|James W. Moseley in 1980|
As most of you have probably heard, the well-known UFO satirist, hoaxer, and occasionally serious investigator James W. Moseley died of cancer in Key West, Florida on November 16, at the age of 81. A noted “trickster” figure, his career in UFOlogy spanned sixty years (!!). He attended Princeton University, but did not graduate. Having inherited sufficient money to be able to pursue his own interests, Moseley never worked a conventional career. He spent much of his time traveling to UFO conferences, interviewing UFO witnesses and personalities, and traveling to Peru to engage in what he called “grave robbing” of pre-Columbian artifacts. Later he opened a shop in Key West to sell the antiquities he had imported before he had to beat a hasty retreat out of Peru. The shop did not do well, and so Moseley donated the artifacts to the Graves Museum of Archaeology and Natural History in Dania, Florida, where they are on permanent display.
In late 1953, Moseley began a great odyssey “tracking the elusive flying saucer.” He drove from his home in New Jersey to Washington, DC, to ask at the Pentagon to see the saucer cases that the Air Force had investigated. To his astonishment, he was allowed to do so, with no clearance required. He interviewed the famous saucer author Major Donald E. Keyhoe, and “I wasn’t impressed. I felt – correctly, I still believe – that Keyhoe routinely made too much out of too little, at least in part just to sell books.” From there it was on to interviews in South Carolina, Georgia, then west to Mississippi, Texas, Arizona, and finally Mt. Palomar, California, where “Professor Adamski was holding court” in his hamburger stand. George Adamski was famous as the man who first made contact with the Venusians, and he had a sizeable, uncritical following. (Amazingly, he still does. Adamski’s current followers held an anniversary gathering on that same spot, ironically on the very day after Moseley’s death.) Moseley was not impressed by Adamski, and riled some saucer believers by debunking Adamski’s claims.
He drove on to Hollywood where he interviewed best-selling author Frank Scully, who vigorously defended the Aztec, NM “crashed saucer” story given him by Silas Newton and Leo Gebauer. On the way back Moseley interviewed Newton in Denver. Moseley wasn’t impressed by Scully or Newton, either. He contacted the office of former president Truman in Independence, Missouri, asking for an interview about flying saucers. Amazingly, even though this was just over a year after the famous and controversial 1952 “flying saucer invasion” of Washington, DC, while Truman was still president, Moseley’s request was granted. Truman took Moseley into his private office, where the former president joked around with him a bit, then told him that he’d never seen a saucer, and didn’t know anything about them.
In the decades that followed, Moseley traveled many other places tracking the elusive saucers. He was the longtime chairman of the National UFO Conference and attended most of them. He gave many lectures about flying saucers, and even made several trips to Giant Rock in the California desert, a sort of Woodstock for UFO contactees and their followers.
Moseley became close friends with another UFOlogical “trickster” figure, the late Gray Barker, who was instrumental in launching the now-classic legends of the Men in Black, and Mothman. As might be imagined, when they got together they were frequently up to mischief. Moseley admitted to at least one hoax (there were obviously more) - the famous Straith Letter to Adamski. Barker and Moseley forged an authentic-looking letter from the U.S. Department of State, purporting to be from a nonexistent person named R. E. Straith. In it, Straith tells Adamski that the U.S. government knew that his claims of meeting Venusians were true, and planned to release that information soon. The crafty Adamski loved to show off the letter to visitors.
|One of the most interesting UFO books ever written|
Having begun publishing Saucer News in 1954, Moseley sold it to Gray Barker in 1968. Moseley then began publishing Saucer Cruise, Saucer Booze, and Saucer Jews (dedicated to his longtime friend Gene Steinberg). Finally, he settled on Saucer Smear, “Dedicated to the highest principles of UFOlogical journalism.” Many of these issues are now being sold at http://www.martiansgohome.com/smear/ (they used to be free!). It became the longest continuously published UFO journal in the world. When UFOlogists were feuding (as they almost always were), Moseley loved to run the vitriolic letters one would send in denouncing the other. In 2002, Moseley co-authored, with the late Karl Pflock, Shockingly Close to the Truth – Confessions of a Grave-Robbing UFOlogist (PrometheusBooks). If you are interested in the subject of UFOs, you simply must read this fascinating book.
Many “serious” UFOlogists were irritated by Moseley, who never hesitated to state his opinion about a major UFO case. The irascible John Keel once castigated him, “You are a boil on the ass of UFOlogy.” Moseley proudly placed this tribute at the top of numerous issues of Saucer Smear. Don Berliner was even more graphic: Saucer Smear is "like a turd on the living room floor.” Moseley wrote that, at one UFO conference, upon seeing Moseley the UFO abduction guru Budd Hopkins flipped him “the bird.” I suggested to Moseley that this might possibly make him a member of UFOlogy's famous Aviary?
The pompous "serious UFOlogist" Jerome Clark, whose ego is larger than many galaxies, wrote "Moseley, whom I knew well and with whom I corresponded up till the end, was not a skeptic by any definition. He thought UFOs to be some kind of extradimensional phenomenon, and he did not like skeptics, whom he regarded as bores and worse, all that much.... I am still trying to process the news, however sadly expected, of Jim's death. I will have more to say on his life and career at some point. For now, I mourn the loss of a friend." Excuse me while I barf! The notion of Clark sitting at his desk too emotional to write, sadly mourning his dear friend Moseley, positively oozes bullshit out of every orifice. Just a few years earlier, Clark had belittled Moseley in his UFO Encyclopedia as having "entertained just about every view it is possible to hold about UFOs, without ever managing to say anything especially interesting or memorable about any of them." Every regular reader of Saucer Smear knew that Moseley intensely disliked Jerome Clark. The reasons are not difficult to see. However, as Curt Collins, Saucer Smear "contributing editor" notes in a comment, Moseley and Clark did reconcile in the last few years.
|Moseley about to be "levitated" at a UFO Conference|
It's quite true that Moseley was not a "skeptic." However he was a "skeptical believer," and was not afraid to "call Bullshit" wherever he thought necessary, no matter how sacred the cow (including the Roswell crash and the famous British case he always wrote as “Rendle-SHAM.”). As for Clark's claim that Moseley "did not like skeptics," that's news to me. I first met Moseley at a Fortean convention in Washington, DC in the1970s. He visited me several times during his travels to California, and we met numerous times at various conferences. I have dozens of postcards from him (his favorite means of communication, many of them marked "top secret" on the front side). We remained in frequent contact until his death. Moseley was also on friendly terms with Philip J. Klass, James Oberg, Gary Posner, Lance Moody, Tim Printy, and Michael Dennett, to name a few skeptics. It is true that in later years Moseley had come to dislike James "the Amusing" Randi (as Moseley typically called him), with whom he was originally friendly. Moseley appeared as a frequent guest on Randi's late night radio show in New York City during the 1960s. (Randi a forerunner of Art Bell's late-night paranormal weirdness radio talk show? Unbelievable, but true!) "At the time, Randi was relatively open-minded about saucers and other weirdness. We became friends" (Shockingly, p. 189). But Moseley became irritated by what he considered Randi's inflexible skepticism about paranormal claims, in part because Moseley had experienced several incidents himself that he felt might be paranormal.
Moseley was among the last survivors of the very beginning of the saucer era, to whom Arnold’s sighting and the Mantell crash were not historical events, but personal memories. He also belonged to the age of the typewriter, never using a computer. Until his death each issue of Saucer Smear consisted of eight pages of typed text, interspersed with some humorous cartoons, news headlines, or offbeat photos. Moseley's "contributing editors," as well as others, sent him late-breaking material printed out from what Moseley always called the "cursed internet."