Contactee is the name that has been given to people, especially
since the 1950s, who claim contact with extraterrestrials,
beings from other planets. In the wake of the citing of flying
saucers by pilot Kenneth Arnold in 1947, speculation was rampant
that they were possibly spaceships from a distant planet.
Beginning in 1952, with George Adamski, a number of people
emerged who claimed that they had met and communicated
with the humanoids who drove the flying saucers. Two years
later, contactee George van Tassel began to host an annual
convention of contactees and those who believed their message
at a place called Giant Rock, in the desert of Southern California,
near Lucerne Valley. A contactee movement was born that
has persisted to the present.
While a number of contactees have claimed direct physical
meetings with the space beings—most notably a few of the
more famous of the 1950s contactees, with a few even trying to
produce hard evidence of their contact—overwhelming, the
contact was by way of telepathy (or in some cases by out-ofbody
travel). Contactees have received messages from the
space beings much as mediums in earlier generations received
messages from spirits of the dead or ascended masters. A new
term, channeling, a metaphor referring to the then-new phenomenon
of television, was coined to describe their reception
of the extraterrestrial communications. When ufology almost
disappeared after the very negative Condon report in 1969,
channeling from extraterrestrials continued and found a new
home as a major subtheme within the New Age Movement.
Connections Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
Pre-Adamski Contacts
Although a new era of extraterrestrial contact was launched
by George Adamski, it was soon evident that he was by no
means the first to claim contact, and that in fact claims of contacts
had periodically appeared over the previous two centuries.
In the middle of the eighteenth century, Swedish seer
Emanuel Swedenborg, who had made a career of absorbing
and publishing communications from angels, claimed to have
taken an out-of-body trip through the solar system. He left a
record of his discoveries in a small book, Earths in the Solar System
(1758). As he moved from planet to planet, he discovered
each to be inhabited by races not unlike humans and he described
each in turn, usually in very positive terms. It is also the
case that he limited his visits to the then-known planets. He did
not discover the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter or note the
existence of any planets beyond Saturn.
Occasional contacts would be reported over the next century,
especially after the emergence of Spiritualism, but a clustering
of such claims would appear toward the end of the nineteenth
century after astronomer Percival Lowell reported to
have seen canals on the surface of Mars. Such unnatural structures
crisscrossing the face of a nearby planet offered hope (or
provoked fears) that a nearby neighbor was inhabited with rational
beings. One of the Martian contactees of the 1890s,
Catherine Elise Muller, was studied in depth by Swiss psychologist
Theodore Flounoy in a now-classic work of parapsychology,
From India to the Planet Mars, originally released in 1899.
Operating as a medium in Geneva, Helène Smith (as Muller
was called by Flounoy in his book) allowed the psychologist to
sit in and observe her as she took her followers on various
flights of fantasy. She actually visited Mars in out-of-body-like
experiences and described in some depth the Martian civilization,
especially the fabled canals. In the end she even produced
a Martian language, which, when analyzed, showed a remarkable
dependency on French.
As with later contact claims, the material reported by both
Swedenborg and SmithMuller raise the central issue that must
be faced in analyzing contactees. Contact is made by psychic
means, it most often occurs in a religiousspiritual context, and
the information derived from the contact is a mixture of reputed
observation about the science and culture of the alien’s planet
with an emphasis on their philosophicaltheological and
moralethical teachings. The literature draws upon the current
state of popular knowledge of science (with little understanding
of or appreciation for the scientific endeavor). While appearing
to report observations in a somewhat objective fashion, in the
end, the conclusions drawn are metaphysical. When contactees
initiated their activity outside of a religious setting, following
any measurable response, they have tended to form a religious
organization as a vehicle for communicating the message of the
extraterrestrials. [Many contactees avoid any mention of religion,
preferring to distinguish their work from traditional
church organizations by using the alternate term ‘‘spiritual.’’
