by Paul B. Thompson
For many years before the words "flying saucers" or "UFOs"
were created, there existed an extensive body of literature about
contact between humans and non-human beings. In the
nineteenth century, spiritualists filled volumes with rambling,
obtuse discourses allegedly obtained from the spirits of the
dead. (Why great thinkers, from Caesar to Shakespeare,
suddenly become dull, sentimental hacks after death is one
mystery spiritualists have never addressed.) Some mediums
went even further afield and psychically contacted inhabitants of
other worlds. A Swiss woman known as Helene Smith (real
name Catherine Elise Muller) visited Mars in the 1890s, met an
important Martian named Astane, and learned to write and
speak the "Martian" language. A New England medium named
Denton visited most of the known planets in the solar system,
describing for his sitters life on Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. In the
1880s a Newburgh, New York dentist named John Ballou
Newbrough channeled a "new Bible" called Oahspe, dictated to
him by angelic presences at that new-fangled invention, the
typewriter. Oahspe set new standards for occult drivel, as it
was crammed with wacky paranormal beliefs: lost continents,
angels copulating with animals, beings from space, and racist
"history" that explained why Caucasians were superior to
darker-skinned races (Caucasians have more angelic blood in
them, according to Newbrough).
By the 1930s, a more sophisticated "bible" was being
transmitted to humankind in the form of the Urantia Book.
Different accounts exist as to the origin of this weighty tome, but
the basic story is like Newbrough's: non-human entities dictated
the Urantia Book to a human recipient. Its contents are of a
type with other channeled works: lots of long winded religion,
philosophy, guides to right-thinking, nutrition, etc. Personally I
always wonder why enormously wise Space Brothers/Angels
don't relate really important stuff to us, like how to cure cancer,
or how to achieve space travel without costly, noisy rockets.
Beginning in 1965, UFO researchers in Spain and France
received contacts from persons who claimed to be
extraterrestrials from the planet Ummo, which allegedly circles
the star astronomers know as Wolf 424. These contacts took
the form of phone calls (!) and manuscripts of considerable size
and complexity, purportedly describing the science, politics, and
sociology of the Ummites. Artifacts from Ummo were left for
researchers -- metal, sheets of plastic -- which when analyzed
proved to be advanced composites or polymers available, but
not common, on earth.
The Ummo affair grew larger with time as more people fell into
the network of contacts made by the alleged aliens. An
extensive literature built up relating the wisdom of the Ummites,
which to this day is widely discussed in continental Europe.
Weird, complicated tales of deception and hoaxes are also
wound into the fabric of the Ummo legend. American and
British UFOlogists generally regard the Ummo affair as an
elaborate hoax, perhaps a social experiment perpetrated by
some intelligence agency (pick your favorite candidate -- the
KGB, the East German Stasi, the CIA, French military
intelligence...). French and Spanish investigators who have
immersed themselves in Ummo lore for decades are not so sure.
Who could, or would, perpetrate such a complex hoax? There
are hundreds of pages of documents extant from the alleged
aliens, some of which detail the mathematical system of Ummo.
This is not at all like the muddled, intellectually evanescent
writings found in Oahspe or the Urantia Book. The Ummo
material is not beyond the mentality of human beings, but it does
pose a serious question: who would write such lengthy tracts,
I'm in no position to provide an exact answer, but in the tradition
of previous UFO Cautionary Tales, I can suggest a parallel
phenomenon that may hold at least part of the answer. It
involves that vastly underestimated human feature, the mind.
The Jet-Propelled Couch
Dr. Robert Lindner (1914-1955) was born in New York City.
As a child his passion was science fiction, which in those days
meant H. G. Wells, "Tom Swift," and pulp magazines like
Amazing Stories. Lindner received his Ph.D. in psychology
from Cornell in 1938. He went on to a short but intense career
as Freudian analyst, and wrote several riveting books about his
experiences. His first book, published in 1944, was Rebel
Without a Cause, which gave its title and nothing else to the
famous James Dean movie. Dr. Lindner's most enduring work
was his 1955 study The Fifty Minute Hour, a collection of five
psychoanalytic cases. Lindner wrote with the power and clarity
of a novelist; indeed, to protect the identity of his patients he
fictionalized aspects of their lives.
