; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

The Peak of the Great UFO Flap of 1973 - Part III


The Peak of the Great UFO Flap of 1973 - Part III of III

By Raymond A. Keller, Ph.D., a.k.a. “Cosmic Ray,” the author of the international awards-winning Venus Rising Series, published by Headline Books and available on Amazon.com, while supplies last.

Venus Rising: A Concise History of the Second Planet

Final Countdown: Rockets to Venus

The Vast Venus Conspiracy

Lady Columba Venus Revelations

Flying Saucers and the Venus Legacy

Many mystics and ufologists thought that the great comet Kohoutek was mere camouflage for an interplanetary spaceship approaching the Earth.  Artwork credit:  Fate magazine (Highland Park, Illinois), May 1974

“The Gods Hate Kansas”

The first time I came across the idea of flying saucers from other planets camouflaging themselves inside of easily identifiable celestial objects such as asteroids, comets, and meteorites was when, in my youth as a student at Moody Junior High School in Bedford, Ohio, I read Joseph Millard’s science fiction novel, The Gods Hate Kansas (Derby, Connecticut:  Monarch Books, Inc., 1964).  In this story, Dr. Curt Temple, a professor of astrophysics and meteoritics at a prominent Kansas university, is woken up in the middle of the night when he receives a telephone call from an administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Washington, D.C., informing him that astronomers at observatories in the Southwest have reported a swarm of at least nine meteorites plotted on a trajectory to crash within a one-hundred-mile radius of his location.  Insofar as Temple heads up a meteoritics team headquartered in the astronomy department at his university, he is asked to round up all the members of his team and go out to the crash site to examine the fallen meteors and take samples for further analysis.  

The book, apart from being engaging science fiction, was very informative insofar as learning about meteorites is concerned.  Wrote Millard, “Of an estimated 24 million meteors that strike the Earth’s atmosphere every day, no more than four or five fragments of any size were recovered in an average year.  Most of these were not found until vital clues to their nature and origin had been lost or weathered away.  The infant science of meteoritics was built almost entirely from ancient falls and a study of the meteoric dust in the atmosphere.”  In The Gods Hate Kansas, however, the fall of nine fresh, intact meteors on a nearby Kansas farm provides Temple and his team the opportunity to find the answers to a thousand burning questions they had been asking themselves about meteors for over a decade.  

Temple’s meteoritics team was headquartered in Kansas largely because, as the astrophysicist explains, “For a reason no scientist can explain, more stony meteorites strike little Kansas than any other place on Earth.  One-third of all known North American aerolite falls, and one-sixth of those reported in the world, have been in Kansas.  Despite a sparse population, more falls have been witnessed in Kansas than anywhere else on Earth.  Kansas receives more stones than any other state, more than any two states west of the Mississippi.”  Surely, with nine new ones to push this imbalance in favor of Kansas even further, Temple and his team members were elated.

Martha: “Jonathan, I don’t think he’s from around these parts.”

Jonathan and Martha Kent of Smallville, Kansas, after checking out a seemingly fiery meteorite that fell on their farm, discover an extraterrestrial baby among the debris of a crashed alien spacecraft.  Photo source:  Superman: The Movie (Warner Brothers, 1978).

Topping Off the UFO Flap of 1973

One would think that any other UFO sightings remaining to be reported following the abduction of Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker on 11 October 1973, would be, by comparison, considered in the ufology community to be “mediocre,” at best. But along came comet Kohoutek, and along with it, a slew of prophets and doomsayers announcing that its arrival in Earth’s vicinity heralded the end of the world, at least as we know it.  In the autumn of 1973, no sooner than national media were touting the arrival of comet Kohoutek with the promise of a super-spectacular fireworks display to light up the winter sky, just in time for Christmas Eve, televangelists got on board the Kohoutek craze touting it as a sign of our entrance into the “End Times,” or “Latter Days.”  This got the general public to begin wondering, however, if the comet was a signal from God or the devil?  

In Madison, Wisconsin, a popular Christian fundamentalist lawyer, Edward Ben Elson, took to sponsoring announcements on local television and radio stations declaring that comet Kohoutek was actually a large carrier spaceship from another planet that was going to enter into the Earth’s atmosphere on December 24th, causing massive damage to our world and killing millions of people in the process.  Elson warned that “As Kohoutek approaches the Earth, its hydrogen and carbon tail will blend with our atmosphere to produce petroleum, which will flood our planet.  I hold out hope, however, that 144,000 persons will be saved.  They will be beamed up from their rooftops to sanctuary aboard the spaceship!”  

