Cedric Allingham’s 1954 book “Flying Saucer from Mars,” claiming a UFO encounter, was later exposed as a hoax. NEIL NIXON tells us more
Who was Cedric Allingham?
Cedric Allingham was – reportedly – born on 27 June 1922, in Bombay. Allingham’s biography presents a very British and middle-class existence with education in England and South Africa and a subsequent career as a thriller writer whose private life revolved around enjoying astronomy, bird watching and caravan holidays.
With hindsight it’s easy to see the spurious biography as a set-up to explain how a man who briefly became known – apparently – under his own name might have existed successfully under pseudonyms, without regular contact with work colleagues and with a habit of finding himself in lonely places.
His Flying Saucer from Mars (1954) revolves around an incident he claims occurred on 18 February 1954 near vin Scotland in which Allingham encountered a landed UFO, communicated via a mixture of telepathy and hand signals with the sole occupant – who was humanoid, indeed almost human on the evidence of the blurry photograph providing a rear view of him – and did all of the above within sight of the only other person in the area, a local fisherman, named in the book as James Duncan.
Flying Saucer from Mars also presents an “informal” portrait of the author, ironically a picture so posed you’re left to wonder how stuffy Allingham might really be if that picture is his idea of being relaxed.
One public lecture – to a UFO group in Tunbridge Wells – and some press coverage followed, all helping the book to achieve a cult status, but the ensuing attention also exposed Allingham’s inability, or unwillingness to back up his story. James Duncan provided a written statement which was photographed in the book, but also proved impossible to find and as others with a strong interest – notably journalist Robert Chapman who wrote books on the subject – chased Allingham, his publishers eventually presented a story stating Allingham had undergone medical treatment in Switzerland and subsequently died.
His story never completely died, partly because television astronomer and arch UFO debunker Patrick Moore was central to citing the Allingham case as proof of the garbage that sometimes passed for genuine accounts in ufology. Moore was fond of a debunking stunt but became truculent as British ufologists, notably Christopher Allan, Steuart Campbell and Jenny Randles unpicked and reported a story suggesting Moore was one of two instigators of the whole Allingham hoax.
From the mid-80s a sporadic series of articles and serious UFO books reported Moore’s involvement and Moore in turn occasionally threatened legal action, though never took any. He never confirmed the story and died in 2012, since when it’s been widely accepted he and his friend Peter Davies (who, disguised, is likely the person portrayed as Allingham) were behind the whole caper.
Moore’s fondness for a decent debunking was well known and Flying Saucer from Mars is indisputably a master class in such work. At the time George Adamski’s claim – presented in the book Flying Saucers have Landed was well-known and most of Flying Saucer from Mars is a thinly veiled re-write of Adamski’s story, with events moved from California to Scotland and the ufonaut moved from Venus to Mars.
Indeed, Moore/Allingham works in many of his own ideas and makes it clear he has read the Adamski story, noting at one point: “Leslie [Adamski’s co-author] has estimated that some 70 per cent of reported Saucers are not genuine. I would put this figure rather higher – at about 90 per cent.” (Allingham, p.85). He also quietly ups the ante, notably providing a photograph of the Martian (Adamski had merely drawn his Venusian contact).
If Moore didn’t admit his own involvement, he did leave a legacy of healthy and humorous debunking of UFO claims that made him a love/hate figure in British ufology. Those sceptical but still strongly interested in ufology cherish Moore’s book Can you Speak Venusian? (1972) which takes several sideswipes at popular opinion on UFOs. The highly readable and subtly brilliant hoax Flying Saucer from Mars remains a popular read amongst the most sceptically minded British ufologists and may enjoy a small profile boost as it turns 70 next year.
NEIL NIXON is a writer and researcher with a life-long interest in the paranormal that has included books, articles and academic papers. Find out here about his offer of live talks includes paranormal and conspiracy theory subjects.