However, the great majority of contactee organizations provide
their adherents with all of the functions that churches and
other religious groups commonly offer their members. These
services would include fellowship with like-minded believers,
wedding and funeral services, some contact with a transcendent
realm, information on the nature of ultimate reality, a means
of coming into contact with the transcendent, moral guidelines,
and some advice for the adherent’s personal life.]
Through the twentieth century, the number of claims of extraterrestrial
contact increased and at times in the 1930s and
1940s blended imperceptibly into science fiction literature.
Most contacts were made in the context of one of the metaphysical
religions, either Spiritualism or Theosophy. Helena Petrovna
Blavatsky (1831–1891), cofounder of the Theosophical
Society, for example, proposed the existence of a group of
evolved masters she termed the ‘‘Lords of the flame,’’ who resided
on Venus. Blavatsky, who had formerly operated as a
Spiritualist medium, claimed to have regular contact with a
large group of evolved beings believed to guide the evolution
of human life. Contact was normally through the materialization
of messages reputedly from these ascended masters,
though clairvoyanttelepathic contact also occurred. Blavatsky
was plagued the last years of her life with significant charges of
fraud, and during the twentieth century, those who established
contact with the Masters did so as more traditional mediums
channels, though they tended to use self-descriptive terms that
served to separate them from Spiritualist mediums. Most notable
of the Theosophical channels were Alice A. Bailey and Helena
Roerich. Both established with one of the masters originally
named by Blavatsky as members of the spiritual
hierarchy, the Great White Brotherhood, and later published
a series of books containing the communications from that
In the 1930s, a new contact with the masters was made by
Guy W. Ballard. Unlike Bailey and Roerich, who confined
their contacts primarily to a single master, Ballard claimed to
be in touch with the whole range of ascended masters, including
a group of masters from Venus, though the majority of messages
came from either the master saint Germain or the master
Jesus. Ballard, who described himself as a messenger of the
masters, also held public meetings during which he allowed
one or more of the masters to speak through him. These sessions
appeared much like the spirit discourses that had been
delivered by Spiritualist mediums in previous decades. Although
Ballard described himself, his wife Edna Ballard, and
his son Donald as the only authorized messengers of the Masters,
soon after the formation of the ‘‘I AM’’ Religious Activity,
others came forward to claim contact with the same masters,
to offer supplemental revelations and eventually to create competing
organizations. Ballard and the ‘‘I AM’’ would become
important to the contactee movement as it finally emerged in
the 1950s because it offered an alternative model to Spiritualism
in which individuals could structure their encounters with
extraterrestrials. In fact, in the same way that theosophists
spoke of the masters as being organized into a spiritual hierarchy,
so contactees would speak of their contacts as being members
of a space or interstellar hierarchy. That hierarchy would,
strangely enough, often be inhabited by beings who had the
same names as the ascended masters originally mentioned by
Blavatsky or Ballard.
The New Era
A new era of contact with extraterrestrials began in 1952
with the announcement of George Adamski (1891–1965), an
amateur astronomer from Southern California, that he had established
communication with the beings who inhabited the
spaceships that were being popularly referred to as flying saucers.
Actually, Adamski claimed to have first seen a space ship
in 1946; in 1950 he had produced two pictures which he
claimed to have taken of flying saucers. These were published
in Fate, the original periodical featuring news of UFOs. However,
on November 20, 1952, he and six companions drove to
a location in the desert in southeastern California where Adamski,
now separated from the others, claimed to have seen a saucer
land. A handsome blond humanoid figure disembarked
from the saucer. Through a mixture of telepathy, sign language,
and gestures, the extraterrestrial communicated that he
was from Venus and that he had come to Earth out of concern
over the destructive potential of atomic weapons.
