You Can Call Me Al

The story of Albert K. Bender is a fascinating entry in the annals of UFO lore and someone I’ve become intensely interested in lately. Perhaps it’s a sense of kinship. By all accounts, Albert’s interests were macabre and he was a huge fan of horror movies. He decorated his room in his stepfather’s attic with scenes from spooky films and Halloween decorations. Bender delighted in creeping out people who came over with ghost stories and uncomfortable tales about how he “got a real kick” out of removing some dead bodies from the water when he was stationed in Virginia during his service in the Air Force. In so many ways he reminds me of myself in my late teens – wanting to stand out, shock at any costs.

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Bender also had an interest in the occult. While never specifying the name of the works he was studying at the time, he admitted reading books on “black magic”. This interest and the subsequent events Bender unwittingly unleashed upon himself will become important later.

In 1952 Bender created the International Flying Saucer Bureau, a newsletter and club created to investigate the flying saucer phenomena. The IFSB is particularly important in the folklore of Ufology for being the first such civilian organization dedicated to the topic. Over the course of that year he started experiencing typical Keelian Men in Black activity. He received strange phone calls with weird noises and veiled threats to drop the topic of UFOs. At one point he went up to his attic “Chamber of Horrors” and saw a blue glow emanating from under his door. When he checks inside he found his records disturbed and a strong smell of sulfur in the air.

Later, Albert had a very unique encounter in a movie theater. Initially completely alone in the empty theater, he gets the impression that someone was watching him and when he turned he saw a shadowy figure staring at him with glowing eyes. He became faint and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened his eyes, the figure had disappeared. However, shortly afterwards it reappeared, causing Bender to become dizzy and disoriented. This frightened Bender so much he fled the movie theater. As he made his way home, he once more was confronted by this ominous figure while he was window shopping along the main street. This episode is uniquely curious to me for its subtle homosexual undertones. Was this whole experience simply someone trying to pick up the nerdy young Bender in a lonely theater, and he overlaid the supernatural onto it as a way of coping? Or, perhaps there was something stranger going on and Bender truly was tormented by some ominous shadowy being. There’s certainly no lack of sexual undertones in ufological lore and this oozes queer panic.

Finally, before the fated “World Contact Day” experience, Bender once more was witness to a materialization of some sort of entity in his attic room, apparently during a meeting between members of the IFSB. Again, Bender saw the same bluish light from his bedroom and when he investigates, he saw a bright ball of bluish light with what looked like a body in the center. Bender called out to the entity but it faded away, leaving behind a temporary after image of two glowing eyes. Again, the stench of sulfur filled the room. Bender rejoined his comrades and didn’t speak of this episode, for fear of ridicule.

This brings us to the real core of the story: World Contact Day. Apparently Bender and a few of his IFSB buddies had decided to “send a telepathic message to the visitors from space” and March 15th was picked as the day of communication. It was coordinated amongst members of the IFSB that the message was to go out on March 15, 1953 at 6 p.m EST exactly, and they were all to attempt contact simultaneously. Someone with more astrological knowledge than myself will have to elucidate if there is any significance to this date. Several members of the group scoffed at this outrageous idea, with a familiar hesitation towards anything smelling faintly of the occult that we still see today in modern Ufology. Albert was not dissauded.

The wording of this telepathic message to the “visitors” should sound very familiar to anyone who’s studied grimoires or Solomonic magic:

Calling occupants of interplanetary craft! Calling occupants of interplanetary craft that have been observing our planet EARTH. We of IFSB wish to make contact with you. We are your friends, and would like you to make an appearance here on EARTH. Your presence before us will be welcomed with the utmost friendship. We will do all in our power to promote mutual understanding between your people and the people of EARTH. Please come in peace and help us in our EARTHLY problems. Give us some sign that you have received our message. Be responsible for creating a miracle here on our planet to wake up the ignorant ones to reality. Let us hear from you. We are your friends.

