When it comes to assessing a person’s reliability as a source, or witness, two things need to be assessed – his competency, particularly as it relates to the matter in question, and his credibility. As indicated in Part V (see http://redstarfilms.blogspot.com/2005/10/canada-and-flying-saucers-vol-v.html), Canada’s supposed UFO pioneer Wilbert Smith fails the competency test. That alone would be damaging enough. However, making matters even worse, he also fails the credibility test.
Because he was a contactee – a fact which goes directly to his credibility as a source for reliable information about UFOs, and a fact which pro-Smith ufologists have consistently ignored, or glossed over.
What is a contactee, you might ask?
Dr. J. Allen Hynek, in his landmark study The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry, provided the best description. He wrote, at pp. 29 - 30:
“The reader will recall that implicit in our definition of UFO is the basic credibility of the reporter (unexplained reports made by ostensibly sensible, rational, and reputable persons). The contactee cases are characterized by a ‘favored’ human intermediary, an almost always solitary ‘contact man’ who somehow has the special attribute of being able to see UFOs and to communicate with their crew almost at will (often by mental telepathy). Such persons not only frequently turn out to be pseudoreligious fanatics but also invariably have a low credibility value, bringing us regular messages from the ‘space men’ with singularly little content. The messages are usually addressed to all of humanity to ‘be good, stop fighting, live in love and brotherhood, ban the bomb, stop polluting the atmosphere’ and other worthy platitudes. The contactee often regards himself as messianically charged to deliver the message on a broad basis; hence several flying saucer cults have from time to time sprung up. He regards himself definitely as having been ‘chosen’ and utterly disregards (if, indeed, he were capable of grasping it) the statistical improbability that one person, on a random basis, should be able to have many repeated UFO experiences (often on a nearly weekly basis), while the majority of humanity lives out a lifetime without having even one UFO experience.”
Hynek concluded that:
“I must emphasize that contactee reports are not classed as Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that reports such as these have brought down upon the entire UFO problem the opprobrium and ridicule of scientists and public alike, keeping alive the popular image of ‘little green men’ and the fictional atmosphere surrounding that aspect of the subject.”
Dr. Jacques Vallee wrote, “No serious investigator has ever been very worried by the claims of the ‘contactees.’”
Barry Greenwood has observed that the rise of the contactee movement in the 1950s undermined the efforts of groups like Keyhoe’s NICAP to get the UFO subject taken seriously. According to Greenwood, “The infiltration of this element into serious UFO research would prove to be extremely damaging to efforts in turning about government UFO policy. There was a certain "guilt by association," causing officials to look at every UFO organization as a potential lunatic fringe group to be ignored or made the object of ridicule.” [See http://www.project1947.com/bg/ufogov.htm]
Wilbert Smith was not just a supporter of the contactee movement, which would have been bad enough.
He was a contactee.
In 1955 Smith wrote contactee Daniel Fry that “My own contacts as yet have been entirely indirect, and I would like to meet these people face to face. Even though I have had quite convincing demonstrations of their advanced technology and I am quite sure of their reality, I would feel much happier if I could meet them.”
It gets worse.
To contactee George Adamski (pictured, left), Smith wrote in 1955, “Yes, we are in contact with AFFA [a supposed alien], and others in his group. I have had many long and interesting exchanges with him, and have found him entirely consistent and was beyond me in mental powers.”
In 1958 he got in a tussle with Keyhoe over the contactee issue. He wrote to Keyhoe that, “I do not agree with NICAP policy on contact stories. I have spent too many hours conversing with people from elsewhere to have any doubts about their reality.”
In another letter, this time in 1959, Smith wrote, “I have never met any of these people from elsewhere face to face, although several of my friends have, and I have confidence in their veracity. I have communicated with them by radio and by ‘tensor beam,’ and indirectly through contacts, and I can honestly say that I am as well acquainted with some of these people from outside as I am with people with whom I work at my office.
Perhaps Smith’s most ridiculous claim came less than a year after Project Magnet had been discontinued.
In 1955, he wrote contactee Harry Gesner that “We have been in touch with one group of space people. They know of Alan [contactee Dan Fry’s “alien” aka "A-lan"] but they are not directly associated with him. Apparently, the time for us is very short and there are several groups who have an interest in the outcome. Most of them are friendly, but there is at least one group that is bent on exploitation. These latter have a base near North Bay.”
