Strange Secrets: An Interview With Author Nick Redfern
by Kenn Thomas, Editor of Steamshovel Press
Nick Redfern emigrated to the USA to live in 2001. Nick's new book, Strange Secrets: Real Government Files on the Unknown (co-written with British author Andy Roberts), is just about to be published by Simon & Schuster. We speak with him about the book and its revelations linking the world of British, American and Russian Intelligence with that of the unexplained.
Q: What, broadly, is Strange Secrets about?
A: Essentially, the book is an examination of official files created from the 19th Century to the present day and shows the way in which various Intelligence agencies, such as the CIA, MI5, the US Defence Intelligence Agency and former KGB--among numerous others--have investigated unexplained phenomena and unsolved mysteries and have collated what might be termed real-life X-Files.
Q: Can you give the readers a few examples of the information that appears in the book?
A: Sure. The first thing I would want to stress to anyone reading this interview and who is contemplating buying the book, is that it does not rely on questionable or anonymous sources or unverifiable data. Even though some of the subject matter might be considered bizarre, the book is based solely on an examination of official documents that have surfaced via the US Government's Freedom of Information Act or the British Government's Thirty Year Ruling. I guess that perhaps one of the strangest revelations is the fact that both British and US Intelligence have investigated the so-called Crop Circle mystery. Practically everyone who reads UFO Magazine, I am sure, has heard of Crop Circles and has seen photographs of the various formations--or pictograms-- that appear throughout England and the world each year. But less well known is what has been learned about the subject at an official level. For more than a decade rumours have circulated to the effect that the British Government has undertaken covert investigations of Crop Circles. To an extent, at least, that is true. At the Public Record Office at Kew there exists an intriguing file prepared at the height of the Second World War by none other than MI5 and that was declassified in 2001. The file deals with the way in which MI5 suspected that Nazi sympathisers and Fifth Columnists in the UK were sending messages to--and communicating with--the enemy. Interestingly, MI5 learned that in Poland, Holland, France and Belgium, this included 'the cutting of cornfields into guiding marks for aircraft'. To illustrate how closely this parallels today's Crop Circles, the official file refers to enemy sympathisers 'beating out signs twenty metres in diameter on harrowed fields or mowing such signs on meadows or cornfields'. Crop circles in other words! Interestingly, MI5 investigated a number of such formations that appeared in various British fields from 1940-1943 to determine if any of those same formations were some form of coded message intended for German pilots flying overhead.
Q: Have British authorities been involved in investigating other, similar mysteries, too?
A: Yes, and particularly during the Second World War. One perfect example is contained in a chapter we title 'The Dowsing Detectives. ' This is a look at a fascinating and never-before-seen file on a piece of wartime history that reveals the way in which elements of the British Police Force used people with dowsing abilities to locate dead bodies buried under the rubble created by Hitler's forces. As with many controversial subjects, the Police file reveals that there were as many believers in the ability of the dowser as there were those who thought that the subject should be ignored. But what is perhaps most interesting is that it was police personnel themselves that were doing the dowsing. And they had some startling successes too in locating dead bodies purely by water divining-means. And these events attracted the keen attention of the British Government, with the files and reports reaching the wartime Ministry of Home Security, which took a close interest in the way in which the controversy developed.
Q: What is the oldest file you have in the book?
A: This would have to be a series of documents that we found in the files of the British Admiralty that are held at the Public Record Office at Kew. Contained in these documents are various accounts of sightings by naval personnel of what can only be described as Sea Serpents. Let me quote to you the text of one such report, written in 1830 by Captain James Stockdale of the ship the Rob Roy, who had an amazing encounter near the island of St. Helena on Sunday, May 9 of that year. Stockdale wrote: 'About five p. m. all at once while I was walking on the poop my attention was drawn to the water on the port bow by a scuffling noise. Judge my amazement when what should stare us all in the face as if not knowing whether to come over the deck or to go around the stern--but the great thundering big sea snake! My ship is 171 feet long overall--and the foremast is 42 feet from the stern which would make the monster about 129 feet long. The brute was so close I could even smell his nasty fishy smell. ' This is just a small extract from Stockdale's account and it makes for bizarre and illuminating reading. And this is just one of a number of such accounts held in the British Admiralty's Sea Serpent File.
Q: The Press Release for the book also talks about British Government files on Foo Fighter sightings during the Second World War.
