The documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis, best known for acclaimed and often controversial works such as The Century of the Self and Power of Nightmares, is an inveterate crate-digger of archival footage, as evidenced by both his films, and his blog at the BBC website. In his most recent post, Curtis unearthed a surreal gem that should appeal to enthusiasts of ufological history and fringe culture: a BBC interview from the 50s with George King, a London taxi driver who claimed to be in regular contact with an Interplanetary Parliament of Martian, Venusian, and Saturnite Space Brothers. The Contactee phenomenon, a charming and eccentric chapter in the history both of the Space Age and of DIY religious movements in general, was largely focussed in the US, where the used car-salesman and the mystic are ever in close proximity. King, who established the Aetherius Society based on his alleged contact experiences, is the most prominent British example of the genre. In this fantastic clip from 1977 Brit-UFO documentary Out of this World, King tells his story, and presides over a delightfully Wicker Man-esque ritual on a hilltop designed to charge up a “Prayer Power Battery”:
The much earlier interview on Curtis’s blog is a brilliant example of the British genius both for eccentricity and for utterly deadpan, hyper-rational seriousness, the latter quality a particular forte of vintage BBC broadcasters. When asked how fast the saucers can go, King answers that “when pushed for time”, a saucer can travel from Venus to earth in “about 2.5 seconds.” The interview culminates in him actually contacting and channelling his Interplanetary guide Aetherius, and you can watch it here. Although some of their sects and offshoots are still extant today, the Contactees were a brief shiver in the religious imagination of the 20th century; the latest incarnation of NASA’s Martian rover gathers dust samples amid the ghosts of Percival Lowell’s canals and the post-war dreams of the Contactees.
More from Tristan Eldritch at A Few Years in the Absolute Elsewhere.