An alien base. Near North Bay.
One can only wonder whether Smith bothered to inform the RCAF!
Does all of this sound familiar? It should, because it is very similar to the kind of bogus stories that are spread today by exopolitics “whistleblowers,” and that are roundly derided by every serious UFO researcher (including a few who are pro-Smith, ironically), for good reason.
North Bay... Area 51. There is no difference, at least in a ufological context.
And yet somehow Smith has been given a free pass by some UFO researchers over the years, despite making claims that completely undermine his credibility as a source of information about UFOs.
Because they are so desperate to prove their crashed saucer / MJ-12 / government cover-up theories (all of which Smith provided support for) that they wilfully ignore the fact that Smith had no credibility (nor, as shown in Part V, any competence).
They choose to believe that this man – a contactee – was let in on the greatest secret ever by the American and Canadian governments, not because it’s true, but because they think it helps bolster their case.
They are wrong, and always have been.
If the Americans let Smith in on anything, it was for disinformation purposes, because they realized they could use him as intelligence agencies have always used the gullible - and still do.
It is also important to note that Smith had a propensity to over-exaggerate his own importance – particularly when talking to people who might not be able to tell the difference between his fiction and the facts (he was less inclined to do so when talking to people - members of Parliamentary committees, for example - who would be more discriminating). For example, in response to a letter from Gesner in 1955 about Canada building a “space ship,” Smith wrote:
“I can honestly say that I know noting about it, and I doubt very much if it is true. You see, I know probably more about the behaviour of field and various angles of attack than anyone else in the country, so I just can’t see them doing anything that I wasn’t in on.”
This would have no doubt given the folks at the Defence Research Board and A. V. Roe – i.e. real scientists – quite a laugh.
Smith was also a publicity hound - indicative of a fantasist, and highly unlikely for someone supposedly involved at the highest levels of super-secret research (but perfect for the target of a disinformation campaign). In 1953, for example, he gave interviews to the media about his new "flying saucer sighting station" at Shirley's Bay (much ado about nothing, as it turned out). Later in his career (after Magnet had gone, according to Smith, "underground") he continued to talk to just about anyone who would listen. His constant contact with the press, and the understandable embarrassment his pronouncements caused his superiors, is undoubtedly the reason they withdrew what little support they had given to Project Magnet and the Shirley's Bay station.
Was Smith an outright liar, like some of the contactees, or was he simply a well-meaning, but deluded, fantasist, like other contactees? We’ll never know for sure, but from the tone of his writings, I think that it was probably the latter.
Still, the answer to the question of whether or not Smith was a liar or a fantasist is irrelevant when it comes to the core question of his credibility. The point is not why he held his beliefs, but the very fact that he held them at all, and that he based his "work" on those beliefs.
Smith’s contactee-ism was not just, as Stan Friedman wrote in his May 2005 MUFON Journal column, an interest “which might displease some people.”
It was part and parcel of who he was, and what he believed about UFOs. It also helps to explain why Smith was so gullible, and why he was so eager to chat with the press, even while supposedly working on top secret projects.
He fits the pattern of an ordinary man who was dissatisfied with his ordinariness, and so created a world that was extraordinary, with himself at the center of it. After all, it was much more exciting to be Wilbert Smith, top secret UFO expert and recipient of the wisdom of the “space people” than Wilbert Smith, mid level civil servant in the Department of Transportation. He wasn’t the first, and he certainly won’t be the last, to try and create a more interesting reality for himself, to the point where he actually came to believe that the fantasy world was the real world, and vice versa. Given that there was no real government money spent on any of his research, and his fantasy-world did not seem to affect his ability to carry on his real-world duties at Transport, it was, in hindsight, harmless (although it made him the target of some sort of American disinformation scheme, no-one else in Canada really bought it) – which is probably why his superiors indulged him for as long as they did, even as others got about doing the real work of investigating the UFO phenomenon.
The problem lies not with Smith having created his fantasy world. The problem lies with those today who promote his tales as the truth.
In continuing to ignore Smith’s lack of credibility, these pro-Smith ufologists have only called into question their own.