Hail, Hail, The Gang's All Here! - Remembering The Trickster of UFOlogy, Jim Moseley
The "old guard" of UFOlogy is quickly passing away before our very eyes. First there was John Keel, then Richard Hall, Ingo Swann, George Fawcett and most recently a man who remained for many years one of the most controversial and influential figures in all of UFO-dom, a personality who many loved and others equally despised.
When James W. Moseley passed away on November 16, 2012, at a hospital in Key West, Florida, he left behind a great many friends to mourn him. Though his name may be unfamiliar to the younger members of the UFO community today, he was for many years a most provocative voice in the field of UFOlogy, known for being a comic trickster as well as a serious researcher of flying saucer and paranormal phenomena who broke new ground in coverage of the subjects with his publications "Saucer News" and "Saucer Smear."
In memory of his departed friend, Timothy Green Beckley of Global Communications has recently published "The Astounding UFO Secrets of James W. Moseley, A Special Tribute To The Editor Of ‘Saucer Smear’ And The Court Jester Of UFOlogy." The book includes the full text of "UFO Crash Secrets At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base," a first-person account by Moseley of his investigations into numerous UFO-related incidents that also highlights his feisty attitude toward his fellow researchers and their continual disagreements over what to believe in a field where concrete evidence is almost impossible to find.
But Beckley, who is listed as the editor on the cover of the tribute book, begins things with a series of memories from those who knew and admired Moseley, all of whom have their own unique stories to tell about the jokester and his long history in UFOlogy. Beckley’s lifelong relationship with Moseley began in the early to mid-1960s when Beckley was still in his teens and an avid listener to the all night radio talk show hosted by Long John Nebel. Nebel often covered UFOs and other strange subjects, and Moseley was a frequent guest on the program. Moseley used the show to promote his monthly UFO meetings in the rather seamy Times Square area of Manhattan, and Beckley was a regular attendee. Beckley was so young at the time that he needed his brother-in-law to accompany him in the journey from New Jersey to the Port Authority in New York and on to the meetings.
"Little by little," Beckley says, "I got to know Jim very well. He was pretty gracious about sharing his information and data with people who were serious about the subject, and that included me."
No he's not a MIB! Moseley in dark glasses attends a UFO conference.
Beckley had already started his own publication, called "The Interplanetary News Service Report," which grew to have a circulation of around 1,500. Moseley bought Beckley out and absorbed his readers into Moseley’s own "Saucer News," which would reach a circulation of around 12,000 subscribers. Moseley also hired Beckley to serve as managing editor of "Saucer News," and their business-inspired relationship/partnership began in earnest.
In 1967, Moseley and Beckley shared a memorable adventure together. There had been a UFO flap along the East Coast that included frequent sightings of humanoid occupants and other creatures. An assistant editor at "Saucer News," Jack Robinson, spoke with a group of teenagers who had recently had a sighting which involved creatures in New Jersey where he, himself, lived. As he spoke to the teenage boys, Robinson saw a black car parked across the street, the kind of car the infamous Men-In-Black are known to drive around in while attempting to silence UFO witnesses.
Soon after, Robinson began to complain of problems with his phone and said his files were broken into. His wife, Mary, said that whenever she left in the morning to run her daily errands, she would see an individual dressed in black standing in the entranceway to a building a couple of doors down from the couple’s apartment and observing everyone who came and went. Mary called Moseley and Beckley several times and was clearly perturbed by the stranger’s presence, fearing either a prankster or someone intending Jack and her real harm.
Not knowing whether to believe her or not, Moseley and Beckley decided to see for themselves. They left early one morning and took the Lincoln Tunnel over to Jersey City and the Robinsons’ apartment. When they arrived, sure enough, there was a black car parked at the curb, and someone was lurking in the doorway that fit the general description of a Man-In-Black. The pair decided to circle the block and find a parking place, intending to confront whoever this was standing there. After going around the block, they had no luck in finding a place to park, but Moseley handed his young protégé a camera and Beckley took photos of the car and one of the black-clad stranger in the doorway. Again, they circled the block looking for a parking place, and when they got back, the gentleman and the car were gone.
