New Key to the Truth about the First UFO Contactee?
Warren P. Aston
Whether they accept his claims or not, most readers will be familiar with the name of George Adamski, the first so-called “contactee” to openly claim contact with extraterrestrials. Five years after Kenneth Arnold and Roswell introduced UFOs to the post–World War II world, Adamski was the person who brought the idea of alien contact, here and now, into the public arena. His aliens were benign and human-looking enough to pass themselves off as normal businessmen. They were here, they said, to assist Earth society in ridding itself of atomic weapons and ushering in a new era of world peace and progress.
The sceptical who asked for proof were offered multiple images of craft photographed by Adamski in the skies of California—images, incidentally, that have never been proved fakes. Others also saw the strange craft and stood by their affidavits. Adamski met with royalty in Europe and claimed to have met the Pope. But mentioning his name today virtually ensures derision or, at best, heated discussion.
Over recent decades within ufology, it has become accepted practice to consider Adamski, and the other early contactees who followed, as belonging to an embarrassing era now best left alone. Case closed, in other words. Few researchers risk mentioning them. Even fewer admit to considering their stories seriously. It’s true that many of Adamski’s claims now seem ludicrous; but without a more nuanced evaluation that takes human nature and frailties into account, perhaps the baby has been thrown out with the proverbial bathwater.
It is time, I believe, to take a fresh look at the story of George Adamski and his contemporaries. In this article I examine an aspect of Adamski’s foundational claim that he met a man claiming to be from Venus, later given the name of “Orthon”, in front of six witnesses in the Mojave Desert on the afternoon of 20 November 1952.
Time for a re-examination?
Anyone who assumes that there is nothing new to discuss about Adamski’s story is quite incorrect. For example, in making the case that Adamski did meet with the dying Pope John XXIII in the Vatican in 1963, British ufologist Timothy Good noted the witnesses, including Swiss UFO researcher and writer Lou Zinsstag, who saw Adamski being shadowed by his mysterious young men and meeting with them at his hotel. New Zealand UFO investigator and author Tony Brunt reported that the same thing happened in 1959 when Adamski toured New Zealand and Australia. Such examples highlight events that lend credibility to Adamski’s story but remain unknown to the general public and little known even within ufology. They, and others, have yet to be integrated into a comprehensive report. The definitive account has yet to be written.
Returning to 1952, the fact that one of the photographs taken on that fateful day clearly shows Orthon’s flying saucer (or “bell”) and has essentially been forgotten—by believers and sceptics alike—should encourage caution and an open mind as we take a fresh look at what happened. This particular photograph raises some profound implications.
(Source: © Michel Zirger/Agence Martienne)
As recounted in his 1953 book Flying Saucers Have Landed, co-authored with Desmond Leslie, Adamski and a small group of friends travelled to a remote location in the California desert on 20 November 1952. With him were his secretary Lucy McGinnis, Alice Wells, George Hunt Williamson and his wife Betty Jane, and Al and Betty Bailey. The group of seven arrived at the rendezvous point in the late morning.
The first photograph of the day was taken by one of the Williamsons just before the group ate a picnic lunch together. It shows Adamski sitting near one of their cars.His telescope is beside him; he would attach the camera later. The day was clear and sunny.
Not long after, about midday, the sound of a passing aircraft alerted them to a cigar-shaped “mother ship” high overhead. Adamski had previously taken photographs of such craft, including several well-known images of them disgorging the smaller saucers. Indeed, two members of the group, George and Betty Williamson, attempted to photograph the mother ship as it manoeuvred for some 20 minutes. Some type of insignia on its side was visible through binoculars, but it was too distant to appear in the photographs taken with their simple camera.
Adamski, following his intuition, felt that a “contact” might be imminent and asked to be taken to a spot not far away. He was driven there and left alone, still in clear view of the others.
The Cameras Used on 20 November 1952
Considering the period, the group that went into the desert that day came well equipped with cameras. Adamski himself brought two. The first was an old German Ihagee camera attached to his portable six-inch telescope. This setup used pre-loaded cut film plates, and through it he had already obtained, from hundreds of attempts, some images of craft in the skies above his home near Mount Palomar. For this occasion, he came prepared with seven loaded plates. Adamski also brought with him an ordinary Kodak Brownie, a simple and very popular camera of the day that utilised roll film and had a fixed-focus lens. Al and Betty Bailey had rented a movie camera for the occasion. George and Betty Williamson brought a still camera; their still images would later prove invaluable.
The Photographs Taken on 20 November 1952
Adamski’s account relates what happened next.1 The mother ship had almost vanished in a sudden vertical climb. Minutes after setting up his telescope and attaching the camera, Adamski saw a “flash” in the sky and immediately saw a small craft descending nearby. Sighting through the telescope viewfinder, he hurriedly snapped off his seven plates without taking the time to focus properly on the camera’s ground-glass finder. The craft drifted to a stop about half a mile from him. It remained just above the ground, but only its top was now visible above the terrain.
