BOOK: Donald Keyhoe, "Flying Saucers from Outer Space"
Donald E. Keyhoe: Flying Saucers from Outer Space. London: Tandem, 1970. (First ed.: NY: Henry Holt & Co., 1954.) 256 pp.
I first heard of Keyhoe some time ago when I found an e-text of his 1950 book, The Flying Saucers Are Real, on the sacred-texts.com web site. Apparently its copyright had not been renewed and it ended up in the public domain. I found it readable enough (if not terribly exciting), so when I recently noticed Keyhoe's Flying Saucers from Outer Space for sale cheaply on eBay, I decide to give this second book a try as well.
Flying Saucers from Outer Space is very much a sequel of The Flying Saucers are Real; they are both written in the more or less the same style and use the same investigative approach. Keyhoe keeps on tirelessly running around and interviewing people from various governmental agencies, chiefly the Air Force; he is constantly pestering them for more information, asking them to release documents and reports, etc. Many of these conversations are then reported practically verbatim in this book, in a suitably colloquial 1950s style with a sprinkling of military lingo here and there. Thus it isn't so much a story of ‘these are the facts about the UFOs’ but rather ‘this is how I investigated the UFOs’. I found this style of writing rather boring and I couldn't even be bothered to remember who exactly his interviewee is at any given point.
The gist of the story is that Keyhoe has no doubts that the UFOs are flying saucers from outer space, and he's trying to find out how much the Air Force and similar agencies know about them, and how they intend to present this information to the public. He finds that the opinion in these agencies is divided; some people there believe that the UFOs are flying saucers, others believe that they are just optical illusions; and those who believe that these are saucers then disagree among themselves as to how much of this should be told to the public, and how, so as not to cause a panic. Throughout most of the book, the upper hand clearly belongs to the side that wants to downplay the flying saucer theory and to reassure the public that nothing unusual is going on. However, at the very end (ch. 14), the Air Force sends Keyhoe's publishers an official statement that practically amounts to admitting that the UFOs are from outer space (p. 244). Keyhoe ends the book with an epilogue calling upon the government to honestly share its knowledge of the UFOs with the public and to step up its investigation of this phenomenon.
The UFO incidents described in this book are mostly fairly sober, as far as such things go — no lurid abductions and the like; most of the cases involve UFOs (of various shapes and sizes) that were observed by pilots and often also by radar operators. From the radar sightings, it was sometimes possible to estimate their speed, which could go up to 10,000 mph; the accelerations were likewise very impressive and well beyond the reach of human technology. It would seem that the UFOs have a particular interest in military facilities, especially nuclear ones.
Keyhoe also includes some discussion about what the intentions of the UFOs may be. He presents several possible explanations without quite committing to any of them (which I think is commentable): they may be hostile, and reconnoitring for an attack; they may be friendly, trying to assess the situation before making contact; they may be looking for a planet to colonize, perhaps because their own is becoming uninhabitable; or they may be merely disinterested observers, just trying to see how humankind is progressing technologically.
An interesting reminder of how strong the cold-war paranoia was in the 1950s appears in Keyhoe's epilogue (p. 246), where he mentions, as another argument in favour of informing the public of the extraterrestrial origin of the UFOs, the possibility that the Soviet Union (which would soon “be able to stage a mass A-bomb attack”) “[b]y starting false rumours of Russian saucer attacks, they might cause stampedes from cities, block defence highways, and paralyse communications just before an A-bomb raid”!
All in all, I found this book fairly boring and didn't particularly enjoy reading it, mainly because of the style — a long series of interviews, press conferences, and UFO incidents. In a way it's nice to be able to follow Keyhoe just as he is investigating these things, but I personally am really not that interested in the course of his investigation, just in the results.
For me, the best thing about its book was that it mentions many sober UFO sightings. I still think it's unlikely that we are being visited by extraterrestrials, but I nevertheless cannot help wondering what is the explanation behind the sightings described here. Surely they cannot all be explained away by hallucinations, optical illusions and deceit.
Anyway, before buying this or any other Keyhoe book I suggest that you take a look at the free on-line text of his Flying Saucers are Real to find out if you enjoy his style.