Thursday, October 12, 2017

Archives Saved and Archives Lost

It is August 27, 1989. My AFU friend and colleague Anders Liljegren and I are traveling by car to an apartment in Bromma, outside Stockholm, where the late Swedish UFO research  pioneer K. Gösta Rehn spent his last years. He died on June 17, 1989 at the age of 98. Already in 1978 Rehn had donated part of his collection of books and magazines to AFU. He had also told his daughter, Greta Frankel, that the remaining archive, mainly consisting of correspondence, would go to AFU after his death.

K. Gösta Rehn

Eager and expectant we enter the apartment and are met by Greta Frankel. Stunned and surprised we find only a few remaining books and magazines on the shelfs. We naturally ask Greta Frankel where all the correspondence is placed? Shocked and dismayed we are told that, about a week ago, she had dumped all correspondence in a container at the back of the house. Disheartened we walk to the back of the house and in a container filled with lots of trash we locate 32 binders of correspondence, all in good condition. In a state of euphoria we load the binders into our car for transportation to AFU. During the travel back to Norrköping we praise fate for our almost incredible luck and success in this endeavor.

These 32 binders contain, especially for researchers, invaluable correspondence with UFO witnesses, ufologists and scientists from all over the world. A treasure trove of fascinating data giving personal insights into the UFO movement of the 1950s. 60s and 70s. As K. Gösta Rehn was the Swedish representative of APRO there are 220 letters exchanged between Rehn och Jim and Coral Lorenzen. Part of APRO correspondence was an important source of data for David Booher when writing his recently published No Return. The Gerry Irwing Story, UFO Abduction or Covert Operation?

I have never really understood people who find archives dull and unimportant. Perusing a recently donated archive at AFU is for me like entering a new and unknown universe full of fascinating information. In September 1989 I spent a week reading all the Rehn correspondence, resulting in a large biographical article and later a chapter in my first UFO book UFO – i myt och verklighet, 1993 (UFO – In Myth and Reality). By reading the complete correspondence file of K. Gösta Rehn I received an unprecedented insight into the personal life, research and theories of one of the real pioneers of Swedish UFO research.

Another pioneer in the Swedish UFO movement was Ms Edith Nicolaisen (1911-1986), founder of the publishing house Parthenon in July 1957. Edith Nicolaisen began corresponding with George Adamski in 1954 and the first book published in Swedish in October 1957, was Flying Saucers Have Landed by Desmond Leslie and George Adamski. Her second aim was to form as many UFO and new age groups in Sweden as possible. Parthenon published several of the classic contactees of the 1950s: George Adamski, Daniel Fry, Ray and Rex Stanford, Elisabeth Klarer. Edith Nicolaisen corresponded with hundreds of ufologists, contactees, esotericists and new-age activists from around the world between 1950-1986.  

In 1985 Carl-Anton Mattsson and Mats Nilsson, UFO-Sweden, became concerned for the future of Parthenon and the large archive of the publishing house. Mats Nilsson wrote a letter to Edith Nicolaisen resulting in a meeting, October 1985, at Nicolaisen´s apartment in Helsingborg. Edith was by then old and frail and during the meeting decided donating the Parthenon archive and in the future also the publishing house, provided Carl-Anton Mattsson and colleagues continue publishing UFO and New Age literature. On November 9, 1985 Carl-Anton Mattsson and I travelled to Helsingborg loading our hired van with lots of boxes filled with books and magazines. Several trips were made before the entire archive was safely housed at AFU. About three months later, February 28, 1986, Edith Nicolaisen died, 74 years old. The very extensive and voluminous correspondence from K. Gösta Rehn and Parthenon has been digitized by Leif Åstrand at AFU.

Edith Nicolaisen

Carl-Anton Mattsson at AFU, August 14, 2010

In the 1990s I began a systematic effort to locate old Swedish ufologists and representatives of UFO groups no longer active, to retrieve as many archives as possible. In this way much of Swedish UFO history was saved for future research. Practically all people contacted generously donated their archives but now and then my inquiry came to late and I was informed that all material had been burnt or dumped not long ago. A sad message when the collection was especially large or valuable. But many times Anders Liljegren and I could celebrate a happy ending to our efforts when travelling home to AFU with still another archive in the car.

The fate of an archivist. Anders Liljegren working hard with a new donation August 8, 2011

In the 1990s Clas Svahn, together with UFO-Sweden colleagues, expanded the archive retrievals to include several European countries, especially England. As there is no archive institution like AFU in England many British ufologists have donated their collections for preservation in Sweden. Large Schenker lorries are regularly unloading boxes of archival material at AFU, with donations from all over the world. We are especially grateful to be the custodians of the Flying Saucer Review (FSR) and Borderland SciencesResearch Foundation (BSRF) archives. Clas Svahn and colleagues have by now made at least 25 journeys across Europé in pursuit of archives. While I am writing this Clas Svahn and Carl-Anton Mattsson has just arrived at AFU after yet another successful trip to England. We are now expecting the next Schenker lorry with around 150 boxes of material.

Clas Svahn with the archive of Boris Jungkvist

313 boxes in London 2012, on their way to AFU

Although our efforts to save UFO, Fortean and paranormal archives around the world has been a success story we have also experienced failures and listened to the sad stories of dumped and destroyedarchives. Here just a few examples:

Ivan Troeng, first generation Swedish ufologist. We were promised his archive but relatives dumped the entire collection in a container 2004.

Sven Olov Larsson, first generation Swedish ufologist. His brother dumped the archive although we had been promised to have all material.

Bjarne Håkansson (Zacharias Brandt), active in Swedish ufology since early 1960s. He threw away his large personal archive but regret the mistake today.

Kolbjörn Stenødegård (1937-1997), Norwegian ufologist. Representatives from the municipality in Norway emptied his apartment and dumped a very large UFO archive.

Dr. Helmut Lammer, author of MILABS: Military Mind Control and Military Abductions (1999). In an email to me April 2011 Dr. Lammer claimed to have thrown away his entire archive.

My AFU colleagues and I hope that everyone reading this blog will not repeat the same tragic mistakes as shown above. If you do have material of interest to AFU or know of archives in danger of being destroyed, contact us as soon as possible. We will do our best to save the collection for future research.