Adamski’s contact story was published in a book, Flying Saucers
Have Landed (which also included a text on historical UFOs
by Desmond Leslie). He would go on to write two further accounts
of his interaction with visitors from Mars and Saturn and
his own travels in outer space, capped by a view of the thriving
life on the backside of the moon. Adamski’s success quickly
called forth additional stories from Truman Betherum, Orfeo
Angelucci, Howard Menger, and Daniel Fry, all of whom
claimed to have also met benevolent humanoids from space.
Their reports were met with enthusiastic acceptance from one
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Contactees
group while receiving across-the-board rejection from serious
students attempting to understand the flying saucer phenomena.
Ufologists had little sympathy for the religious feeling that
the contactees aroused, and believing the stories detracted
from their scientific endeavor, tended to dismiss contactees as
frauds and kooks.
The contactees went about the business of organizing followers
into proto-religious groupings. Thus, while leading critics
and supporters of Adamski conducted a public debate on
the truth of his contact claims and the accuracy of his information
about the planets, Adamski quietly invited his supporters
into study groups and gave them copies of lessons he had authored
on such topics as cosmic philosophy and telepathy.
Eventually people would become aware of Adamski’s career
prior to his becoming a contactee as an occult teacher and
founder of the Royal Order of Tibet.
The great majority of the contactees organized spiritual
religious groups. Some, such as the New Age Foundation established
by Wayne Aho or the Sanctuary of Thought launched by
Truman Betherum, had little success and folded soon after the
death of their leader. More successful were Unarius, founded
by former Spiritualist mediums Ruth and Ernest Norman, the
Aetherius Society, founded by British contactee George King,
and the I AM Nation, founded by a group of contactees in Florida.
Each of these organizations produced a large body of occult
literature and have survived to the present under a second
generation of leadership.
Among the most interesting of the contactee myths was that
of Ashtar, the spaceship commander originally contacted and
introduced to the world by George Van Tassel (1910–1970).
Van Tasel enjoyed some success as the organizer of the annual
convention of contactees, the Giant Rock Interplanetary Spacecraft
Convention, but less success with his College of Universal
Wisdom and his attempt to build the Integratron, a large
building that would contain a rejuvenation machine. Today,
the Integratron building stands unfinished at Giant Rock.
However, as Van Tassel faded from the contactee scene, other
contactees began to claim contact with Ashtar and in the 1980s,
speaking through Tuella (public name of Thelma B. Turrell),
the founder of Guardian Action, Ashtar would enjoy success
never experienced even at the height of Van Tassel’s career in
the 1960s. Today, the Ashtar Command exists as a set of contactee
groups, each continuing the themes initiated four decades
The progress of the contactee community was not affected
by the ups and downs of the Condon Report that almost destroyed
ufology, and the contactee groups continued their spiritual
relationship to the space brothers and could wait for the
rest of the world to finally discover their truths. While the structures
of the older contactees would persist through the remaining
decades of the twentieth century, the contactee phenomena
would experience a significant growth in the 1970s and 1980s
from two unexpected sources.
Contactees and Abductees
As early as 1965, ufologists were entertained with accounts
of people who claimed to have been abducted by the entities
from extraterrestrial craft. The first of importance was the story
of Brazilian Antonio Villas-Boas, who in 1958 claimed that he
had been taken aboard a landed flying saucer, had blood drawn
from him, and was forced to engage in sex with an alien female.
The account of the case did not circulate until 1965, when John
G. Fuller was researching the similar story of Barney and Betty
Hill. His book, The Interrupted Journey (1966), told how the
Hills, driving home through the mountains of New Hampshire,
saw a UFO, made note of their sighting, but then arrived home
two hours later than they should have. In the weeks following
the sighting, their life filled with stress that finally led them to
a psychiatrist. He hypnotized the pair, and they told the story
of encountering a group of entities, with gray skin and large
heads with large eyes, diminutive noses, and almost no ears.
They were taken into the saucer and underwent a medical examination
(including the insertion of a needle in Betty’s stomach).
An abridgement of Fuller’s book appeared in the October
1966 Look Magazine, but the relative dearth of other similar
cases meant that the Hill case was placed on the shelf for a decade.