Compare that to the “Conjuration To Call Forth Any of the Aforesaid Spirits” from the Lesser Key of Solomon:

I DO invocate and conjure thee, O Spirit, N.; and being with power armed from the SUPREME MAJESTY, I do strongly command thee, by BERALANENSIS, BALDACHIENSIS, PAUMACHIA, and APOLOGIAE SEDES; by the most Powerful Princes, Genii, Liachidæ, and Ministers of the Tartarean Abode; and by the Chief Prince of the Seat of Apologia in the Ninth Legion, I do invoke thee, and by invocating conjure thee. And being armed with power from the SUPREME MAJESTY, I do strongly command thee, by Him Who spake and it was done, and unto whom all creatures be obedient. Also I, being made after the image of GOD, endued with power from GOD and created according unto His will, do exorcise thee by that most mighty and powerful name of GOD, EL, strong and wonderful; O thou Spirit N. And I command thee and Him who spake the Word and His FIAT was accomplished, and by all the names of God. Also by the names ADONAI, EL, ELOHIM, ELOHI, EHYEH, ASHER EHYEH, ZABAOTH, ELION, IAH, TETRAGRAMMATON, SHADDAI, LORD GOD MOST HIGH, I do exorcise thee and do powerfully command thee, O thou Spirit N., that thou dost forthwith appear unto me here before this Circle in a fair human shape, without any deformity or tortuosity. And by this ineffable name, TETRAGRAMMATON IEHOVAH, do I command thee, at the which being heard the elements are overthrown, the air is shaken, the sea runneth back, the fire is quenched, the earth trembleth, and all the hosts of the celestials, terrestrials, and infernals, do tremble together, and are troubled and confounded. Wherefore come thou, O Spirit N., forthwith, and without delay, from any or all parts of the world wherever thou mayest be, and make rational answers unto all things that I shall demand of thee. Come thou peaceably, visibly, and affably, now, and without delay, manifesting that which I shall desire. For thou art conjured by the name of the LIVING and TRUE GOD, HELIOREN, wherefore fulfil thou my commands, and persist thou therein unto the end, and according unto mine interest, visibly and affably speaking unto me with a voice clear and intelligible without any ambiguity.

The structure is remarkably similar. Eerily so. Since Albert passed away in March of 2016, we’ll never truly know if this was intentional or not, but I suspect it was largely subliminal and guided by his knowledge of occult works. There is a call to appear, followed by a greeting and a desire to establish friendly relations, and then a command to create a “miracle on earth”. While wrapped in modern language, the spirit of the thing remains.

That evening, Albert went to his room at 6 p.m., turned out the lights, got into bed, repeated this conjuration three times and then experienced what researchers would commonly call an Out-of-Body Experience or OBE. He describes smelling that same sulfur stench and having the feeling of being paralyzed, his brain filled with flashing blue lights and then finding himself floating three feet above his body.

He was then confronted by a shadowy figure constructed of yellow mist with a voice commanding him to discontinue his investigations into the “mysteries of the universe.” I find this turn of phrase particularly fascinating. The entity or spirit that Bender conjured wasn’t telling him to stop researching flying saucers, per se, but existence itself. It was trying to dissuade him from further occult studies, acting as a gatekeeper to further knowledge. This is another familiar subject to students of the occult and should ring several bells.

It’s prudent at this point to describe the entity often referred to the Dweller on the Threshold in esoteric literature. From Glamour: A World Problem p.22 and p.39:

The Dweller on the Threshold is illusion-glamour-maya, as realized by the physical brain and recognized as that which must be overcome. It is the bewildering thoughtform with which the disciple is confronted, when he seeks to pierce through the accumulated glamours of the ages, and find his true home in the place of light.

The Dweller on the Threshold does not emerge out of the fog of illusion and glamour, until the disciple is nearing the Gates of Life. Only when he can catch dim glimpses of the Portal of Initiation and an occasional flash of Light from the Angel of the Presence, Who stands waiting beside that door, can he come to grips with the principle of duality, which is embodied for him in the Dweller and the Angel. . . .

