Tuesday, May 22, 2018

PSI ‘74: Psychics and the UFO Witness from Pascagoula

In our last installment, UFO Promoter, Lawrence Brill: From Crime to Conferences, we saw how a convicted real estate swindler found a new calling as the promoter of a paranormal and UFO conferences.

The PSI in PSI Conferences was for Psychic, Spiritual and Intuition. Brill, with the help of rising psychic star, Bernadene Villanueva, they were able to gather an impressive roster for their first program, top talent ranging from psychic celebrities to scientists and best-selling authors. The conference was named PSI ’74 and events were held at the Hilton Hotel and the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Aug. 2, 3 and 4, 1974. The conference was heavily promoted through advertising and Villanueva’s media interviews.

Uni-Com Guide: Here and Now Aug. 1974 featured a cover and interview with Bernadene Villanueva, and a full-page ad for PSI ‘74

The two-day conference included psychic rap sessions, Mrs. Dixon’s speech “A Gift Of Prophecy” and psychic healings.

PSI ‘74 featured:

Jeane Dixon was the keynote speaker, “A Gift Of Prophecy”
Joseph DeLouise known for his predictions (Chicago)
Bernadene Villanueva (gave a demonstration of psychic healing)
Rev. Jean Page Bryant Tampa psychic, radio talk show host

Dr. J. Wilfred Hahn of the Mind Science Foundation (Laredo, TX)
Dr. Stanton Maxey (Stuart, FL) Acupuncture Expert, speaking “on the elimination of fatigue factor in pilots as a means of preventing airplane crashes.”

Jess Stearn, author of “Edgar Cayce: The Sleeping Prophet”
Robert Prete, Astrologer and publisher of Rising Sign magazine (Los Angeles)
Tom Valentine, editor of The National Tattler
Robert Parker, New Awareness magazine founder

Perhaps to pad the show, Brill added some UFO content,

Charles Hickson (UFO witness)
“I was on a UFO”

The Pascagoula Abduction story of Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker is so famous, we won’t repeat it here, but for anyone needing a recap, here’s their own story from their hometown paper, Pascagoula’s The Mississippi Press, Oct. 13, 1973:
See larger version in the PSI '74 photo collection.

Most of the other guests did not have a strong UFO connection, but Page Bryant believed that UFOs had a connection to the Bermuda Triangle, and Jeane Dixon had made a high-profile prediction on the future of UFOs.

The Press Coverage
Jeane Dixon’s appearance grabbed most of the press attention, recounting several of her predictions, from the topic of UFOs to the fate of the U.S. President.

Sarasota Herald Tribune, Aug 5 1974
See larger version in the PSI '74 photo collection.
The Clearwater Sun August 5, 1974
"Dixon Fails To Spellbound" by Michael Bane
Ms. Dixon came to St. Petersburg at the behest of the promoters of PSI ‘74, an omnibus convention of almost anyone interested in the psychic world and psychic phenomena. Their playbill ran the gamut from authors and lecturers to UFOlogists to Ms. Dixon, the Saturday night headliner. The crowd was primed for revelations. Ms. Dixon had none to offer.
Questions from the audience gave “her a chance to run down her most recent predictions – UFOs would soon be in contact with the Earth, the President (Nixon) would remain in office and weather the impeachment storm, former vice-President Agnew is slated for a comeback in the United States is slated for a civil war before the end of the century, backed by “our country’s enemies.”

A Disclosure of Pascagoula Contact - of the Psychic Kind

In August, Reporter John Keasler wrote a multi-part article series on the PSI ’74 conference for the Thomasville Times. In addition to the lectures, there was a thriving section for merchants offering products and services:
Today I'll describe a psychic convention. You go with an open mind no pun meant, and your first impression could be oh - oh: Look out for the pitchmen, keep one hand on your wallet and don't play cards with strangers. The impression doesn't last very long, although there is an "ESP - testing machine" for sale at a booth in the corridor. It's simply a calculator in which you push buttons and try to match numbered lights you can't see, on the operators side. I don't think many were sold at $179.50. For 50 cents you can test your own psychic ability.
Charles Hickson of Pascagoula, Mississippi.
During the show, Keasler met UFO witness Charles Hickson, and found him to be the most credible person there. He interviewed Hickson about his Pascagoula abduction experiences, and Hickson told him that for months afterward he was terrified, but something had eased that.
“Yeah the fear’s gone now. It was bad for a while. I can’t tell you how bad.”
Keasler asked if it was because of the monstrous appearance of his abductors.
“That was bad enough, but something more than that. I couldn’t explain it to myself, at first. But it was that they were machines.”