A: Yes. As many readers will know, the Foo Fighters were essentially a precursor to what would later become known as Flying Saucers and UFOs. All credit to finding these Air Ministry and Royal Air Force files must go to my co-author Andy Roberts and Dr. David Clarke. Throughout much of the war, military pilots--both Allied and Axis--reported close encounters with strange aerial phenomena that became known as Foo Fighters and that were described as being like small balls of light or globes of light that would approach military aircraft at high speed, fly alongside them and then usually streak away at high speed without exhibiting any outward hostility. The Air Ministry's files from the War reveal the details of a number of such cases and the way in which they were investigated at an official level, along with the theories that the Foo Fighters were possibly some sort of German secret weapon. But one report in particular falls into a classic UFO category and refers to the sighting by a Royal Air Force crew taking part in a raid on Turin in 1942 of a 2-300 foot long object seen flying at an estimated speed of 500 MPH.
Q: The book contains several other chapters that have a UFO connection to them.
A: Yes. We also include an extensive chapter on FBI files on the so-called Cattle Mutilation mystery that has afflicted much of the USA for decades. On numerous occasions dating back to at least the 1960s, ranchers across the USA have reported finding their cattle dead with blood drained from their bodies and organs removed with what looks like surgical precision. Unmarked helicopters are often seen in the vicinity of the mutilations, as are unusual and unidentified aerial lights. Again, for the sceptical, I would stress that this is all corroborated in the FBI's own officially released records that are reproduced in the book. Various theories have been put forward that these mutilations are linked with UFOs or Satanic cults. However, I dug very deeply into this mystery and located at the National Archives in Maryland various formerly Top Secret files from the late 1940s showing that the US Government's Research and Development Board was very concerned that a hostile nation would attempt to cripple the US food chain by deliberately infecting the cattle herd with a lethal biological agent. Moreover, it was stated at the time that US authorities should keep a regular check on the cattle herd to determine if someone had successfully infected it with lethal and dangerous viruses. Personally, I'm now convinced that many of the so-called Cattle Mutilations are the work of covert military units that periodically and randomly carry out stealthy checks on the US cattle herd to determine the presence of these emerging viruses and diseases that might have been introduced deliberately by foreign and unfriendly nations and maybe, today, even by terrorist-type groups.
Q: Strange Secrets also addresses the way in which the US Government and the Nazis attempted to build Flying Saucer-like aircraft. Can you expand on this?
A: Yes. There have been long-standing rumours to the effect that the Nazis developed prototype aircraft in the latter stages of the Second World War that would broadly fit the classic description of a UFO or a Flying Saucer. Several such reports exist in the files of the FBI in the form of interviews with former Luftwaffe personnel, for example. Similarly, the FBI's records reveal that as far back as 1947, a number of FBI agents were personally convinced that UFOs were the product of a secret US programme that was designing and building Flying Saucer-like craft based on captured German technology brought to the US at the close of the Second World War and in conjunction with the Paperclip operation that secured the use of numerous German scientists for postwar research. But perhaps most eye-opening are the files we reproduce in the book from the US Air Force that show as far back as 1962, studies were being undertaken to try and build and deploy a fleet of battle-ready and fully armed Flying Saucer-style spacecraft that would orbit the Earth at a height of 300 miles for up to six weeks! We also show the way in which the CIA carefully exploited the UFO mystery as a cover for its covert U-2 flights at the height of the Cold War.
Q: In terms of content, what would you say is the strangest official file that appears in the book?
A: That would have to be the FBI's file on the Contactees. These, as I'm sure you're aware, were people who, in the 1950s and 1960s, claimed to be in contact with human-like aliens who wanted us to disarm our nuclear arsenals and live in peace. Many of the accounts are of an outrageous, bizarre nature and are very cult-like. And as strange as it seems, the FBI collated extensive files on many of these people who claimed alien contact. However, the Freedom of Information Act shows that the foremost reason for the FBI's interest and concern in these people was not because of the alien aspect of their stories per se. Rather, it was because several of the Contactees, such as the notorious George Adamski, were claiming that their alleged alien friends had a Communist style of government! Today this aspect of the FBI's investigations might seem totally unbelievable and unwarranted; but 50 years ago, at the height of the Cold War, J. Edgar Hoover dispatched agents to uncover anyone that might have Communist leanings; and this included the so-called Contactees. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
A: That's correct. We have a chapter in there on the CIA's file on Noah's Ark. There have been stories quietly told for many years that in the late 1940s and 1950s the CIA carried out a covert search for the remains of the legendary Ark of Noah that, according to the Bible, came to rest on Mount Ararat, Turkey. There are references to satellite and aircraft imagery of the Ark and even tales of remnants of the Ark having been recovered by US Intelligence. The files that the CIA has released via the Freedom of Information Act add valuable and intriguing data to this story. Within the CIA, the Ark--or what some suspected to be the Ark--became known as The Ararat Anomaly.