"I always told Jim," Beckley said, "that I think this is the only case where UFO investigators actually scared off the Men-In-Black instead of the Men-In-Black scaring off the UFO investigators. He got a chuckle from that. Of course, I’ve told this story over the years and I’ve published the photographs and been on the television program ‘UFO Hunters’ to discuss this. Now Jim, being his usual skeptical self, said he was not certain that this was an actual Man-In-Black. He thought perhaps it might be a pall bearer, but there was no funeral home around there. Then he figured it might have been a member of the mob or a gangster or something. Well, that’s not even plausible. What would he be doing out there at that time of the morning? So I’ve always believed there was a good possibility that in fact he was some sort of Man-In-Black, a UFO Silencer, whatever you want to call it."
Beckley says that Moseley was often skeptical about many things in UFOlogy, or "Ufoology," as Moseley quipped. Moseley published a special expose issue of "Saucer News" in which he called the famous contactee George Adamski a fraud, risking the ire of Adamski’s many followers.
Moseley was rumored by some to be a member of the Silence Group or even the CIA because he didn’t appear to have a regular job or visible means of supporting himself. The thing was, Beckley said, Moseley had inherited quite a bit of money when he turned 21, from stocks his family had owned in the Barber Steamship line. Moseley certainly went through the money over the course of his life, and was never really what one would call wealthy, but the idea that he was getting a regular paycheck from the CIA was clearly preposterous.
Jim Moseley (far right) Tim Beckley and others swap UFO stories with the champ Muhammad Ali.
Beckley’s chapter in "The Astounding UFO Secrets Of James W. Moseley" continues with other anecdotes on Moseley, including a hoax Moseley cooked up with the late UFO researcher Gray Barker that again targeted contactee George Adamski and was intended for the pair’s amusement. Meanwhile, there was also an incident involving a UFO witness, a large public party in a New Jersey park, and the late alien abduction researcher Budd Hopkins, who remained furious at Moseley for the rest of his life. But maybe those stories are better saved for readers of the book.
Another old friend of Moseley’s who contributes a tribute chapter to the book is Antonio Huneeus, a longtime veteran of UFO and paranormal journalism now associated with the prestigious "Open Minds" magazine. Huneeus opens his chapter with learning the news of his friend’s death just after returning from a two-week trip to Chile.
"Fortunately," Huneeus writes, "I spoke on the phone with Jim right before my trip; he was alert and interested in all sorts of UFOlogical gossip, even as he was getting ready to go to the hospital for a complicated cancer surgery."
The memory of that final parting phone call is still a comfort to Huneeus, who also provided some biographical background on Moseley.
"Jim Moseley was born in 1931," Huneeus writes, "the third son of Major General George Van Horn Moseley, who was a prominent U.S. Army officer but also a notorious right wing and anti-Semitic figure during the FDR era. Jim didn’t get along with his father and so became a rebel, quitting Princeton University after a couple of years and pursuing a number of independent activities, which included real estate deals, antiquarian pursuits in South America and of course UFOlogy.
"Until the last few years," Huneeus continues, "when his age and health slowed him down, Jim was a permanent fixture at all major UFO conferences. You could always find him at the bar drinking martinis and collecting gossip, which would then appear in his longstanding newsletter, ‘Saucer Smear.’ This was the only American UFO publication devoted not to UFO cases per se but to the discussion of the personalities of UFOlogists. It was technically ‘non-scheduled’ and free, although Jim was glad to receive donations, which he called ‘love offerings.’ In the last few years it became his main intellectual activity since he always had a lot of fun editing it and making fun of people."
According to Huneeus, Moseley was often thought to be a skeptic by other UFOlogists because he didn’t buy into some of the more popular beliefs in the field, like the Roswell Incident and the abduction cases researched by Budd Hopkins and some others. But Moseley poked just as much fun at the debunkers – like the late Philip Klass and the magician James the Amazing Randi – and was critical and sarcastic regarding just about everything and everybody in UFOlogy.
In the new book on Moseley, George P. Hansen contributes a chapter comparing the court jester of UFOlogy to the Trickster entities who appear throughout the folklore of nearly every culture ancient and modern and that are often compared to the shifting realities experienced during UFO encounters.
Tim Brigham, a longtime friend of Moseley, writes fondly, "Jim was the first person I met who maintained a non-dogmatic yet genuinely curious view of this strange UFO enigma, and thus I was immediately drawn to him. Perhaps just as amazing to me at the time, Jim was BOLD about it. He said and wrote what he thought, with no fear of giving his opinion on a topic or person if asked, and even if not! Jim didn’t know all the answers and he was not afraid to tell you that neither did anyone else. He could laugh with anyone over a drink, whether he thought they were genuine or, as he often did, thought they were full of s***. As many can attest, Jim was also an amazing story teller and he had many stories to tell. He knew all the original guys; he mentioned names like Hynek and Adamski as if they were sitting in the room next door."