When asked, Hickson said, “What made the fear go away? I can’t really tell you … just yet.”
Keasler backed off, but later returned to the topic. Hickson refused, so the reporter took a stab, guessing, “ Do you mean that you are being somehow contacted by space people?  Telepathically?”
Hickson, replied, “Yep.” But he wouldn’t say more about it. Discussing his abductors, Hickson said, “…what picked me and Calvin up was machines… operated by a mind somewhere else.”
Later, Kessler returned to the telepathic contact, asking, “When did your messages start?”
“About three months after they got us, or to put it this way, just about the same time my nightmares stopped.”
Keasler asked him if he was worried they would come back, but Hickson said, “I wouldn’t be afraid next time.”
“Because of the messages you’ve gotten?”
“I can’t say yet."
From UFO Contact at Pascagoula, 1983 book by Charles Hickson and William Mendez.
Two years later, Hickson recalled his close encounter with a famous psychic from the conference.
Valley News (Van Nuys, CA) June 27, 1976
"Man still marvels at ‘space things’" by Douglas R. Sease (UPI)
“I'm convinced to my satisfaction that they were robots controlled by a mother ship somewhere... I spoke with Jeane Dixon (a reputed Washington, D.C. psychic) about this and she fully believed me,” Hickson said. “She said they came from a planet that's just beyond Jupiter, one our astronomers think is there but they haven’t seen it since Jupiter is always between it and the earth."

When Prophecy Fails

Jeane Dixon and the psychics at PSI ‘74 failed to foresee the resignation of President Richard Nixon on August 8, 1974, just days after the conference. If the prediction of UFO disclosure and contact were to be fulfilled, it would be under the leadership of the newly inaugurated Gerald Ford as President of the United States.

PSI Expansion

In the weeks that followed, PSI Conferences produced some smaller events, a one-day event:

Saturday Aug 24MeditationPSI Conferences 1 day only lecture at Tampa’s Admiral Benbow Inn.(Day-long conference)Fee $25 All Lectures & Banquet
and a 6-week class on psychic development:
PSI Conferences Study Center ClassesAug 27 - Oct 16 Weeks $25 10 - 12 AMPsychic DevelopmentIntroduction to MetaphysicsPsychic DevelopmentInstructor Page Bryant
These classes were partly to produce some income until the next PSI Conferences production...

The Flying Saucer Symposium

Lawrence Brill and his PSI Conferences partners were taken by surprise that one of their minor acts at PSI ‘74 received a disproportionate amount of interest. Charles Hickson of the Pascagoula abduction had been a big hit, and it inspired them to put UFOs front and center for their second major event, the Flying Saucer Symposium in November of 1974.

Next up, the epic 1974 Tampa Flying Saucer Symposium.

For the STTF collection of more news articles on PSI ‘74, see this link.

Friday, May 18, 2018

UFO Promoter, Lawrence Brill: From Crime to Conferences

In our introduction, After the UFO Crash of 1969, we looked at how the closing of Project Blue Book seemed to cause a decrease in the public's interest in UFOs for several years, but in 1973 the topic made a big comeback and by the next year, UFOs were big business again.

In 1974, Lawrence Brill presented two UFO and paranormal conferences in Florida's Tampa Bay area featuring superstar guests; top talent, from experts and best-selling authors, to scientists and alien abductees. The events received major news coverage, but one lecturer made a stunning disclosure that overshadowed all the rest. A professor revealed that the USA’s Central Intelligence Agency directed the cover-up of UFOs, and that they possessed physical evidence of flying saucers and their occupants. It would change ufology forever. But, before we examine the story of conferences and the UFO evidence...

Who was Lawrence Brill, and how did he come to put on the show that made it all possible?