Q: It's been a long-standing and acknowledged fact that US Intelligence has spent a lot of time delving into the world of Remote Viewing or what might be termed Psychic Spying.
A: That's right. Our book includes a whole section titled Mind Games that includes 5 chapters on the way that research into the power of the mind as a potential tool of espionage has been studied in both Russia and the USA. Maybe strangest of all was the research that both the US Department of Defence and the Russian military carried out to determine if Extra-Sensory Perception--or ESP--existed in the Animal Kingdom. Their conclusions--reached entirely independently--suggested it probably did exist in some form in higher animals such as dogs. The US DoD report also focuses on the possibility of an afterlife in the animal kingdom and discusses various experiments that had been undertaken to try and ascertain this. We also show that in 1952 the US Department of Defense was briefed on the way in which extrasensory perception could be used as a tool of psychological warfare. On this later subject of psychological warfare, we also reveal the way in which the US Army exploited legends of Vampires, Werewolves, Witchcraft and Sorcery to terrify superstitious enemy troops on various battlefields in the Philippines and in Vietnam.
Q: Having conducted all of this research, what are your conclusions about the way in which the worlds of officialdom and the unexplained have crossed paths?
A: Well, it's quite clear from examining the files on ESP and Psychic Spying that this research was carried out purely to determine if, at the height of the Cold War, there was a chance that the phenomena could be used as a tool of espionage. Similarly, the FBI's files on the Contactees had deep Cold War overtones and related directly to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's concerns about Communism and the very real Soviet threat that existed at the time. And it can be argued that the British Government files on Crop Circles, Dowsing and the Foo Fighters were created largely as a result of the Nazi threat of the 1940s. And of course, the issue of lethal viruses and biological warfare as it relates to the Cattle Mutilation issue is one that is very relevant in today's post-9-11 world. But there are files in the book that are more problematic in terms of the motive for their creation--such as the CIA files on Noah's Ark.
Q: Briefly and finally, does the book focus on any other areas?
A: Yes. We have chapters on the Royal Air Force's files on sightings of the Loch Ness Monster; FBI records on so-called Spontaneous Human Combustion; official records on encounters with real-life Men in Black; US Government files on rare weather phenomena such as Ball-Lightning; British Government records on sightings of large, predatory cats seen roaming the countryside--such as pumas and panthers and much more.
Q: Can we expect to see any other titles from you in the future and what are you doing in the US now?
A: I'm doing a lot of work with Ryan Wood, of http://www.majesticdocuments.com/ on the whole MJ12 controversy. Andy Roberts and I have a book coming out next year on an alleged UFO crash incident in Wales in 1974 and that coincides with the 30th anniversary of the case, and I also have another book out next year on another big interest of mine--cryptozoology, or the search for unknown animals.
Strange Secrets: Real Government Files on the Unknown by Nick Redfern & Andy Roberts is published by Simon & Schuster's division, Paraview Pocket Books in May 2003. ISBN: 0-7434-6976-3.
Helsinki, Finland 22 September 2004
Notes on Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura's rendition of Srimad-Bhagavatam 1. 2. 21, translated by Punya-palaka Prabhu of ISKCON Prague.
The verse as it appears in the BBT edition of Srimad Bhagavatam, translated by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada:
Thus the knot in the heart is pierced, and all misgivings are cut to pieces. The chain of fruitive actions is terminated when one sees the self as master.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
Srila Sarasvati Thakura's translation:
If one encounters the Lord in His own form as the Supersoul, or the soul of the soul, in other words, if he sees his real self, then for such knower of the bhagavat-tattva the chain in the form of the false ego which is binding the mind gets destroyed, all kinds of ropes of doubts like thinking "This is not possible," are cut and he gets rid of all reactions which he has not yet received.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura's Sanskrit comment upon this verse:
hrdaya granthir avidya bhidyata iti karma-kartari prayogenavidya dhvamso bhaktanam ananusamhitam phalam evam eva chidyante sarva-samsayah asambhavanadi-rupah. atmaniti isvara ity asya visesanam yad va atmany eva manasy eva drste kim punah saksad drste satiti sphurti saksatkaravyaktau. satam krpa mahat-seva sraddha guru-padasrayah. bhajanesu sprha bhaktir-anarthapagamastatah. nistha-rucir athasakti-ratih premattha darsam. harer-madhuryanubhava ityarthah syus caturdasa.
