Sunday, November 18, 2012

Saucer Smear's James W. Moseley Dies

Fortean friend, ufology humorist, and writer James W. Moseley, 81, died Friday night, November 16, 2012. He passed away at a Key West, Florida, hospital, several months after being diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus.

Upon hearing of the death of Moseley, Anomalist Books publisher and editor Patrick Huyghe said: "He was one of the last remaining old timers from the golden age of flying saucers. Goodbye, Jim."

I, Loren Coleman, first met James W. Moseley ("Jim" to his friends) when he, John Keel, and I were speaking at a Fortfest in the D.C. area, in 1973. The most vivid memory I have of that time is sitting with these two gentlemen in the dark and shabby lobby of a motel, listening to the foremost scholars of ufology decide what they would do that evening. I recall politely excusing myself to finetune my next day's presentation, as they skipped off, by foot, across the multilane highway, to visit a nearby striptease joint. And thus I was introduced to the braintrust of ufology, and knew what the end would look like - some sort of cosmic mix of humor and nudity galore!

For years, according to only a few readers, Moseley too frequently posted photographs of large-breasted women in his humorous ufology newsletter, Saucer Smear, confusing people who wished to claim that Moseley was gay, even though he said he was not (for he came from a generation of individuals who might remain closeted for years).

Did it matter what people thought? Ufology historian and Moseley friend Jerome Clark wrote me: "Well, it did matter. It mattered to Jim, who said he was not gay and who did not like it when people spread such speculation."

But it went beyond breasts: In the May 10, 2004, issue of Saucer Smear, Moseley highlighted the republishing of a book on three alien monsters raping a woman named Barbara Turner in her bedroom. 

Actually, it was quite obvious. Moseley was a comic, extremely interested sex, and loved to be the center-of-attention. Certainly, his lifestyle was secretive to some. For almost thirty years, Moseley lived in Florida. 

Moseley with a large poster of marine treasure hunter Mel Fisher.

In 1984, Moseley established an antiques store in Key West, Florida. He also made money in real estate. In 1992, Moseley donated his Peruvian material to the Graves Museum of Archaeology and Natural History, located in Dania, Florida, where it is on permanent display.

James Moseley was a pivotal chronicler of a now-famed mystery that issued from his interest in ancient Peruvian artifacts. It is to be recalled that the Nazca Lines were first discovered by the Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe, who spotted them when hiking through the foothills in 1927. He discussed them at a conference in Lima in 1939. Maria Reiche, a German-born mathematician and archaeologist, first studied and set out to preserve the Nazca Lines in 1940. Paul Kosok, a historian from Long Island University, is credited as the first scholar to seriously study the Nazca Lines in the USA, on site in Peru, in 1940-41. But it was Moseley who first wrote about the Nazca Lines as an intriguing Fortean phenomena in Fate Magazine, in October 1955, suggesting a mysterious origin, long before they interested alternative writers such as Erich von Däniken (1968), Henri Stierlin (1983) and Gerald Hawkins (1990).

Moseley co-wrote a memoir with Karl T. Pflock, entitled Shockingly Close to the Truth! (2002), telling many of his own "secrets." He decided to reveal much about himself, but for the decade after its publication, few were able to decipher which of his "facts" were jokes and which were reality.

James W. Moseley, who was born on August 4, 1931 in New York City, was more than merely an American ufologist, that's for certain.

General biographical details about Moseley include the following:
Over his career, he has exposed UFO hoaxers and has engineered hoaxes of his own. He is known for the newsletter Saucer Smear.
Moseley was the son of U.S. Army Major General George Van Horn Moseley. Moseley attended Princeton University for two years before dropping out. He became interested in UFOs following the 1947 claims of pilot Kenneth Arnold, but his interest deepened following the 1948 death of U.S. Air Force pilot Thomas Mantell, in pursuit of a UFO.
In July, 1954, Moseley co-founded Saucer News, a periodical known for its unorthodox, "freewheeling" (Clark, 2002) style. Saucer News only occasionally featured serious UFO research; Moseley was among the first to publicize evidence against the claims of leading "contactee" George Adamski. In 1953 he investigated the Ralph Horton flying saucer crash.
Saucer News was sold to Gray Barker in 1968. Moseley became a regular lecturer on UFOs for several years and organized an annual convention. In 1970, he founded a newsletter that went by several titles until Moseley settled on Saucer Smear in 1981. He produce[d] the newsletter irregularly, and [sold] pdf issues and subscriptions from his site. Saucer Smear typically ha[d] a joking, gossipy tone.

Moseley report[ed] (Story, 1980; Clark, 2002) that he has accepted, then rejected, a number of explanations for UFOs. In roughly chronological order, he considered the extraterrestrial hypothesis; a secret weapon/aircraft hypothesis, psychic/supernatural/interdimensional hypotheses in the vein of John Keel or Jacques Vallee; deep skepticism; and agnosticism. According to Jerome Clark, he ha[d] "entertained just about every view it is possible to hold about UFOs, without ever managing to say anything especially interesting or memorable about any of them." (Clark 2005). Source.