In the 1970s, a series of abduction stories began with the abduction
of Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker in 1973 in Pascagoula,
Mississippi. It was unusual in that it occurred during a
wave of UFO sightings (commonly referred to as a flap). Other
less publicized cases also occurred at the same time. A Utah
woman, Betty Roach, would be the first of many who had no
conscious memory of what had happened to her, but like the
Hills would later recount the story of an abduction and medical
examination under hypnosis. In 1975, six woodcutters saw a
fellow worker, Travis Walton, taken aboard a UFO. Walton disappeared
for five days and told a story later turned into a
Hollywood movie.
During the late 1970s a number of cases of abduction were
reported and a few, such as Betty Andreasson’s, were taken seriously
by ufological investigators. During the 1980s, the study
of abductions emerged as the wave of the future in UFO
studies, a discipline that survived only with the hope that it
might lead to the discovery of an extraterrestrial causation behind
the varied phenomena. Amateur researcher Budd Hopkins
took center stage with the first published study of the abduction
accounts, Missing Time (1981). The legitimacy of these
stories was given a significant boost by the 1987 book Communion
by horror fiction author Whitley Strieber, who told of his
multiple abductions, medical examinations and memories recovered
by hypnosis. His account hit the bestseller lists and
brought the discussion of abductions into the popular culture.
UFO debunker Philip Klass finally felt the abduction phenomenon
deserving of a comprehensive refutation. He dismissed
them as a combination of fantasy and hypnotic confabulation.
However, Klass wrote just as the abduction dam was about
to break. Folklorist Thomas Bullard released his massive study
of 300 abduction cases which established the overall patterns
of the cases. Historian-turned-believer David Jacobs published
the study of cases he had personally investigated in 1992, the
same year a number of ufologists and others interested in abductions
met in Cambridge, Massachusetts, called together by
psychiatrist John E. Mack, an adjunct professor at Harvard
University. For several years Mack had been counseling abductees
and gave some credence to their stories. The conference
proceedings were published along with a shorter journalistic
summary of the papers and discussion, both leading to Mack’s
important 1994 book, Abduction, which joined Budd Hopkins’
writings as the prime statements of the abduction case.
Abductions continue to be investigated by ufologists, though
the enthusiasm for the accounts definitely peaked in the mid1990s.
Although abduction stories continue to provide a rich
mine of material for social scientists, they have not produced
the hoped-for breakthrough in unraveling the UFO mystery.
The physical evidence—items recovered from the abductees—
cited in the early 1990s failed to produce any meaningful data.
An additional important factor deflating interest in abductees
among ufologists was the growing association of the abduction
stories with contactee stories. In 1980, counseling psychologist
and hypnotherapist R. Leo Sprinkle of the University of
Wyoming began holding annual gatherings of contactees,
those people who believed themselves in contact, telepathic
and otherwise, with benevolent space beings. The gatherings
were conducted in a positive, accepting environment. However,
through the decade, as word of the gathering circulated, abductees
began to make their way to the gathering and the
boundaries between those who initially had positive contacts
with extraterrestrials and those who had negative contacts
began to fade. There was a marked tendency for abduction stories
to transform into contactee accounts.
Contactees Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
The popularity of Whitley Strieber’s account of his abduction
became a two edged sword for the UFO community. Strieber
began to see his interaction with the space people in a more
positive light, and in spite of the trauma he had initially experienced,
he began to interpret his multiple contacts as part of an
effort to educate humanity. By the end of the 1980s, he and the
ufologists had parted company, and he established an organization,
the Communion Foundation, to work toward a productive
relationship with the alien visitors. Subsequent books,
Transformation (1988) and The Secret School Preparation for Contact
(1996), document his own transformation into a contactee.
As the life histories of abductees became known, and the stories
such as Strieber’s of a lifetime of contact that began in
childhood surfaced, investigators searched for larger meanings.
