“A mild curiosity about UFOs can turn into a destructive obsession. For this reason, I strongly recommend that parents forbid their children from becoming involved. Schoolteachers and other adults should not encourage teen-agers to take an interest in the subject.” — from Operation Trojan Horse by John A. Keel
So my course was determined. I had to own a copy of Chariots of the Gods? no matter if the cost was equal to six comic books and a package of Wacky Packs (the preferred currency of the day…)
Now of course, living in Dunmor, Kentucky, my only access to paperbacks were what happened to be in drugstores in the surrounding area. Even though the sought-after tome had been a bestseller, it had been out a couple of years, and that meant a trip to an actual bookstore. So the next time my mom made the fifty-mile trek to Bowling Green, Kentucky I was ready. Not even the always tempting stock of Aurora monster models at Woolco could distract me from my quest to secure the knowledge of ancient astronauts.
Grabbing the book from the wire rack in the bookstore I discovered that von Däniken had authored more than one book – Gods from Outer Space, The Gold of the Gods (which had awesome gold embossed letters in “the font” – but I knew I needed to start at the beginning, more advanced studies could naturally follow. Paying a grand total of $1.31 I left the store as a possessor of great knowledge. The photo section in the center of the book alone confirmed that my purchase was wise, and I wasted no time diving into the text.
And things were going fine until I hit Chapter 4: “Was God an Astronaut?” Being a good little Southern Baptist boy meant that I was no stranger to Sunday School, and Training Union, and Wednesday night prayer meetings, and revivals in the spring and fall, and church camp for a week in the summer and so on. I was totally hip to some ancient mythological Egyptian or Mayan “god” scootin’ down to Earth on a space scooter, but the mere suggestion that GOD could be anything other than, well, GOD was deeply disturbing to me in a way I couldn’t articulate.
Fortunately, I was soon able to resolve this conflict by using the same method that mankind has used to resolve religious contradictions and conundrums throughout history – I ignored it. Skipping over the chapters on biblical matters, I found myself back in the realm of faraway lands and religious beliefs not endorsed by my mom and dad – more comfortable territory. And although I was firmly convinced that aliens may have tampered with the history of mankind, the disturbing feeling I came away with in regards to any biblical hanky panky by alien angels sapped my desire to follow-up with any of von Däniken’s other books. Instead, I refocused my attention to current alien intrusions.
"That's the way it was" in 1973!
And the media of the day was only too glad to oblige me. Even though the massive wave of UFO sightings in the fall of 1973 began to subside, magazine and book publishers were only cranking into gear. Weekly Reader, the small magazine distributed to grade-schoolers kept the weirdness torch burning bright, but my biggest discoveries of 1974 would be the wonderful little book, Living Monsters: True Stories of Real Monsters by Ann Marie Drozd and the Gold Key comic book UFO Flying Saucers.
Living Monsters was pure B.S, but it was wonderful B.S. Basically it was a quick cash-in book for kids that drew from the seventies craze for UFO and mysterious beasts. Ms. Drozd took a few bare facts about bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, etc. and turned them into short "gotcha" stories. While not great literature, it did introduce me to two concepts that I loved dearly and still do to this day.
|Weekly Reader and school book club books, all purchased|
"off budget" of course!
The first was the cover story – “Mothman.” While the story in the book had more in common with “hook killer” urban legends than with the bizarre incidents and sightings that took place in Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1966 and ’67, the big concept of “Mothman” got under my skin and burrowed deep into my psyche. Just the idea of the big bugman became a favorite of mine and remains so to this day.
The other story that got me was “Momo: The Missouri Monster.” Basically it was the story of bigfoot sightings in Missouri and Illinois, but this one connected with me because those were both border states to Kentucky, which meant the odds of Momo in showing up in Muhlenberg County were much better than those of his northwestern cousin making the cross-country trip. And even better was the tidbit that Momo sightings were tied in with UFOs. Because, as everyone knows, alien mysterious hairy primates trumps plain ole Earth-based mysterious hairy primates any day of the week!
On the funny book side, Gold Key had some of the most erratic and nonsensical publishing schedules of any comic book publisher, and the title UFO Flying Saucers had only squeaked out three issues between the years 1968 to 1972. But after the UFO wave of 1973, the title returned and managed to keep a pretty regular schedule through the rest of the decade.
|UFO Flying Saucers #4|
The first issue I encountered, in the fall of 1974, featured a not-too-accurate but still chilling portrayal of the Pascagoula, Mississippi abductions from October of 1973. While the earlier issues had mainly focused on visual sightings of UFOs, the sheer number of occupant encounters from the 1973 wave gave the comic book plenty of creepy material to draw from, and Gold Key’s stilted artwork and strangely detached style of writing made the stories even more effective.
Looking through the back issues now, pretty much every major UFO case from the 1940s to the 1970s was adapted into the pages of UFO Flying Saucers (with the exception of the Antonio Villas Boas case, but since that one is all about boinking an outer space babe, I can see why they let it slide…) The comic book also inspired me to start my own career as a “UFOlogist” as I compiled records of sightings – mostly drawn straight from the pages of the comic book and supplemented by a few tall tales told to me by schoolmates.
So here I was, amateur UFOlogist, monster hunter, true believer. As the seventies continued, so did my love for this wacky stuff. Little did I know that I was on a collision course with a disappointment of cosmic dimensions, but that’s what we’ll be getting to in Part 3.