Phyllis Galde, the editor of "FATE Magazine," also has pleasant recollections of Moseley. In a chapter called "Jim Moseley, The Lucid Partier," she recalls making a visit to Moseley’s apartment in Key West, Florida, sharing a scotch and water with the elder statesman of UFOlogy as he chain-smoked and held court. Galde also met Moseley at the National UFO Conference in Hollywood in 2005, where he was a speaker.
"I had to smile to myself," Galde writes, "because all weekend it looked like he had the same light blue shirt on, same sport jacket, and the back of the shirt was always hanging out over his pants. Even though he was partying, his talk was coherent and lucid. Most impressive, even if you don’t agree with his conclusions. He had a fine mind, a great wit, and we will miss him. I am sure he will find out the Truth in the spirit world."
Galde pledged to post some of the articles Moseley wrote for "FATE" and to reprint some of the recent issues of "Saucer Smear" on the magazine’s website at www.fatemag.com
Also included in the new tribute book from Global Communications is the transcript of a 2010 radio interview with Moseley conducted by talk show hosts SMiles Lewis and Mack White. In the interview, Moseley speaks of the early years of UFOlogy and affectionately recalls stories and people from times past. Those interested in following along with the transcript of the interview are invited to copy and paste this link to the original broadcast and hear the Moseley interrogation firsthand at: http://www.psiopradio.com/2012/11/farewell-to-supreme-commander-jim-moseley-1931-2012/
Meanwhile, chapters by Adam Gorightly and Greg Bishop wax poetic for readers not easily offended or faint of heart.
It should be pointed out that Moseley had a second career as a "grave robber," or dealer in South American antiquities.
Antonio Huneeus writes in his chapter: "We had a common interest in all things South American as one of Jim’s most cherished periods was the few years in the late 1950s when he went back and forth to Peru and to a lesser extent Ecuador and northern Chile, purchasing and digging up pre-Columbian antiquities. Moseley was unabashed about his grave-robbing activities, his adventurous days as a huaquero (from the Quecha word ‘huaco,’ for pottery found frequently in tombs) as they are called in the Andean countries."
The black market antiquities trade is now strictly enforced in South America, according to Huneeus, but at the time Moseley was able to avoid legal prosecution by bribing the Peruvian ambassador to the United Nations. Beckley recalls that as he understood it, it was illegal to rob the graves in order to obtain the loot, but once it was in hand, it was legal to bring it into the U.S. The grave robbing never made Moseley wealthy, but it did provide some great stories along with some supplemental cash. Huneeus’ chapter includes a photo of Moseley leading a donkey through Peru in what has come to be called his "Indiana Jones period."
Additionally, while in Peru, Moseley was the first investigator to gain access to the Nazca Lines, realizing that the mysterious lines could best be seen not from the ground but from an aerial view, thus beating out Van Daniken and others by a decade or more.
When Moseley moved from New Jersey to Key West, sometime in the 1980s, he opened a pre-Columbian art gallery with whatever items remained unsold. The collection was eventually donated to a museum of archeology and natural history in Dante, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale. Moseley’s dealing in antiquities provides the subtitle for the book he coauthored with Karl T. Pflock, called "Shockingly Close To The Truth! Confessions Of A Grave-Robbing UFOlogist," which was published in 2002.
All of this serves as prologue to Beckley’s reprinting of Moseley’s book "UFO Crash Secrets At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base," in which one can read Moseley’s first-person account of his many adventures in search of the truth of the UFO phenomenon, whether that truth involved a military cover-up or run-ins with his friend and fellow jokester the late Gray Barker, who is another legendary name of the early years of UFOlogy. The complete package offered by Beckley with "The Astounding UFO Secrets Of James W. Moseley," which combines heartfelt personal tributes and the complete text of one of Moseley’s books, is a must-have for your UFO book collection. It is both a sad but smiling farewell to a true legend, the man some have called "the Hunter S. Thompson of UFOlogy," and a vital document of what the study of flying saucers was like in the beginning among its most early practitioners/jokesters, who never hesitated to add a dose of laughter to their sober assessments of the phenomenon.
* * * * *
The Astounding UFO Secrets Of James W. Moseley: Includes The Full Text Of UFO Crash Secrets At Wright Patterson Air Force Base
The Trickster and the Paranormal
* * * * *
[If you enjoyed this article, please visit Sean Casteel’s "UFO Journalist" website at www.seancasteel.com]