Many in Madison and the surrounding areas actually took Elson quite seriously but began to have doubts once he began selling tickets in his Lake Monona shoreside neighborhood to 1,000 souls who would allegedly join him and his wife onboard the mothership in escaping the prophesied destruction of the Earth, along with other elect ones as preselected by the reaping space angels.  “What would Elson need with American dollars on the new planet?” wondered his neighbors.  When Christmas Eve arrived and the space angels did not, it should be pointed out that members of the police bunko squad were on hand at Elson’s residence to make him return the money to those he bilked.  Since he did so, he did not have to face jail time, just humiliation.

Kohoutek Poses Dangers to Earth and Venus

Dr. Anton Pliska, part of the Holy City Church in San Jose, California, was another prophet of doom. Pliska prophesied that an all-out destruction of Earth would come at the end of the first week of 1974, but not directly from comet Kohoutek but from our sister planet Venus.  

Explained Pliska: “Kohoutek will not collide with Earth; but with Venus, which, in turn, would carom from its orbit like a billiard ball and destroy the Earth in a cataclysmic encounter on January 7th.  The resulting collision will not only wipe out the population of Earth but that of Venus, as well.”

Other So-called Seers Got It Wrong

Rev. Joe C. Crews, pastor of the Church of God of Prophecy, Fort Meyers, Florida, in his Christmas Eve sermon, urged his congregants to: “Prepare for eternity.  I really believe that the comet is part of the prophecy of God because He (Jesus) spoke of signs in the heavens during the Last Days, and a ‘star falling from the heavens.’  I can’t, however, determine the exact time the world will end because God has said in the Scriptures that only He knows the time of the end.”  

Moses David Berg, leader of the Children of God sect, beginning in the autumn of 1973 through the middle of January 1974, consistently urged his followers to distribute leaflets, dated 8 September 1973, in all cities where they were residing that carried his pronouncement that, “Comet Kohoutek is a spaceship that has carried cosmic visitors to our world in the past.  Prepare for the arrival of these angels.”  And then he issued a second pamphlet in November, with no specified date, further stating that “The comet signals the fall of the emperor in the White House (Jimmy Carter).  However, a new day is coming after all the destruction the comet will bring; and it will be a better one.”

Comet’s New Age Significance

Astrologers and other leaders in the so-called New Age community also spoke about the significance of comet Kohoutek’s near approach to the Earth.  

Paul Solomon, a prominent psychic from Atlanta, Georgia, felt that “The time of the comet’s presence will provide an energy that will allow for greater communication than the world has known in many, many years.  It will be a time particularly potent for freeing one from karmic lessons.”  

Elizabeth Clare Prophet, from the Divine Hierarchy of her Colorado-based Summit Lighthouse, also took a more optimistic view of the comet’s approach.  While leading her chelas (students) to a special convocation on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia during the Christmas holidays, she explained, “We have assembled here to view not only a spectacular solar eclipse but also the heavenly phenomenon on Christmas Eve of conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the comet.  These multifaceted phenomena have occurred for the purpose of allowing the descending avatars to appear, and they shall come in the new year.  The year 1974 shall witness the birth of the Divine Man-child and also a host of new avatars (masters) that will mark the emergence of a new celestial race.”

Comet Hysteria Carries Over to Mainline Christianity

While the New Agers were quite excited about the comet as a herald for the arrival of celestial master teachers, or avatars, many in the traditional Christian, or mainline churches, saw the comet as a possible sign of Jesus’ Second Coming.

In the December 1973 Christmas issue of Christianity Today (Carol Stream, Illinois), that magazine’s theology correspondent, Donald V. Etz, speculated, “Some biblical events may have been caused by comets, and accompanying meteor showers; and the second coming of Christ may well be heralded by such a heavenly manifestation as the arrival of Kohoutek.”

David Webber, the editor of the Gospel Truth monthly periodical, published in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, also reflected a similar perspective on the comet’s importance in their Christmas issue when he wrote that, “The Century Comet (Kohoutek) in itself does not present indisputable proof that Christ is coming soon; but when considered in the light of the one hundred other end-time prophetic events coming into view, the evidence becomes overwhelming.”