Of course, parts of Moseley's life were often ignored in online mainstream bio profiles. One hoax that he did acknowledge was the Adamski-involved Straith hoax letter. Moseley was quoted by Jerome Clark as stating that he committed multiple UFO "hoaxes." But which ones and how many?
Moseley often appeared on the old Long John Nebel radio program.

Moseley had a close relationship with many founding figures in ufology. For example, Moseley often called early "flying saucer author" Gray Barker, his closest friend. Moseley noted in his Shockingly Close to the Truth, that Barker died on December 6, 1984, "after a long series of illnesses" in a Charleston, West Virginia, hospital. But the cause was somewhat mysterious and the diagnosis was always unclear. Moseley wrote that "the more or less simultaneous failure of various organs, due most probably to AIDS (though it was not diagnosed as such in those days)" killed Barker. In filmmaker Ralph Coon's documentary about Barker, Whispers from Space, the Clarksburg investigator is depicted as a closeted gay man. Barker was only 59 when he died. Moseley appeared in the documentary, discussing their friendship. The fact that Moseley was straight, and he could have a gay friend, of course, is understood today, but less so in their generation.

Moseley's Saucer Smear was full of news, as well as humor. He showed loyalty to his associates, and included notices to help his friends. For instance, in 2007 and 2008, Moseley carried a call for donations to be given for the continued development of the International Cryptozoology Museum.

Goodbye, indeed. There goes another old friend many of us shall miss.

James W. Moseley, 2007.

Thanks to Gene Steinberg, Larry W. Bryant, and especially Patrick Huyghe for the sad news.


Rob McConnell said...

Our deepest condolences to the family of James Mosely. Rob & Laura McConnell

Enki said...

Mr. Moseley was quite a character, and his frequent appearances on The Paracast were always fun and informative. He will be missed.

Skylaire said...

I had the pleasure of getting gone on greyhounds with Jim at the last NUFOC in Hollywood some years ago. Now who's going to be the "wart on the ass of Ufology"? Thank you, Loren, for the great obit.

Vomanomalous said...

Really did enjoy the tales from Jim, from the many times he was on The Paracast. Funny enough, it seems to me that he sounded very different on air, than in documentaries ive seen him in, like the Gray Barker ones. So much that i almost couldnt believe it was the same guy. RIP to this original, cosmic jokester, and much respect for him being what he was.

Something i dont know how common it is to be named James Moseley in the US, but shortly after i heard jim had died, i tried to google it, and this came up instead:

Red Pill Junkie said...

I'm giving Mr. Moseley's passing the top news at my weekly Red Pills.

I would like to say Rest in Peace, but I'm sure someone with his genial sense of humor is gonna have a blast on the other side ;)

dmr said...

Nicely written but completed neglected his daughter Betty. That's how I found out he died.

Anonymous said...

An awesome intellect that will be sorely missed . . .

Mike Jarmus said...

Thanks, Loren. Sad. We've lost so many of the generation that pioneered the UFO field. While a freshman in college in the early sixties, I met Jim at a UFO meeting/party at a NY apartment (his?) Don't recall much about it except his outgoing manner. Saucer smear was always a hoot. Still have some old back issues.

Anonymous said...

Just a trivial point, but Jim was the sole founder of "Nexus" back in 1954. It soon changed its name to "Saucer News", and of course the rest is history. I knew Jim for some fifty years and will greately miss him. I always called him "an equal opportunity annoyer"...Rick Hilberg

Lance said...

I posted my 2001 interview with Jim over on my blog at RIP Jim.

Lance Moody

Anonymous said...

I read Shockingly Close to the Truth earlier this year, and was amused more than enough to become a Smear non subscriber and strike up a correspondance with Commander Moseley. I never met him in person, but the letters were a hoot and I sure feel bad that I never got to send him the abstract comic with pictures of Adamski I promised :-( As I used to close my letters, Stay Serious, Jim!

rglassel said...

James W Moseley, why did you have to die. Who is gonna keep up the fun and sanity in the not-so-scientific fringe...The Supreme Commander is dead, long live Saucer Smear...take care of him space brothers. Hey Jim, maybe Adamski is standing at the gates waiting to give you a big smack on the head.

Unknown said...

My name is Thomas Lee Curtin Jr. I am an field investigator with MUFON and with several other ufological, crytozoological and parapsycolgy research groups. I met James at a UFO conference in Clearwater Florida in the early 1990s and had enjoyed a few him as a personal friend and mentor for years. He has been a role model for me in many ways. I could always call him and talk to him about anything I needed advice about.He taught me to always be as much a skeptic as a believer and never take myself too serious. He was a great man and an even greater friend. I will miss him very much. He had a ton of influence on me as a paranormal investigator and ufologist. May he rest in peace.