Space Mysteries - a turn of the cards
I picked up my first second hand UFO paperback by Brad Steiger as a kid. Since then I've been fascinated by the phenomena.
I recently got my hands on an old set of cards which would have unquestioningly caught my keen curiosity back then.
These charming confectionery size cards, dating from the heady Space Race days of 1965, deal in the popular mythology of Ufology.
The 25 card set, recreates colourful depictions of UFO sightings and encounters throughout the ages. Barratt and Co dealt them to little earthlings, through packets of Space Man Bubble Gum Cigarettes.
An opening card reassuringly introduces us to Kenneth Arnold, the pilot famous for coining the term 'Flying Saucers', after he claimed to have witnessed unidentified flying objects, over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, on June 24, 1947.
Typical of the period, a handful of the illustrations draw upon an archetypal pop culture flying saucer, identical in design to the Venusian craft, photographed by George Adamski, in 1952.
Opinion is divided. Whilst some support him, others feel Adamski's controversial flying saucer was nothing more than a home made prop, created to illustrate his books and support his extraordinary claims of extraterrestrial contact and cosmic tourism.
That said, back in the day, far from alienating himself, life must have seemed like dreamland to wildcard Adamski, who came up trumps through flush book deals and seminars.
Every pack of cards has its Joker, This one's no exception, with the dubious honour going to card Number 3. Here, PROJECT BLUEBOOK gets a bit of a probing, or rather its unfortunate former head of project and whistle blower, Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, does... Ooooch.
No, I simply mean the blurb on the reverse of this card is a tad flawed! Reading the text, Captain Ruppelt's been stripped of his military rank... and if that's not punishment enough, his name's misspelled. He's wrongly referred to as Mr. Rupult.
The card also states the project ran for five years. In fact it ran from 1952 to its dismantling in 1969-70.
Why the disinformation ? Well the other-worldly world of ufology is awash with conspiracy theory, so I opt to think it was a deliberate sleight of hand to safeguard the writer against abduction by those mysterious men in black.
It's interesting, from our contemporary perspective, to look at the topics covered by the cards.
Many of the genre examples which we're familiar with and would expect to see, are missing. For example, where's the Roswell Crash? What about those huge flying triangles?
Area 51 also seems to have vanished... and what about the little green men we call the Greys? Of course, these things didn't really appear on the radar of popular culture until further down the line.
All of the above goofy gaffs and omissions actually work for me. They define these kiddy collectible candy cards as unrefined, but wonderfully cool and simplistic products of an optimistic and adventurous time, when Martian's were from Mars and Venusian's were from...
yep, you get the picture!
Okay, who's hidden my tin foil hat...?