brought 1,500 gallons of fuel. Ten motorcycles, three jeeps and a lawn mower, to be run for 10 years…and 1,500 gallons of fuel for all of them..? Hmmm. Did someone drop a zero off the number of gallons?

They also brought radios which depended on batteries, and according to the story they ran out of batteries after five years. Eben food was totally tasteless to the Earth people, and needed lots of salt and pepper, so the salt and pepper didn’t last, nor did the C-rations they brought along, which ran out in time. Some of the planning of needed supplies seems to have been guesswork rather than calculation.

The main reason the mission lasted 13 years and not the planned 10, according to the book, is that the Americans couldn’t figure out how to compare Serpo’s day compared to Earth’s day of 24 hours, and they lost track of time. That is especially hard to believe.

If I commented on everything in the book I had a problem with this post would be as long as the book. I thought I’d highlight just a couple more. There are pictures included. I thought the pictures of the “hybrid” alien girl(4) and the alien are suspect. In an era of Photoshop how can anyone believe any photograph? The girl isn’t identified by name, where she lives, how old she is, or anything about her. And the tagline, “by Andy Social” (anti-social) is a tip we’re being ribbed. The alien looks like something sculpted or even created on a computer.

According to the book, the Americans took a lot of photos during their time on Serpo, but only one picture has been released, that of the double suns of that system. Again, I’m thinking Photoshop.

We’re told that after the Americans arrived they recorded temperatures of 140º F. After a while they moved to the Northern part of the planet where it was cooler. How much cooler? I don’t know, but at least it was claimed to be livable.

I want to mention that by now all the Serpo astronauts are supposed to be dead; the last died in 2002. They returned to Earth in 1978(5) and were kept in seclusion for several years while being debriefed. Because of the high radiation levels on Serpo they all died of radiation poisoning. That is really convenient for the sake of those telling the story. They can say all the witnesses have died, so there is no one who can claim to have been there as an eyewitness to such a momentous achievement. No witnesses, no questions.

If this journey really happened then it is the greatest event in the history of the human race. But even though I thought I’d heard all the stories about contactees and major UFO sightings, I had never heard of this story before seeing the book advertised in the catalog. Is it because no one believes it except for this coterie of true believers who believe stories like this without hard evidence? I don’t have to prove it didn’t happen, the author and the evidence have to demonstrate to me that it did by giving me something besides the word of someone called Anonymous and “confirmations” by people who supposedly know the truth.

Finally, there is the story about Steven Spielberg, that he had to have been told the story about the astronauts because in the climactic scenes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind there are twelve astronauts seen entering the alien craft. There is a chapter devoted to this story, and yet nowhere in the chapter do I read that anyone asked Spielberg directly. It could be that the whole idea of the story of a journey to Planet Serpo was dreamed up by a fantasist who got the idea from Spielberg’s movie.

It’s an entertaining book and interesting subject. To a skeptic like me, though, it’s fiction.


(1)When going through certain stages of the journey the Earthmen are kept in bubbles, which reminded me of the scenes in the 1956 movie, This Island Earth, where the kidnapped Earth people are in see-through tubes.

(2)The astronauts are not identified by names, but by three digit numbers. The commander, whose diary is quoted, is “102” and all astronauts are referred to by their three-digit numbers throughout the story.

(3)According to the book the Ebens worship a supreme being, and that even the Vatican (!) believes it is “our” (Christian) god. No Muslims or Hindus on Planet Serpo.

(4)I’m one who believes former NBA star Sam Cassell looks like a hybrid alien:

(5)Three died, one en route, two on the planet, two elected to stay on Serpo, which means there were seven who returned.


Kirk said...

Regarding CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. I seem to remember the aliens plucking Richard Dreyfuss from the group of 12 and only allowing him to enter the spaceship. Of course, the rest of the astronauts may have gotten on while we were all watching Francois Truffaut and the alien converse with each other in sign language. However, thematically, it makes more sense, gives the film a more ironic ending, that Dreyfuss is the only one that gets to go, as the military folks running the Earth end of the encounter kept trying to keep him away. Of course, if it's all a true story, there's no need for a theme nor ironic ending, but, like you, I'm skeptical.

Postino said...

It's been so many years -- at least 25 -- since I saw Close Encounters I don't even remember much about the ending except for abductees being returned. As I recall, the ending was amended by Spielberg. I saw both, but my memory is blending both ofthem together.

Is there a DVD or Blu Ray of Close Encounters that has the original version and the director's second version?

Kirk said...

I looked it up and there is indeed a Blu Ray that has THREE different versions of the movie. Spielberg apparently re-edited it a third time in the 1990s. The ammended ending you refer to was one in which the inside of the alien ship was hown. Spielberg didn't want to show it, and now regrets that he did (I myself have never liked it; I saw it when it first came out in 1977, and found it truly haunting and somewhat chilling watching Dreyfuss enter the ship. Showing the insides is less so, though, of course, you do get some extra special effects.) There was some other things he wanted to reshoot for the movie (I'm not sure what) and the studio would only let him if he showed the insides of the ship.

Postino said...

Kirk, I'm curious enough that I'm thinking of sending for the three-version Blu Ray, even though I don't know when I'd get the chance to watch all three, or if I'd have the patience.

I'm going to do a little more research into the different versions of CE3K, but my recollection is that the original version left moviegoers (like me and my brother, for instance) somewhat dissatisfied. I remember thinking at the time that there should be less of the obsessive-compulsive behavior of Roy (Richard Dreyfuss) in building a replica of Devil's Tower, and more of the landing sequence. It was like my wish came true (mostly) when I saw the re-edited version.