When I ran across a number of books about flying saucers hidden within the Ross-Barrett Historical Aeronautics collection (RBA), I thought for sure I had discovered the topic for my next blog. As it turns out, I was only partially correct. As is so often the case, once I started digging a little deeper, I found that there was an even better story hidden in plain sight.
Harold T. Wilkins authored two of the books we have on the subject of UFOs; Flying Saucers Uncensored and Flying Saucers on the Attack. Wilkins was firmly in the camp that flying saucers were not only real, they were hostile (one of those titles might have hinted at that) and posed an imminent threat to the world. As you might expect, both books have a significant degree of hyperbole (and a bit of outright fabrication) when evaluating reported “encounters.” However, not all the books on the subject within the RBA collection are of the Chicken Little variety, and virtually every event Wilkins cites is thoroughly debunked elsewhere within the collection.
Ostensibly a journalist, Wilkins actually gained his notoriety (such as it was) as a pseudohistorian. Though fairly obscure today, he hasn’t been completely forgotten, as is shown by the fact that in 2008, British indie-rock band Fanfarlo released a song called ”Harold T. Wilkins (or How to Wait for a Very Long Time),” a tribute to Wilkins’ noteworthy obsession with the "imminent arrival" of alien invaders. As it turns out, he was a proponent for not only the Flying Saucer hysteria of the 1940s and 50s, but for virtually every other crackpot notion which was around in the mid-1900s... even some which had been largely abandoned nearly a century earlier.
Among some of his more unusual positions, Wilkins was a believer in the “White Gods” hypothesis. If you’re unfamiliar with this notion (I was), it postulates that there’s no possible way that the South American “savages” could have figured out that plants come from seeds, or that rocks could be piled up to form structures, and that therefore a super-advanced Aryan race must have taught them the secrets of agriculture and construction. Said Aryan race, of course, were the former inhabitants of Atlantis and Mu, who, following whatever alleged cataclysm destroyed their alleged civilizations, took refuge in vast underground cities beneath Brazil and the Andes mountains. Did I forget to mention that Wilkins also subscribed to the notion of a Hollow Earth?
These revelations were revealed in another of Wilkins' books, Mysteries of Ancient South America. Sadly, we don’t have a copy of that book in our collection. On the bright side, I was able to track down a rather illuminating review of it in volume 17 of Western Folklore. Rather than keep you in suspense, I’ll just quote the final line from the review here — I think it should tell you everything you need to know:
“However, the book will leave those interested in disciplines of a less clinical nature merely saddened by the reflection that good trees had to die in order to make possible the publication of this quaint excursion among notions anthropological and mythological.” –Bacil F. Kirtley
I’m not sure I can really add much to that.