Srila Sarasvati Thakura's rendition of Srila Cakravartipada's commentary:
"The knots in the heart are cut" means that ignorance (the false ego) is destroyed. Here bhidyate means that by the sword of his activities, the devotee annihilates, as a side effect, his ignorance. In this way all doubts like thinking that "This is absurd," are cut. In this verse isvare is an attribute of atmani-- it is the soul of the soul, or the Lord as the Supersoul, which is to be seen. The question may arise: which is the point here--"After seeing the Lord in one's heart or mind," (the knot in the heart and all doubts are destroyed), or "After direct encounter?" This statement includes both revelation in the mind and direct meeting.
Here talk is about the 14 unavoidably needful items of the devotees' spiritual practice: (1) sadhu-joner krpa, the mercy of the saints, (2) mahater seva, serving the great souls, (3) sraddha, faith, (4) guru-padasraya, taking shelter of the lotus feet of the spiritual master, (5) bhajane sprha, an inclination to perform the worship, (6) bhakti, devotional service, (7) anartha-nivrtti, getting rid of the unwanted desires, (8) nistha, steadiness, (9) ruci, taste, (10) asakti, attachment, (11) rati, pleasure, (12) prema, love, (13) darsan, meeting, and (14) sri-harir madhuryer anubhab, perception of the sweetness of the Lord.
tathya: bhagavater ekados skondho bimso odhyae 30 slok o ei slok eki.
Information: The verse 11. 20. 30 of the Srimad-Bhagavatam says the same thing as this verse. In the Mundaka Upanisad (2. 2. 8), the verse drsta evatmanisvare contains the phrase tasmin drste paravare.
To see Isvara in the inferior energy is dharma of the conditioned soul. Mayavadis, instead of seeing Isvara in the substance of the inferior energy, always see the supreme principle somewhere far away from the illusory variegatedness. When a living entity accepts monism (nirvisesa-vada) as the ultimate truth, then he cannot see the Lord in Vaikuntha. On the other hand, devotees always take shelter at the feet of the spiritual master. Through performing one's constitutional occupation, devotional service at the lotus feet of Sri Gurudeva, one comes to know his master. This elevated assistant of Lord Hari, Sri Gurudeva, is constantly engaged in the activities of the soul. Although Sri Gurudeva himself belongs to isvara-tattva, providing shelter on behalf of the disciplic succession based on the Vedic scriptures, he nevertheless prides himself upon being a subordinate servant of the Lord. The one who properly sees in the eternal Supreme this variety of the worshiped and worshiping achieves the ultimate goal. As it is stated in the Svetasvatara Upanisad:
yasya deve para bhaktir
yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah
There is no way to know the purport of the srutis other than the mercy of the spiritual master. On the path of arguments, the inconceivable transcendental isvara-bhava is never revealed. But it can be obtained on the path of hearing by the mercy of the spiritual master.
In the Mundakopanisad it is said:
yam evaisa vrnute tena labhyas
tasyaisa atma vivrnute anum svam
The conditioned soul cannot attain the Supersoul just from the descriptions of the scriptures, or in other words, the Lord does not reveal Himself for the mundane vision.
In the three mantras beginning with dva suparna, the Lord and the controlled, the worshipable entity and the devotees, as well as the subject matter of their eternal worship are explicitly described. Without realizing this topic of devotional service, one is unable to grasp the meaning of the Vedic literature. Those endowed with bhakti for Sri Gurudeva and his worshipable Lord get liberated from the clutches of enjoying the fruits of karma. By the combined mercy of guru and Krsna one can receive the seed of the creeper of devotional service. At that time the many knots of the gross and subtle world in the heart get cut apart. The living entity attains liberation from the clutches of his temporary designative mind, intelligence and false ego, and he is no more cheated by the knowledge perceived by material senses. At that time all his doubts are removed and his inclination to enjoy the fruits of his activities diminishes. Needless to say, as long as the conditioned soul remains bound by the shackles in the form of gross and subtle designations, his false ego of the worldly enjoyer does not get destroyed, his doubts are not cut, and his enjoying of the fruits of karma is not finished. Until he is able to understand that Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is his master and that he is a Haridasa Vaisnava, His servant devotee, he will remain embarrassed by his two kinds of bodies, the gross and the subtle, and their many engagements. When one sees, with the eyes of devotion, the shelter, Lord Syamasundara, surrounded by His servants, all contaminations of his mind and any inability in worshiping the Lord are removed.
Anyone who is devoid of the service to the Lord has forgotten his constitutional position and becomes either a bhogi or a tyagi. In the presence of a Vaisnava there is eternal service. Avaisnavas, being estranged from bhakti, are deprived of their power of seeing, are blind, and they invoke various imaginations; then they maintain their enjoying the fruits of karma, doubts and all kinds of tamasic ideas.