The seven plates now exposed and safely in his jacket pocket,2 Adamski then began taking photographs with his Brownie. His first impulse, naturally, was to photograph the craft, now barely visible. In fact, his first photograph appears to show the top of the craft. It then moved again until it was completely out of view. He then took two more images to record the terrain. It was only a short time later that Adamski suddenly noticed someone standing in the distance, motioning for him to approach. Orthon had arrived. Adamski walked over to him with the dawning realisation that the smiling long-haired young man had arrived in the small saucer.
The story of their meeting, conversation and the strange footprints left behind—all of it witnessed by his companions—is too well known and accessible to warrant repeating here. Instead, I want to jump ahead to something that transpired a little later that same day.
The Media Response
After Orthon’s departure, the group spent several hours making plaster of Paris casts of his footprints and the strange symbols they contained. They did not leave the site until these had safely dried. Adamski related:
George [Hunt Williamson] and Al.[Bailey] asked permission
to give a report to an Arizona paper and I granted it. They decided
to drive to Phoenix since that was the closest large city whose papers would
probably have the greatest coverage. They asked me a number of questions
to help them in their report, one of which was—”How large was the saucer?”
I answered “about 20 feet” but I was still in that “daze” and did not recall actually
noticing how large it was. I had noted the details and not the overall.
But to substantiate their report, I gave them a couple of the holders with
exposed film in them for the paper to finish and use, if they so desired.3
In any event, the Williamsons and the Baileys met with reporters of the Phoenix Gazette. At first the story was treated with incredulity, resulting in an invitation from the two couples for the newspaper reporters to visit the site and see the footprints themselves. Still, it was a spectacular story, guaranteed to sell papers, and an article written by reporter Len Welch appeared on the Gazette. After a light-hearted introduction, the article was actually a fair summary of the events witnessed four days earlier and had only minor errors.4
And here the story takes us into a strange collision of worlds.
The Gazette developed the two exposed film holders given by Adamski to the two couples.5 The newspaper used the better of the two images as the lead image in the article, adding a photograph of its own that showed the two couples looking at the two negatives.
In Support of Adamski
What almost everyone has overlooked since then is the very simple fact that the image supports Adamski’s account. It is a close-up daytime photograph clearly showing a well-defined, structured craft at an oblique angle slightly above the camera. The perspective seems consistent with a craft in descent mode. The three-ball landing gear is clearly visible. That it is slightly unfocused fits Adamski’s description of how he made the exposures and does not detract from the fact that the photograph—even by today’s standards—is impressive.
How do we account for this photograph? How does a simple con-man, as Adamski’s detractors claim he was, produce such an image? He took it outdoors in front of six witnesses. There was no opportunity for him to know what he had managed to capture with his camera or even if he had captured anything at all. There was no chance for him to pull off some kind of manipulation during processing, even if that was possible in that pre-digital period. He himself never saw the photograph until it appeared on the newspaper’s front page.
Despite staring the UFO community and the sceptics in the face, this image has essentially been ignored even by the few commentators who have attempted to deal with the first “contactee”. As researchers re-evaluate that early period and its personalities with newly obtained documentation, these hard facts about Adamski and his original claims have to be faced, not ignored.
The inescapable facts that this photograph was made in front of witnesses, was independently developed by a newspaper and clearly shows a flying saucer in flight surely require us to reconsider the claims of George Adamski and those associated with him. 8
Material for this article, including images, is courtesy of Michel Zirger and Maurizio Martinelli whose e-book Extraterrestrials: The Contact Has Already Happened – A Biographical Essay of George Hunt Williamson is soon to be published in English by Verdechiaro Edizioni (translated, revised and expanded by Michel Zirger). The book was first published in Italian in 2013 by Verdechiaro Edizioni under the title Extraterrestri: Il contatto è già avvenuto.
- The original account appeared in Desmond Leslie and George Adamski, Flying Saucers Have Landed, T. Werner Laurie, London, 1953, pp.133-157.
- Desmond Leslie reported that he’d examined the other plates at Adamski’s home and that, although they appeared black, the silhouette of the saucer could be seen when the plates were held up against strong light.
- Leslie and Adamski, op. cit., pp.155-156; emphasis added.
- Another newspaper, the Blade–Tribune of Oceanside, California, soon afterwards conducted its own interviews and published a story. It included images, but, as the paper did not have the two plates that the Phoenix Gazette accessed, it did not publish any images taken of the craft.
- The two photographic plates developed by the Phoenix Gazette were apparently kept by George Hunt Williamson, who subsequently lost them, most probably during his 1956 move from Arizona, USA, to Peru.
About the Author:
Warren Aston has been an independent UFO researcher and writer for 35 years. Based in Brisbane, Australia, he travels widely overseas in pursuing cases. He has spoken at various symposia in Australia, the UK and the USA. Among his other fields of interest are cryptozoology, Mesoamerican prehistory and exotheology. Warren Aston can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.