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Psychic Martians
by Jerome Clark
FATE :: April 2008

The word “contactee” brings to mind those individuals who appeared in the era of UFOs, from 1947 to the present. Contactees first came into prominence in the early 1950s, when individuals from around the world, most notoriously in Southern California, reported that friendly space people were delivering messages to them via interplanetary telepathy or face-to-face encounter. Anyone who knows the history of 20th-century occult culture knows the names George Van Tassel, George Adamski, Howard Menger, and others who defined the contactee movement in its formative years. What is less known is that before there was widespread speculation about visitors from other planets, there were communications, or at least purported communications, from extraterrestrials.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, astronomers and biologists debated the possible existence of Martians. This controversy continued until around 1960, when growing scientific knowledge snuffed out any remaining hope for intelligent life on that cold and inhospitable world. All along, however, a number of individuals firmly insisted that the question was settled: there were Martians. They knew because they had communicated with them. Some went further: they had actually met them.

Most such claims from the 1800s were associated with the Spiritualist craze that swept the world in those years, and the contacts were effected through mediumship or astral travel.

Among the 19th-century American Spiritualists who reported Martian visions were father and son William and Sherman Denton. The elder Denton (1823–83), a Boston-based geologist, believed he had been blessed with the gift of psychometry, which enabled him to discern the nature and history of objects he either held in his hand or, when that was impossible, focused his concentration upon. The younger Denton believed he had the same paranormal talent. In the latter 1860s the Dentons looked to neighboring planets Mars and Venus as landscapes for psychic exploration.

Eventually, Sherman journeyed to Mars in his astral or spirit body. He found that it harbored a thriving population of humanlike inhabitants with a technology based on aluminum. “They soar above traffic on their individual fly-cycles,” he reported. “They seem particularly fond of air travel. As many as 30 people occupy some of the large flying conveyances.” This may be the first printed reference to Martian flying machines, though Sherman did not assert that they were traveling to earth.

The most famous case of interaction with Martians concerned an amateur medium named Catherine Elise Müller (1861–1929), who was studied by the University of Geneva psychologist Théodore Flournoy. Flournoy recorded the episode in a classic work of anomalistic psychology published in English as From India to the Planet Mars (1899).

Assigned the pseudonym “Hélène Smith” in the book, Müller grew up in a mystically inclined family and herself had strange experiences. Eventually, as the principal figure in a Spiritualist circle, she channeled messages first from prominent dead persons before graduating to more fully formed, dramatic visions of the Martian landscape. Müller often found herself on the planet itself.

Mars became so vivid to Müller that, as Flournoy observed, she appeared in some sense to be living her Martian life each moment of her day, switching easily, in various states of consciousness, from earthbound consensus reality to her imaginative one on another world. In today’s clinical language, she possessed a fantasy-prone personality.

Müller befriended Martians and even produced over time what purported to be a Martian language. In Flournoy’s words, it was “an infantile travesty of French.”

Writing in 1959, Nandor Fodor, a psychoanalyst interested in psychic phenomena, remarked, “Since Emanuel Swedenborg…at least a dozen well-known mediums have been involved with the planet Mars.” One of them, the British clergyman and Theosophist Charles Webster Leadbeater (1847–1934), reported visiting the planet in an astral state on several occasions.

Leadbeater’s Martian surface borrows generally from Prof. Lowell’s theories, with great canals (built by previous colonists from the earth’s moon) that support vegetation along their banks. The dwindling civilized population lives along the equator, where the daily temperature averages 70 degrees Fahrenheit. These beings resemble earthlings, but are shorter, barely reaching five feet in height, and have broader chests to encase larger lungs, since the air is thinner. Scattered bands of “savages” live elsewhere, in less hospitable regions of the planet.

Most educated Martians, wrote Leadbeater, “have yellow hair and blue or violet eyes, somewhat Norwegian in appearance.” They dress colorfully and have a particular fondness for flower gardens. Mechanical devices and trained animals do most of the work, allowing Martians to live long, disease-free lives of leisure under an autocratic monarchy and a communistic social order. Sexual infidelity is assumed, and the state raises the children who are its by-product. Martians, or the bulk of them, adhere to a strictly materialist philosophy.....Read the rest of this article exclusively in the April 2008 issue of FATE! Click here to buy this issue now.