Rev. Carl McIntire, the national radio preacher from Collingswood, New Jersey, stated his agreement with Webber’s point of view concerning comet Kohoutek.  In his Christmas Eve broadcast, McIntire fervently declared, “Kohoutek is a sign of the Second Coming of Christ, a most thrilling piece of evidence.”

“Caveat Emptor” (Latin for “Let the Buyer Beware”)

Sometimes religionists of all shades and those in the UFO and metaphysical communities, particularly, are quick to buy off on the latest portents seen in the sky and the alleged significance attached to such seeming omens.  And sometimes, not too long after being proven wrong in their assumptions about these phenomena, these same folks never seem to learn from their mistakes. 

Hale-Bopp was another comet to which much significance was attached, and definitely, one of the most viewed comets in history, insofar as it had an absolute magnitude of -1, thus making it one of the brightest comets to ever reach the inner solar system in modern times.  According to a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA),  Hale-Bopp appeared 1,000 times brighter than Halley's Comet did when it was at the same distance.  Hale-Bopp manifested twin blue-and-white tails which were clearly visible even from light-polluted areas such as Chicago or Los Angeles.

Sadly, there was a tragic incident attached to the appearance of Hale-Bopp, where 39 people who were part of the "Heaven's Gate" cult in San Diego, California, committed mass suicide as the comet came closer to the Earth.  The leader of this sect, Marshall Applewhite, told his followers that the comet concealed an interplanetary spaceship that was going to whisk them all away to a paradisical world; and that the price to board the spaceship was to take their own lives, thus freeing their spirit bodies to rise up out of their physical corpses and meet up with the aliens and their craft in space.  

According to NASA,  Hale-Bopp's closest approach to Earth occurred in March. 22, 1997, at a distance of about 120 million miles (193 million kilometers). (By comparison, the sun is 93 million miles, or 150 million km, from Earth). Astronomers still had the bright Hyakutake comet fresh in their minds at the time as it just passed by Earth in 1996. Hale-Bopp was many times farther away than Hyakutake but still appeared much brighter.

Heaven's Gate leader Marshall Applewhite, a former music professor, and Presbyterian minister, convinced his cult’s members that their bodies were merely containers that could be abandoned in favor of a higher metaphysical existence. Because he also convinced them that an alien spacecraft was following in the wake of the Hale-Bopp comet and that by giving up their physical bodies their spirits could take a ride aboard the interplanetary craft, in late March 1997, Applewhite and 38 followers drank a lethal cocktail of phenobarbital and vodka and laid themselves down to die, thereby entering the alien spacecraft and passing through Heaven's Gate into a higher ultra-dimensional existence. The bodies of 21 women and 18 men were found lying in bunk beds in a rented mansion in suburban San Diego, Calif. They were wearing matching clothes and new sneakers.

Frequently, the appearance of a bright comet or other space debris burning up in the atmosphere, like a meteor, brings about this kind of dangerous and often meaningless prophecy that often passes as precognition.  In 1997, I was living in Orangeburg, South Carolina, and wrote an article about the dangers I saw in Applewhite and his cult, stressing that while some UFOs may sneak in under the guise of meteors, there is too long a history of meteors and other such startling astronomical phenomena being associated with the wayward prophecies of so-called doomsday hucksters. 

Perhaps, in examining the importance of comet Kohoutek in the final days of the great UFO flap of 1973, we should consider the words of the evangelist and Greek doctor Luke, who penned in Chapter 21, Verse 8 of his Gospel in the New King James Version:

And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore, do not go after them.

And all the people should loudly proclaim, “Amen!”

Heaven’s Gate cult leader Marshall Applewhite: “Off on a comet!” with his dangerous program of Human Individual Metamorphosis.



Have you had a sighting or encounter?
Contact me by email or call the hotline at 410-241-5974
Thanks. Lon

Subscribe & Join the Chat Group






Remembering a Werewolf Hunter

I Tried to Process My Fear of Death

Subscribe & Join the Chat Group




Your financial support of Phantoms & Monsters and our other pursuits is much appreciated. Please click the banner above. Thanks.

Have you had a sighting or encounter?
Contact us by email or call the hotline at 410-241-5974
Thanks. Lon

This blog and newsletter are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 United States License.

Registered trademark PHANTOMS AND MONSTERS ® / PHANTOMS & MONSTERS ® - USPTO #90902480 - Lon D. Strickler

© 2005-2023 Phantoms & Monsters - All Rights Reserved