UFOs: What on Earth is Happening? by John Weldon and Zola Levitt (Harvest House, 1975)





Weldon and Levitt, both working within the Christian dispensationalist tradition, wrote several volumes together and separately covering various occult and metaphysical topics, including UFOs, psychic phenomena, life after death, and the end of the world as we know it. Their main thesis in UFOs: What on Earth is Happening?, based on this 1975 talk by Levitt, is that UFOs are extraterrestrial only in the sense that they are commanded by demons from hell who are preparing the Earth for the ultimate “battle of the spirits” and the coming of the Antichrist. Overall, it sounds like a Christian interpretation of John Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse (1970), a founding ufology text linking UFOs and their “ultraterrestrial” pilots to the supernatural monsters and “trickster” spirits that people have reported encountering throughout recorded history.

The “students of the Light and Power House,” to whom the book is dedicated, refers to an experimental Christian ministry founded by Hal Lindsey in 1970 (note Lindsey’s blurb on the back of the book), the same year Lindsey wrote the bestselling (28 million copies by 1990*) The Late, Great Planet Earth (1970), detailing his end times prophecies. The Light and Power House, based at the UCLA campus,

embodied the swirling milieu of evangelical activism, countercultural sentiment, and the search for meaning in terms of Christ’s word. It offered hippies and druggies a place to crash… [Lindsey’s] students grew their hair long, wore tie-dye, and spoke the language of the counterculture.*

The general embrace of occultism at the time was seen by Lindsey and other evangelicals as yet another sign of the corruption and decadence indicative of the “great tribulation” preceding Christ’s kingdom without end.

UFOs: What on Earth is Happening? was reissued later in 1975 as Encounters with UFOs.

* * *

I have so many weird and lovely paperbacks at this point, ranging from the worst kinds of hack jobs to surprisingly erudite ruminations buried in sensationalistic packages, and I haven’t even begun to get a long view of the whole picture. My aim for now is to (1) post the front and back covers and review the books I have read, and (2) post the front and back covers of everything I want to read so that, at the very least, there’s an ongoing catalog. If I haven’t read the book, I’ll try to piece together what I can from available information, as above.

When it comes to title, author, publisher, and publication date, I go with WorldCat.

Spokane Daily Chronicle (September 8, 1952):`Bible Explains Flying Saucers’

Spokane Daily Chronicle 9-8-52

The modern UFO era started in 1947 with Kenneth Arnold, who spotted nine shiny objects in the sky while flying his single-engine airplane near Mount Rainier in Washington. He said the objects were flying in “V” formation and looked like “a saucer if you skip it across water.” The press called the objects “flying saucers,” and here we are.

The convergence of the Bible and UFOs appears almost immediately after the widespread publication of Arnold’s story, mostly within the Christian Dispensationalist community (end times believers), which thrived during the anxious heat of the Cold War. Here Rev. Louis Gardner espouses the theory that UFOs are modern-day miracles (“signs and wonders”) meant as a warning from God. (Here’s another article about a different Reverend citing UFOs as a prelude—“the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory“—to the Second Coming.)

Gardner wrote to Einstein in July 1952 asking what the latter thought of UFOs, and Einstein’s response made quite a stir in the press at the time. The letter is below. That’s Gardner on the left.

Gardner Einstein 1952

(Images via Google News and USC Libraries)

What the Bible Says about Flying Saucers by Rev. O.W. “Bud” Spriggs (Worldwide Records, Circa 1969)

Bible 1968

Bible 1968-2

Suffice it so say that the “Chaplin of Hell,” as Rev. Spriggs calls himself, not only heartily believes in the existence of UFOs, but believes they and their alien pilots appear in the Bible, citing the now infamous verses (4–28) from the first book of Ezekiel covered in Barry Downing’s The Bible and Flying Saucers and Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods?, both published in 1968. His conclusion is:

I believe that we’re living in the last days. I believe that Jesus is soon coming back again… With all the problems of Communism and the lacksadaisical [sic] attitude of the people in America, I think that we are just upon the horizon of some great tragedy…

The first track is definitely worth a listen, as the Chaplin cracks bad jokes such as, “Anybody that’s been married for thirteen years surely believes in flying saucers…” The jokes are followed by unsettling, canned laughter. He also tells us that flying saucers could not be of Russian origin because “she” would have already done us great harm if that were the case. Conversely, the UFOs could not be from the U.S. of A because “we would have saved some of our soldier boys’ lives in Vietnam.”

The second track is an interview with Sgt. Neil Schneider, a Michigan (Washtenaw County) sheriff’s deputy who, along with several others, reported sighting a UFO in March of 1966. The case is now famous in the UFO literature, with J. Allen Hynek attributing the sightings to “swamp gas,” a conclusion that Rev. Spriggs mocks on the first track. Hynek, of course, would later repent his words and become the “father” of scientific UFO research, writing the seminal The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry (1972).

The third track is a standard hell and brimstone sermon about setting your soul right with the Lord before the Second Coming.

The Christian embrace of flying saucers and ancient astronauts appears odd on the surface, but it makes perfect sense. At the time, more than half of Americans believed UFOs were real. Fitting the anomalous craft fit into the divine framework of the Bible was an excellent way to fish more souls out of the secular sea. As Barry Downing explained in The Telegraph almost twenty years later:

It would establish scientific plausibility for the whole biblical field… It would reinforce faith and make it possible in a scientific context.

You can listen to the record in its entirety courtesy of WFMU, where I got the images above.