Those with psychological training saw the transformative
and initiatory nature of the experiences and the manner in
which they forced people into a more cosmopolitan view of
their place in the universe. By the time John Mack’s longawaited
book appeared in 1994, it went on the shelves of the
New Age bookstores next to the shelf of contactee books.
Through the 1990s a variety of people began to look at the
metaphysical and philosophical implications of the abduction
phenomena and seriously began suggesting paranormal explanations
for the phenomena surrounding the stories. Such approaches
did away with extraterrestrials and had no need of
physical space craft. They quickly returned to the warnings of
the 1950s contactees about the apocalyptic conditions facing
humanity, now rushing to destruction at breakneck speed.
Alien contact was an urgent message for humankind to reverse
its course.
The New Age Movement
At the same time that ufologists were discovering and reorienting
their work around the abduction phenomenon, the New
Age community emerged as the nurturing community for a
new generation of channelers. New Age channelers brought
forth a mountain of material, from a variety of transcendent entities
from ascended masters to the spirits of the recently deceased,
to vague entities masquerading as the channeler’s own
higher self. However, it became evident to those who began to
survey the channeling literature that the largest recognizable
block of channeled literature derived from entities who described
themselves as extraterrestrials. Much of this literature
continued contact with the space commanders who had made
their original appearances in the 1950s, and the members of
the redefined theosophical hierarchy now seen as administrators
of an immense intergalactic government.
Within a few years after Ashtar and members of his command
had been introduced to the world through George Van
Tassel, he began to speak through other channelers. The messages
received by Trevor James Constable and published in his
1958 volume They Live in the Sky were among the first. Through
the 1970s a variety of channels from around the Englishspeaking
world heard from Ashtar, and in the 1980s his most
prominent voice, Thelma B. Turrell, had no problem assembling
representative messages from him in her compilation, Ashtar
A Tribute. Turrell went on to head Guardian Action, the
most prominent post in the Ashtar Command, though in the
wake of Turrell’s death, a number of competing outposts have
Forming a link between the ufological community and the
New Age was Swiss contactee Eduard Albert Meier, a contactee
whose career has paralleled that of George Adamski. In 1979,
Meier’s coffee-table book, UFO. . . Contact from the Pleiades, was
released in an English-language edition. While ufologists were
offended by what they quickly came to see as an elaborate hoax,
a number of amateur UFO buffs were attracted to the evidence
of the impressive pictures. Meier’s basic claim was that on the
afternoon of January 28, 1975, he had seen a flying saucer
land. From it a beautiful woman named Semjase came forth
and engaged him in conversation for an hour and a half. She
told him that she was from a people that had originated on a
planet in the constellation Lyra, but that a war had driven her
people to Pleiades. Along the way, the Pleiadians had discovered
Earth and periodically visited it. In fact, some had settled
here and intermarried with humans, then in a rather primitive
state. In subsequent visits with Semjase, Meier would take many
photographs and even rides in the space ships. Inventor
consultant Fred Bell would also claim meeting with Semjase
from which he derived plans for the flying saucers and other
bits of advanced technology.
From the very beginning, Semjase’s message had distinct religious
overtones. She denounced the established religions and
called Meier’s attention to the Laws of Creation, an interplanetary
alternative to the Ten Commandments. Meier went about
building a classic contactee spiritual community, the Freie Interessengemeinschaft
für Grenz und geistes Wissenschaften
and Ufologie Studien (Free Community of Interests in the Border
and Spiritual Sciences and UFO Studies), the American
branch of which was known more simply as the Semjase Silver
Star Center. Amid the many books designed simply to present
his claims for contact, a lesser-known set of books, designed
primarily to circulate among his followers, outlined his moral
religious message. Basic to that message, known as the Ten
Bids (analogous to the Ten Commandments) are the ten things
Creation bids us to do.