The Brill Family Business

The Morris J. Brill Agency ad from 1945.
Ready with financing help and sincere salesmen. 
1947 is known for the start of the flying saucer fever, but at that time, Lawrence Brill was a 23-year-old real estate salesman from Racine, Wisconsin. The Racine Journal Times from December 3, 1967, featured a retrospective that sets the stage:

20 Years Ago. December 3, 1947: A public hearing to determine whether Lawrence Brill should be granted a real estate brokers license was scheduled to be held in Racine by the Wisconsin Real Estate Brokers License Board. Brill formerly held a salesman‘s license and was employed by his father, Morris J. Brill. Licenses to the elder Brill and two of his salesman, George Brill and Herman Kaplan, were revoked Nov. 4 when the board found them guilty of “misrepresentation, untrustworthiness and improper dealing in real estate transactions.” The hearing was scheduled to determine Lawrence Brill’s trustworthiness to operate as a broker.

Brill's brokerage license was granted later that month, but with a stern warning:

“The board had a duty to treat Lawrence Brill as an individual and not penalize him for any misdeeds of his father, brother or brother-in-law. If the board was unable to connect Lawrence with any of the questionable cases investigated, then it had no alternative but to grant the license. But in granting the license the board warned that Lawrence must not be associated with any of the other three members of the former agency and any real estate transactions. This imposes a responsibility on Lawrence to make sure that he lives to up to the letter of the board regulations. The board and the people of Racine have a right to demand this, and doubtless will maintain a keen interest in seeing that it’s done.

- The Racine Journal Times, Dec. 22, 1947

Link to larger images of this and other Lawrence Brill articles.
In 1948, Lawrence took over the family business, renaming the real estate enterprise the “Lawrence Brill Agency.” What did not change was the family method of operation, and eventually the “misdeeds” came to a head. In 1954 Lawrence and his brother George Brill were among those arrested for a real estate scheme. The storm passed and they got back to business as usual, but it was a strong clue of what lay ahead. Lawrence managed to avoid getting his photo in the paper, and this picture of George is the closest we found to a picture of him anywhere.

Racine Sunday Bulletin, Oct. 24, 1954
The cards came tumbling down in 1967, with the legal proceedings following for several years. The two clippings that follow show how fraud and financial irregularities brought the Brill Agency down.

One of the biggest upheavals on Racine's commercial scene in many a year came with the collapse of the Lawrence Brill Agency's rental housing empire. Once the largest manager of rental housing in the city, controlling as many as 2,000 units, the Brill Agency folded in 1967 and went into bankruptcy, listed about $1 million in unsecured debts, $9 million in contingent debts and assets of $344,000. The bankruptcy proceedings are still in progress. In a related action, the state this year brought a variety of charges against brothers George and Lawrence Brill, who operated the agency as a partnership. The charges allege violations of Wisconsin securities law, theft and theft by fraud.
- The Racine Journal-Times, January 11, 1970:
"'60s Racine's Eating, Buying Habits"

Betty Flannery, former bookkeeper for the Lawrence Brill Real Estate agency testified in 1969 that, “by and far most of the properties lost money” in the year leading up to the bankruptcy, with losses running about $30,000 to $40,000 per month. “I told him five or six times that he was losing money but it was difficult for him to believe it because he planned things so carefully."

- The Racine Journal-Times, Feb. 17, 1969

Jumping ahead in the story, ultimately the Brill brothers were found guilty, but served no time or paid no penalty, only given five years probation. In 1974, they were ordered to repay 11 cents on the dollar for their bankruptcy debts.

Flight to Florida

In 1967, while the legal proceedings were just beginning, George and Lawrence Brill left Rancine and moved to Florida for a fresh start in Tampa. There, Lawrence Brill became a member in local social clubs and civic organizations, and his wife Nora (nicknamed Noni), took an active role in the Tampa arts community. The connections they made in these social circles would prove to be important later, when they were introduced to psychics.

Lawrence Brill reinvented himself as the president of Pandora Enterprises Inc., a company based in Tampa, both retailing and wholesaling hair pieces, wigs and fashion accessories. The company also operated under the names, Hair Goods, Inc., Wig Factory Inc. and reportedly, Palucha Enterprises. In a 1970 interview with The Tampa Tribune, Brill was asked about the rising popularity of synthetic wigs. Fake hair had caused his sales of human hair wigs to drop by 90 percent. Brill was no seer, but, “He predicts that within a year the demand for human hair will return if New York designers create styles that demand genuine hair for their execution.”