And from Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II,  p. 312

The Dweller on the Threshold is oft regarded as a disaster, as a horror to be avoided, and as a final and culminating evil. I would here remind you, nevertheless, that the Dweller is ‘one who stands before the gate of God’, who dwells in the shadow of the portal of initiation, and who faces the Angel of the Presence open-eyed, as the ancient Scriptures call it.

All of the entity contact events of the 1952 – the strange being in the movie theater, the twice materialized glowing entity in Bender’s room and now this outright confrontation – can be seen as manifestations of the Dweller on the Threshold, at least as understood by students of the occult. This initiatory event and its conclusion is seen as a test for the magician to pass metaphysically from one side “to the other” and give up their fear and ego that holds them back. Bender was quite obviously not prepared for this event. He was a dabbler, and boy was he in way too fucking deep.

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It brings to mind Grant Morrison’s description of his first successful conjuration and its consequences.

From “One Nervous System’s Passage Through Time”: GRANT MORRISON interviewed by Jay Babcock (Arthur No. 12/Sept 2004):

GM: I spent 25 years doing magic because I didn’t believe Aleister Crowley when he said a demon would appear if I performed certain operations. And so I did the operations to prove him wrong, and a fucking demon appeared! [laughs] So, from the age of 19 I’ve had to deal with the fact that the demon had actually appeared, and that Crowley was saying something that now made sense experientially.

Which demon was it?

GM: I dunno, it had a flaming lion’s head, and it said “I am neither North nor South” and I shat myself. I read up on it since but I can’t remember the name offhand. I think it was more of an angel, to be honest. But the bottom line is at age 19, being quite skeptical, I discovered it worked. And I had to deal with that, to accommodate that view of the world.

This resonates with me even further given that I’ve had my first successful contact with an entity recently, in which I believe I conversed with the demon Oriens after performing the Invocation of the Four Kings. Like Bender, like Morrison, I didn’t think anyone – or more properly, anything – would actually show up. Turns out they do, and they can eat you alive if you’re not careful. Bender found this out the hard way when his visitors showed up once again.

Having seemingly failed his initiatory experience by being too scared to move past the Dweller, shunned by his fellow IFSB members when he tried to tell him his fantastic encounter, Bender was in an extremely vulnerable and lonely position. Juicy psychic meat for spirits who smelled blood in the etheric water.

After a vacation in July 1953, Bender returned once more to the smell of sulfur in his attic room. As he got ready for bed, he felt faint and underwent another sudden bout of sleep paralysis. Now he was confronted with three entities, more distinct and clear this time and wearing black clerical outfits and Homburg hats. Interestingly, they were floating several feet off the floor.

One only need to search the phrase “hatman” to find that this archetype of a shadowy figure wearing a hat is an extremely common one and currently well within the realm of popular consciousness. In particular I’m reminded of a scene from the wonderful 2015 documentary about sleep paralysis, “The Nightmare”, in which a man experiences and out-of-body experience where he is confronted by a shadowy figure in a hat and his two cronies who order him back into his body, cutting him off from experimentation and further exploration of the out-of-body state.

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These beings further tormented Albert, telling him that they would reveal hidden knowledge to him because they knew that no one would believe his story. They handed him a small metal coin or disk and provide him with a word of power (Kandik) that he could use to call them using a radio. While I can’t come up with a direct parallel between this and fairy lore, the giving of some sort of talisman seems awfully familiar from a folkloric sense. There are shades of EVP here as well, using a technological device like a radio to act as a transceiver from the spirit world to our physical realm.

Bender, still too damn curious for his own good, attempted this contact and once again experienced an OBE that manifested into what seemed to be a full-blown abduction experience in which he was taken to a “spaceship” and filled full of more of this secret knowledge, most of it sounding awfully familiar to those who’ve studied the contactees. Some of the information is reminiscient of the Shaver mystery, involving the visitors living inside the “Hollow Earth” and oddly enough paints the visitors in an almost predatory light. They describe to Bender how they can take over the minds of humans and use them to infiltrate society, sometimes murdering and replacing them as they see fit. This stands in strange contrast to the Adamsky style Space Brothers that preached a doctrine of universal love and peace. I wonder if Bender’s obsession with the darker aspects of life, the occult, and horror movies didn’t influence his contextualization of these encounters.