The fifth and final case in The Fifty Minute Hour is called "The
Jet-Propelled Couch." Dr. Lindner got a call from a physician
"at a government installation in the Southwest." One of the
scientists (Lindner says a physicist) at the government lab was
exhibiting signs of psychosis, claiming he was from another
planet. Lindner gave this man the pseudonym "Kirk Allen." One
of Allen's supervisors at the government lab noticed him writing
pages and pages of hieroglyphs. When questioned about the
odd symbols, Allen apologized and promised to spend more
time on this planet, i.e., earth!
Because of the sensitive nature of this scientist's work for the
U.S. government, Dr. Lindner was asked to treat this physicist
as soon as possible. Allen was sent off to Baltimore, where Dr.
Lindner had his practice. He was then in his thirties, blond, and
given to wearing seersucker suits and Panama hats. Lindner
soon learned that Allen was born in Hawaii in 1918, the son of
an American naval officer, and spent much of his childhood in
Polynesia. His troubles began when he was left to the care of a
governess, a weird nymphomaniacal woman who seduced Allen
when he was only eleven years old. Lindner spins a classical
Freudian analysis of Allen's sexual formulation, his fears of
maternal incest, etc. Allen identified strongly with the Polynesian
people around him and found the behavior of the white people
he knew alienating. When slightly older he chanced upon the
novels of (as Lindner says) "a highly imaginative and prolific
writer... a famous English author," Allen felt a shock of
"recognition" that the novels' hero had the same name as him.
(This suggests Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martian adventure novels.
The hero of Burroughs' Mars novels is named John Carter. Was
there a physicist at Los Alamos or White Sands in the late
1940s named John Carter? I don't know. Lindner freely
fictionalizes details of his cases, making the identification of his
Over time, Kirk Allen's psychological problems took the form
of believing he was an extraterrestrial, temporarily trapped in the
guise of an ordinary earthman. Using the novels he read as a
starting point, he began to compile lists of planets he had visited,
complete with details of their geography, flora and fauna,
civilizations, and politics. This started in his teens and continued
to his thirties. It didn't seem to interfere with his college
education or his subsequent career as a physicist. But by his
thirties, Allen's accumulated "alien" knowledge began to crowd
out the mundane details of his real life, and his colleagues
recognized the depths of his delusions for the first time.
"Kirk Allen" wasn't simply some Burroughsian swashbuckler --
he was, in his mind, the emperor of a vast galactic realm. He
traveled the cosmos surveying his conquered worlds, and
recorded his findings in meticulous detail. Because of his training
in math and science, Allen's phantom worlds were far more fully
realized than any in ordinary science fiction, and light-years
more sophisticated than anything found in Oahspe, Urantia, or
the Ummo papers. When Kirk Allen "discovered" a planet, he
worked out its orbital mechanics with the precision of, well, an
Ivy League physicist. Once Dr. Lindner obtained Allen's
confidence he was shown the following documentation of Kirk
An autobiography of Allen, 12,000 pages long, in 200
chapters. Appended to this were a further 2,000 pages of
notes and annotations. Many of these notes were written
in shorthand that Allen himself had devised.
A glossary of names and terms, over 100 pages long.
82 maps, drawn to scale in full color, consisting of 23
planetary maps in four projections, 31 continents on these
planets, the rest being maps of cities on those planets.
161 architectural drawings, to scale and extensively
annotated, some in color.
12 genealogical tables.
18 pages describing the galaxy in which Kirk Allen lived,
with four astronomical charts, and nine star maps.
A 200 page history of the empire ruled by Kirk Allen,
with 3 pages of important historical events, battles, etc.
44 file folders containing up to 20 pages each of
memoranda on the different planets Kirk Allen ruled or
visited. These had titles like "The Metabiology of the
Valley Dwellers," "The Transportation System of
Seraneb," "The Application of Unified Field Theory and
the Mechanics of the Stardrive to Space Travel,"
"Anthropological Studies on Srom Olma I," "Plant
Biology and Genetic Science of Srom Olma I," and much
306 drawings, some painted, of extraterrestrial machines,
animals, clothing, instruments, people, plants, insects,
weapons, vehicles, buildings, even furniture.