By 1974, Brill’s company had three retail stores under the name of Wig Wardrobe. In the registration, Brill’s wife Nora was named as vice president, and Cynthia B. Stanley was listed as the director. It was through friend and business partner, Cynthia Stanley, that the initial connection was made that would lead to the UFO and paranormal conferences. The story “Saucer Symposium Held” in Willoughby, Ohio’s The News-Herald, Nov 3 1974 by Joel Greenberg told how it all began:

The seed for this unlikely gathering was planted nine months ago in the mind of Cynthia Stanley, who works for Palucha’s three Wig Wardrobe Stores in Tampa. While driving around town last February, Ms. Stanley suddenly decided to stop at Halarion House a now-defunct spiritual church. There, psychics Ernest and Bernadine Villanueva “read my aura,” the electrical field that surrounds the head, she recalls. Ms. Stanley says she has now become an adequate “table-tapper” — she can induce spirits of dead persons to tap answers on a table (one tap for yes, two for no). At Palucha director Lawrence Brill’s home, where the Villanuevas psychically swung a 150-pound chandelier, got PSI (Psychic, Spiritual, Intuition) Conferences off the ground.

High Society

Lawrence Brill took on the role as director of PSI Conferences, and with the help of rising psychic star, Bernadene Villanueva, they were able to gather an impressive roster of celebrities for their first conference, PSI ’74. The Tampa Tribune, Aug 1, 1974, describes a social event held in honor of two of the starring psychics.
Tampa Tribune, Aug 1, 1974
The article also names one of Brill’s other PSI directors, Dr. Edwin L. Stover, the chairman of
the Humanities Department, St. Petersburg Junior College (who also played with the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony). A later article lists Bob Mims, as a PSI Conferences director, another contact that Brill seems to have made through the high society clubs he and his wife belonged to. Lawrence Brill was the voice of the organization, however, and it was run through the company he owned.

With the support of advertising and media coverage, Brill's PSI ’74 was ready to launch. It was held on Aug. 2, 3 and 4, 1974 in St. Petersburg, Florida, with events at the Hilton Inn and the Bayfront Center arena. Lawrence Brill's story continues in our coverage of PSI '74 and the epic UFO conference that followed it.

In our next chapter: The first PSI conference, and the unpredicted response to the UFO witness.

After the UFO Crash of 1969

The Dark Days after 1969

The flying saucer fever of 1947 created a big problem for the Government, and the United States Air Force was stuck with the job of handling it. The fact that there was an official investigation was exploited by believers (and opportunists) who insisted that if the USAF was spending time and money investigating UFOs, that must prove that flying saucers are real - and that they were hiding the evidence. Two decades later, the Air Force finally got out of the saucer business, as briefly stated in their UFO Fact Sheet:
From 1947 to 1969, the Air Force investigated Unidentified Flying Objects under Project Blue Book. The project, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, was terminated Dec. 17, 1969... The decision to discontinue UFO investigations was based on an evaluation of a report prepared by the University of Colorado entitled, "Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects;" a review of the University of Colorado's report by the National Academy of Sciences; previous UFO studies and Air Force experience investigating UFO reports... 
Following the closure of Project Blue Book, public interest in the UFO subject took a nosedive. 

Empty Space

UFOs and outer space were out of fashion in the entertainment industry as well. Paranormal, ESP and psychic topics were what the public was buying. Shows like Night Gallery and The Sixth Sense had memorable runs on television and in 1973, The Exorcist was the top grossing film of the year. Entertainment was coming out of period barren not of just UFOs, but of science fiction, at least of the outer space variety. In the movies, about the closest thing to space aliens was The Planet of the Apes movie series. On television, NBC’s Star Trek series had been cancelled back in 1969, but was popular in syndication and alive as a Saturday morning cartoon. On prime time, The Six Million Dollar Man was about as "far out" as TV got.

"Somewhere in the universe there must be something better than man."

The Literary Front

There were a few important UFO books published in those days, some in response to the Condon Report that enabled the Air Force to shut down Blue Book. Dr. J. Allen Hynek and his 1972 book were profiled by Ian Ridpath in New Scientist,  May 17, 1973, “The man who spoke out on UFOs”:
He is highly critical of the report called The Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, produced in 1969 by a University of Colorado team led by Dr Edward U. Condon and based on US Air Force Project Blue Book files. He has since written his own book, called The UFO Experience, which has been called "Hynek's version of what the Condon report should have been." The book is now in its fourth printing in the United States. 
In 1973, Major Donald E. Keyhoe, the man who had written the first non-fiction book on flying saucers, wrote his last, Aliens from Space. He also blasted the Condon Report, depicting it as part of the Government’s UFO cover-up policy. Keyhoe closed the book with a more optimistic note, proposing an ambitious plan to build a facility at a remote location that would attract extraterrestrial visitors, lure them into a landing where a peaceful close encounter would establish formal contact.