One extremely curious tidbit he was given was about the Milky Way galaxy itself. One of the beings talked about the “Great Central Stillness” at the center of the galaxy, which was “so powerful that you could not even approach it by light years; for if you did you would immediately be destroyed. It is the creator of all of us, and more families of planets are constantly being formed and thrown off into orbits.” This is astounding for several reasons.

If Albert was given this information in 1953, it predates the actual location of the Galactic Center by a year. Joseph Lade Pawsey and his team didn’t discover the true Galactic Center until 1954 when they were able to pinpoint an extremely powerful belt of radio emissions in Sagittarius, 32 degrees south-west of what was thought to be the true center at the time.

Even more fantastic, the visitor’s description of the Galactic Center as a “Great Central Stillness” so powerful that even getting within light years of it would destroy the observer seems incredibly, almost unbelievably close to a description of a supermassive black hole. A supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy was not even hypothesized to exist until Donald Lynden-Bell and Martin Rees put forth the idea in 1971. The first real indications that they could be right were not confirmed until early 1974. Flying Saucers and the Three Men was published in 1963, predating the work of Lynden-Bell and Rees by eleven years.

General relativity and the work of Karl Schwarzschild had predicted the existence of singularities as early as 1915, it wasn’t until 1939 that Robert Oppenheimer and others predicted that a neutron star above the Tolman–Oppenheimer–Volkoff limit would collapse. This is before the term “black hole” was even coined – that honor goes to a student of John Wheeler in 1967 – and these collapsed stars were referred to as “frozen stars.” The similarity to “frozen star” and “Great Central Stillness” is chilling. Even so, the idea of black holes existing in the popular consciousness didn’t exist until the late 1960s. But here was Bender being told by star beings in 1953 about the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Were these entities providing actual truthful information to Bender, sandwiched between all of the obvious lies and fantasy?

Further out-of-body adventures were had by Bender after this event, including a trip to a supposed alien base under Antarctica – shades of the Travis Walton abduction and other underground bases so popular in saucer lore – where he met the nine foot tall leader of the visitor race who offered him information about Earth’s moon that eerily corroborates information observed later by renowned psychic Ingo Swann and published in his fantastic book Penetration. It’s obvious at this point that Bender was very, very deep into the land of the fae and it’s at this point that he completely dropped the subject of UFOs and as Nick Redfern so succinctly puts it, “fled Ufology.”

There he remained in exile until coming briefly out of retirement in 1963 to publish Flying Saucers and the Three Men, his own account of his story as compared to the version Gray Barker laid out in his work They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. Barker’s work is considered a seminal part of Ufological lore and cemented the pop culture image of the so-called Men In Black up until this day, even though the actual entities Bender described meeting were far different from Barker’s government agents.

Bender moved to Los Angeles, completely dropped the topic of UFOs and got very into music. He ended up outliving most of his contemporaries and one dares to wonder if his flight from the subject saved his life. One of the dangers of both magic and paranormal research is obsession, becoming so entrenched in your topic that you lose all grounding and context. It has been the sickness that has plagued some of the most brilliant minds of the subject and it seems that at the absolute depths of his own obsession, Bender was able to pull himself out. Perhaps his story can be both a stark warning about the dangers of these subjects and a reminder that sometimes it’s best just to drop it all and walk away.

From the perspective of the Fortean meta narrative, Bender’s story is a fascinating look at the intersection of the occult and ufology, two topics that are more intrinsically linked than most people realize or will care to admit. The parallels are there, for anyone to see, if we will just put our prejudices aside and look at the data. I’m not saying in any way that aliens are “demons” or anything of the sort. What I’m saying is that perhaps “demons” and “aliens” are both contextualizations created by our interactions with whatever lies beneath the masks of culture.

There’s a quote by Bender I’d like to leave you with. I’d like you to remember it whenever someone has a strange story to tell you.

“It is a lonely position you occupy when you have looked into the fantastic, and there is nobody to believe you have actually done so.”

References

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