How pale and shallow the wisdom of Ummo must be compared
to the delusions of a single educated earthman!
Dr. Lindner was almost overwhelmed by the sheer volume of
Allen's delusions. He had Allen submit to extensive physical and
neurological tests, all of which came back normal. Allen's
problem was entirely mental, and he developed curiously
familiar theories to account for his presence on earth. A reader
of the works of Charles Fort, Allen decided he had been
teleported to earth, and that undefined "psychic" organs in his
body allowed him to return (at least astrally) to his home galaxy
whenever he wished. In another context Kirk Allen might have
become a famous UFO contactee, the founder of a cult, or at
least the center of a large controversy. Imagine, government
physicist, Ivy League graduate, the extraterrestrial among us --
what kind of impact would Kirk Allen have had if he had come
to the attention the gullible public instead of Dr. Lindner?
Lindner's psychoanalysis of Kirk Allen took the form of going
through the myriad details of his delusion, searching for
inconsistencies that might shock Allen back to reality. There
weren't many. Allen's galaxy was measured in units called
"ecapalim," equal to one and five-sixteenths miles. He produced
calculations of orbits and planetary sizes in this bizarre fraction,
converting them to miles for Dr. Lindner's benefit.
Eventually the strain of such scrutiny took the escapism out of
Allen's delusions, and they lost value for him. He abandoned
them, but kept up the pretense for Dr. Lindner for some time,
just to humor his inquisitive therapist! The ironic fact was, by the
end of his treatment, Allen's fantasies had ensnared Lindner, a
science fiction fan from way back. Allen eventually confessed
that he no longer believed in his own delusions, and that he had
pretended to for weeks just to satisfy Dr. Lindner.
Kirk Allen was cured of his outer space fantasy, and his case
illustrates forcefully the vast creative power of the human mind.
People who believe in channeled wisdom, in the revelations of
the Space Brothers, often challenge skeptics by saying, "How
could an ordinary person make up such strange stuff? It must be
true -- where else could such details come from?" The truth is,
as Kirk Allen demonstrates, unless the alleged revelations
contain knowledge totally outside the realm of human
understanding (say, a breakthrough in science or medicine), they
can only come from the mind of the revealer. Human imagination
consists of infinite space, and many universes may exist in a
single cranium. Look there for answers first, before you raise
your sights to the sky.
There is a persistent rumor in science fiction fan circles that
"Kirk Allen" was in fact Dr. Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger
(1913-1966), who wrote science fiction under the pen name
Cordwainer Smith. Dr. Linebarger was a fascinating man in his
own right -- godson to Dr. Sun Yat Sen, father of the Chinese
Republic. Linebarger grew up in Asia and received his Ph.D. in
political science at age 23 from Johns Hopkins University.
(Johns Hopkins is in Baltimore, of course, where Dr. Lindner
had his practice.) He served in China as an intelligence officer
during World War II. After the war he wrote a famous
textbook, Psychological Warfare, and served as a colonel in
the intelligence branch of the U.S. Army. He advised the British
Army during their suppression of Malayan nationalists, and
advised the military on psy-war matters during the Korean
conflict. Later Dr. Linebarger refused to lend his expertise to the
Vietnam effort, deeming American involvement there a mistake
from the outset.
Linebarger started writing science fiction in the 1930s, using a
richly detailed future history known as "The Instrumentality of
Mankind." His strange, ethereal fiction has a power all its own.
He wrote two mainstream novels under the pen name "Felix C.
Forrest," and a spy novel as "Carmichael Smith." All are long
out of print, but his science fiction remains, well loved by
connoisseurs of the genre.
Was Dr. Linebarger "Kirk Allen?" There is no legitimate
evidence he was, only intriguing supposition and fannish theory.
The Website of Lord We˙rdgliffe:
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Because the true mysteries cannot be profaned....
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Edgar Rice Burroughs, as imaginative and prolific and famous as he was,
was an American author, not an English one.
A J Sweeney
(Send the chamber pot back down the line / To be filled up again)