Flying saucers were out of fashion, though. About the closest related matter to the UFO topic that the public really cared about was the ancient astronauts theory as popularized in the Chariots of the Gods? book and its sequels. In 1974, Chariots was in it’s 27th printing and still on the bestseller lists. Publishers Weekly, describing the paperback of its second sequel.
“The Gold of the Gods" ($1.75, Putnam), the latest best seller by Erich von Daniken, is getting a cover stamped with gold metallic letters for its paperback edition — the first time that Bantam has used that process, usually reserved for deluxe editions of hardcover books... will have a first printing of 800,000 copies...

Putting UFOs Back in Business

In late 1973, UFOs made a big comeback in the press, jump-started by the media frenzy surrounding the alien abduction case on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, making 1974 a very good year for the UFO business. In Michael Rasmussen’s 1985 book, The UFO Literature: A Comprehensive Annotated Bibliography of Works in English, he describes the resurgence:
By 1973, a major new wave of sightings was developing in the U.S. and around the world, and public interest in UFOs again began to swell... By 1974, UFO-mania was again in full swing. Ralph and Judy Blum's Beyond Earth — Man's Contact with UFOs was a national bestseller, signaling the dawn of a new boom in commercial UFO literature. The Blums surveyed the recent history of UFOs, and summarized the sensational sightings of the year before, including the Pascagoula abduction claim of Calvin Parker and Charles Hickson.

At the end of 1974, NBC broadcast “UFOs: Do You Believe?” It was a one-hour special that featured UFO witnesses such as Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker, experts such as Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Jim & Coral Lorenzen of APRO, Stanton Friedman, and Walt Andrus of MUFON. The ratings broke records. UFOs were a viable commercial property once again, and there was an explosion in sightings, hoaxes, news coverage, and also an uptick in UFO lectures and conferences. It was a UFO Revival of sorts. 

In the special STTF series that follows, we’ll examine how a particular chain of events in 1974 changed UFO history. Chapter one begins with a paranormal conference in the Tampa Bay area by promoter Lawrence Brill.

UFO Promoter, Lawrence Brill: From Crime to Conferences

 . . .


Thanks and acknowledgements to those who provided support, materials, and background detail for this project.

Claude Falkstrom, my co-author, for his work in digging deeper and finding the stories behind the stories, particularly in the case of Lawrence Brill.

Martin Kottmeyer for reference materials from his own Hangar Minus One.

Isaac Koi, for his dedication to the preservation of UFO literature, which helped greatly in the research of this project.

Also, thanks to those who provided other details, materials and verification:
Lance Moody, Brad Sparks, Roger Glassel, Robert Sheaffer, and Rich Hoffman.

Friday, May 4, 2018

1954: If you haven't read it, it's still Saucer News

The Pittsburgh Press Dec 29, 1954 featured a story on President Eisenhower's position on flying saucers and included comments from several prominent ufologists of the day. Leonard Stringfield, James W. Moseley, Max Miller and Meade Layne gave their views on the saucer status quo.
Leonard Stringfield and James W. Moseley

Max Miller and Meade Layne

· Wed, Dec 29, 1954 – Page 17 · The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

For Further Reading

Although these pioneering ufologists are gone, much of their work has been archived by UFO historians

Leonard Stringfield’s CRIFO (Civilian Research, Interplanetary Flying Objects) published the newsletter Orbit, and several issues are hosted at CUFOS.

Meade Layne’s group BSRA (Borderlands Science Research Associates) published Round Robin, which can be found at the organizations site.

Max Miller’s FSI (Flying Saucers International) published Saucers, and issues are archived at AFU, the Archives for the Unexplained.

James W. Moseley published Nexus later renamed Saucer News, and the first 10 issues, 1954 - 1955 are hosted at CUFOS.

STTF salutes the above organizations for preserving and sharing this and other historic UFO literature. 

PSI ‘74: Psychics and the UFO Witness from Pascagoula

In our last installment, UFO Promoter, Lawrence Brill: From Crime to Conferences , we saw how a convicted real estate swindler found a new...