The attacks upon Meier’s credibility were somewhat lost
amid the flood of material supportive of his claims, including
more than a dozen books, most beautifully illustrated with photos.
Meier also released several amateurish videos. Through
the 1980s these materials circulated among UFO buffs, but
found an even larger audience within the New Age community.
They associated the Pleiades as the home for the visitors from
outer space, and thus it is not surprising that by the end of the
1980s, a series of books otherwise unconnected to Meier and
his supporters began to appear containing messages channeled
from entities from the Pleiades. Among the first was from astrologer
channel Barbara Hand Clow, Heart of the Christos Starseeding
from the Pleiades (1989), though by far the most popular
item was Barbara Marciniack’s Bringers of the Dawn Teachings
from the Pleiadians, which appeared in 1992. Other channelers
who claim to be in touch with the Pleiadians include Susan
Drew, Amorah Quan Yin, Nina Jenice, and Australian channel
Jani King.
Quite apart from channels united by their contact with the
Pleiadians, a popular community of channelers has been
brought together by Sedona Magazine, a channeling-oriented
monthly with issues built around short excerpts, arranged by
topic, from a host of channelers. Here messages from the space
brothers mix harmoniously with messages from ascended masters
and other entities who have taken the lead in the post-New
Age era of spiritual emergence. Frequently, flying saucer entities
will speak through the same channeler who at other times
might channel ascended masters from the Great White Brotherhood.
Prominent among the extraterrestrial entities in the
current generation are Zoosh and Jopah (channeled by Robert
Shapiro), and Zwoosh (Bob Fickles). Also, collective voices
speak from groups such as the Assembly of Light, the Council
of Twelve, and the Planetary Council. Lyssa Royal, who channels
a variety of different entities, has emerged out of the group
as possibly the most successful of the Sedona cadre.
As the New Age Movement faded in the early 1990s, a new
wave of contactees have come to the fore amid a new generation
of prophets offering guidance for the twenty-first century
and claiming revelation from a range of paranormal sources.
In spite of challenges to the entire channeling enterprise from
the skeptical community, they are enjoying a popularity never
dreamed of by the first wave of contactees. They have built a
community of support upon the broadly held belief that extraterrestrial
life exists somewhere and the still significant community
of people who believe that UFOs may be extraterrestrial
craft. Contactees channel beings who originate on planets far
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Contactees
beyond the reach of contemporary science and speak messages
of religious and moral guidance. They have almost nothing to
say about the science behind their extraterrestrial travel and
even use a most nontechnical language when discussing the
process of channeling itself. Like the words of the angels who
visited past generations, the spiritual admonitions of the extraterrestrials
must be accepted upon faith (there being no evidence
to back up the claims of the channeled entities). Most importantly,
their accounts of life on their home planet is not
susceptible to possible falsification, a major flaw of the early
contactees whose descriptions of Venus, Mars, and the Moon
were disconfirmed even in their lifetime.
Flounoy, Theodore. From India to the Planet Mars A Study of
a Case of Somnambulism with Glossalalia. Reprint, New Hyde
Park, N.Y. University Books, 1963.
Klimo, Jon. Channeling Investigations on Receiving Information
from Paranormal Sources. Berkeley North Atlantic Books, 1998.
Lewis, James R., ed. The Gods Have Landed New Religions
from Other Worlds. Albany State University of New York Press,
Meier, Eduard ‘‘Billy.’’ Decalogue, or the Ten Bids. Alamogordo,
N. Mex. American Office FIGUSemjase Star Center,
Melton, J. Gordon. ‘‘Religious Reflections on UFO Stories
Contactee to Abductee.’’ In Andrea Pritchard et al., eds. Alien
Discussions Proceedings of the Abduction Study Conference. Cambridge,
Mass. North Cambridge Press, 1994.
Steiger, Brad. Gods of Aquarius UFOs and the Transformation
of Man. New York Harcourt Brace Javanovich, 1976.

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