The Shape Shifters by Jim Keith

Posted on April 6, 2008 by


Researcher Roundtable DiscussionTopic for Discussion: Given the proliferation in recent years of ufo / paranormal / dreamtime imagery in the media (VW’s “Reverse Engineered From UFO’s” ad comes glaringly to mind), do you feel that this is actually changing or affecting the phenomenon itself? Is the mass-media consciousness causing the UFO phenomenon to change the way it interfaces with us?

Researcher Roundtable: The Shape Shifters

by Jim Keith

Invaders From Mars posterPerception of UFOs and whatever-they-are that inhabits them has morphed numerous times this century due to the influence of the various forms of media, so that one might well wonder if we are not dealing with shape-shifters here, rather than a concrete Fantastic magazine circa 1953phenomenon. Depictions of alien craft for the first half of this century–in magazines like Thrilling Wonder and Amazing–were primarily rockets, until the famous flying saucer coinage that came about after the Kenneth Arnold sighting. Similarly, the prototypical “grey alien” image did not really appear on the scene, in the public consciousness, until after the release of the movies Invaders From Mars (in which the big headed alien had tentacles, as I recall), and Invasion of the Saucer Men in the early 1950s.

Invasion of the Saucer Men lobby card

Those films launched the image of the grey alien in fairly realized form into our dreams and into our faces. One wonders what the creatures at Roswell would have looked like if it hadn’t been for Hollywood. Not to say that one could not find any examples of spacelings that looked like standard greys in the millions of pulp SF pages that had earlier appeared, or in the perhaps hundreds of other SF and monster films that came out following the dropping of the atomic bomb, but until then extraterrestrials tended to be depicted as humans or grotesquely-distorted monsters not so different than the Frankenstein or Golem mold; they hadn’t taken on the sleek, insectoid look.

Sumer Art Alien GrayAt this point, the true believer might even go so far as to cite bald-headed, bug-eyed images from rock pictograms or ancient religious depictions as proof that the greys have been with us for a long time, but the truth is that one can find any sort of imagery in such mythological representations if you have the patience to look. If you went looking for beings with square or triangular heads and pinpointed eyes you would find those, too, at which time the ever-fertile mind of the true believer would respond that, well, in this galaxy no doubt there are square and triangular–and octagonal-headed! Yes, octagonal headed!–aliens, too, and the thoughtful student of the topic would give up in exasperation and repair to the bar, which he had been looking for an excuse to do, anyway.

Those Sexy Saucer PeopleIn fact the prototypical grey alien physiog didn’t become our primary characterization of extraterrestrials until years after the mid-20th century UFO flap, possibly after the widespread promotion of the Betty and Barney Hill event. The Hill contact also seems to have influenced our perception of what aliens do, since before that time the alien abduction and full body cavity search motif was quite rare. Until then, when humanfolk consorted with aliens, it was usually because the aliens wanted to take them on a grand tour of the solar system, or had some wacky homilies to impart about discontinuing the use of non-organic fertilizers, or some such. Now, seemingly, the aliens have gotten a better handle on what they have in mind, more or less discontinuing the grand tour due to cost-effectiveness, and instead focusing on gynecological studies. They have in fact, it seems, abducted and made free with virtually half the attendees of any UFO convention, and heaven knows on what planet they keep all those milk carton kids.

The human government/alien collaboration and alien underground bases theme is also quite rare until the Paul Bennewitz disinformation scam, and the popularizations of no-doubt-sincere (read that last phrase in the voice of Richard Nixon) John Lear, Bob Lazar, and Bill Cooper that were rapidly impressed into the public consciousness by that no-doubt-sincere latterday P.T. Barnum, Art Bell, and his ilk.

Alleged Alien Grey Visitor PhotographThere is no question that the media influences our perceptions of UFOs and their denizens, and will continue to do so. The real questions are what is the real nature of the shape-shifters who lurk behind the media sideshow, what will be their next incarnation in our consciousness–and will I have visitation rights with my half-human offspring? My guess is that grey aliens will be with us for quite a long while, since the “grey” insectoid image is an intensely effective visual distillation and synthesis that would be hard to top. As I pointed out in Saucers of the Illuminati, it is perhaps the simplest depiction of a recognizable face possible: An inverted triangle of three dots Secret Behind the X-Day Subgenius Saucersdictates the eyes and mouth, with visual harmony demanding the bulbous head. We surely have a ways to go before such a striking characterization is discarded by whatever subconscious–or conscious?–mechanism weaves on the loom of our dreams. At the same time, the proliferation of puerile UFO and paranormal imagery that we currently experience in movies, TV, books, and the radio suggests that we may relatively soon see the exhaustion of the usefulness and the interest of the alien motif. We may be building to the point where we require–or the diktats of media require?–some new conceptual touchstone for humans to wrap their wits around, possibly of a quasi-religious nature because of the turning of the calendar.

What will it be? That remains to be seen, but my sense is that it will evoke a groan and a Alien Bob of the Church of the Subgeniusshaking of the head for the old timers who have lived through George Adamski, the Hills, the many skull farmers who do it with less panache than the Church of the Subgenius, and all the rest. Certainly whatever new imagery and mythos that springs forth will be both fad and frenzy; but with any luck there will be a few among us who are able to place the images in context.

Jim Keith is the author of such books as: