Thursday 15 August 2019

Homohoax: UFOs Have Us Going Around In Circles

[Homohoax – a hoax, prank or fake news that was created by a member of the lgbt community, about the lgbt community, or which effected members of it.]

The harvest season in underway, and there’s one thing that has become conspicuous by its absence in recent years - crop circles, those geometric patterns of flattened cereal that seemed to appear overnight in fields across the world. Scientists could not come up with an explanation. They didn’t know how they were formed, or by whom, or by what. Other people, however, were certain what they were. They were patterns created by aliens of their spaceships. Belief in these crop circles became quite popular for a while, and some people still go looking for them.

Before I go further I should point out that the crop circles I refer to in this article are the ones which began to appear in the UK in the 1970s and were revealed in the 1990s to be a hoax and were created by Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, and by other hoaxers.

I also have to admit that I had an open mind about crop circles at the time. I was an impressionable young teenager, though I could never believe they were created by aliens. I grew up in a rural village surrounded by wheat and barley fields but we never had any appear in my area.

One of the “champions” of crop circles was an openly gay ex-Ministry of Defence civil servant called Ralph Noyes (1923-1998).

Ralph Noyes was probably born in South Africa. Ten months after his birth he and his British parents are recorded on the passenger list of a ship sailing from Durban to Southampton. He was definitely a “child of the empire” and spent some time growing up in the West Indies. By 1933 his parents had, apparently, separated because his mother was remarried to a man called Reginald Hanney. Ralph changed his surname by deed poll in 1947 to Noyes-Hanney, though there’s no indication that he ever used it.

During World War II Ralph served in the RAF which led to him becoming a civil servant in what is now called the Ministry of Defence after 1945. In the latter half of his career he was employed at the Secretariat (Air Staff) 2a, what was popularly known as the “UFO desk”. Part of Ralph’s job was to answer letters from the public about UFO sightings. His contribution to the investigations into UFOs is worthy of a separate article, which I may get round to writing some time next year.

At around the same time that crop circles began to appear in the 1970s Ralph Noyes had become an Assistant Under-Secretary of State and had come out as gay. He appeared in one of the earliest British television series aimed at the lgbt community called “Gay Life” in 1981. Ralph retired from the Ministry of Defence a year later.

Ralph was also involved in investigation paranormal and mysterious phenomena. He was the Hon. Secretary of the Society for Psychical Research. While it is certain that Ralph was interested in the paranormal it is also clear that he was equally interested in the proper scientific research into these events and eager to find proof and reason behind them. However, he was often open to less scientific answers to some phenomena, never dismissing them until he could prove they were wrong.

In 1976, the year after Ralph left the Ministry of Defence, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley created their first crop circle. They caused a sensation and soon more appeared around the UK and the world. Ralph Noyes became interested in them very quickly, mainly because of the widely held belief that they were created by aliens and spaceships, and while the scientific world generally denounced such theories Ralph threw himself into research into these strange creations.

After several years Ralph Noyes had become one of the leading figures in cereology (yes, they even gave crop circle research a pseudo-scientific name) and in 1990 he edited and published a collection of writings on crop circles which is still highly regarded in the world of cereology. It was called “The Crop Circle Enigma”. In the same year Ralph and fellow cereologist Michael Green founded the Centre for Crop Circle Studies (CCCS). This too was aimed at proper scientific investigation.
Ralph Noyes’ appearance in a 1984 Japanese documentary on UFOs; inset, the front cover of the first edition of his book “The Crop Circle Enigma”, published in 1990.
 Very early on the CCCS looked into the possibility that crop circles were not a new phenomenon and that evidence could be found in the thousands of aerial photographs of the country of pre-1976 crop circles. They found none that were like those appearing after 1976. Similar research by the Wessex Skeptics, a group set up to debunk crop circles, UFOs, spoon-benders, and the like, came to the same conclusion. Ralph was quite happy to support their findings.

By this time, the beginning of the 1990s, the hoax crop circles of Doug Bower and Dave Chorley were themselves being hoaxed. To Ralph Noyes these fakes were obvious. He wrote to the Times newspaper on 25th July 1991 expressing his dismay that many of these copycat circles were “not only troublesome to farmers but muddies the scientific record”.

In September 1991 Doug Bower and Dave Chorley revealed that they had created the crop circles which sparked off the whole crop circle craze.

In 1992 the CCCS held its first international conference in Winchester. In the same month Ralph joined fellow cereologists in several night vigils at crop circle sites in the area. It seems that, by now, Ralph had become disillusioned by the whole idea of crop circle studies. Dismayed by the confessions of Bower and Chorley, and by the many copycat circles that he thought “muddled” his scientific research into genuine circles, he resigned from the CCCS later that year. It did not, however, dampen his interest in paranormal and mysterious events and he continued to be a member of the Society for Psychical Research and write articles.

Ralph remained a highly respected figure in cereology after his departure from the CCCS. His main contribution to the world of the mysterious and unexplained, however, was in the study of UFOs. It is this subject to which I’ll return some time next year.

Thursday 1 August 2019

Out of Her Tree: Gladiators, Pilgrims and Pirates

There have been few family histories that I have looked in to that have contained such a variety of events as those I uncovered during research for today’s featured lgbt individual – Shelley Beattie (1967-2008). Selecting which to present in this snapshot of Shelley’s ancestry has been difficult.

Shelley Beattie’s own life was a varied as those of her ancestors. There’s action, struggles, and adventure on the high seas.

Perhaps what Shelley is best remembered for is her role as Siren in “American Gladiators” on television between 1992 and 1997. Before that she was a leading competitive bodybuilder, appearing on the covers of fitness and physique magazines.

Shelley’s success belies the fact that she was also deaf. Fortunately, she developed excellent lip-reading and speaking skills that led many to be surprised to learn she had a hearing impairment. She was a fighter all her life, not necessarily in the physical sense but in overcoming other challenges and finding her way in life. Sadly, this created mental health problems which led to her taking her own life. Her ancestry also shows the challenges and struggles thrown at previous generations of her family.

Shelley had a lot of German blood through her mother, though most of her ancestry was Celtic. The Beattie family originally came from Roxburghshire in Scotland, near the border with England. Shelley’s great-grandfather Thomas Beattie migrated with his wife and infant son, first to Alberta, Canada, in 1904, and then to the US in 1923. Both of Shelley’s parents are descended from Scottish and Irish immigrants. Her various ancestral immigrant families arrived in the US from the first days of colonial settlement up to her great-grandfather’s arrival.

The sea and sea travel appear a lot in Shelley’s ancestry. Coming from a family on the Californian coast she was never far from the sea, and her grandmother Helen was buried at sea. Shelley herself spent time on the high seas as a member of the first all-female team to compete in the Americas Cup sailing challenge in 1994 and 1995. I wonder if Shelley adopted the name Siren when she became an American Gladiator in 1992 as a conscious decision to link herself to the sea (sirens are the fabled sea-enchantresses who lure sailors to their death). But then perhaps the name was chosen by the series producers.

And this leads us on to an unexpected part of Shelley’s ancestry. Adventure on the high seas is in her blood. Through her paternal grandmother Shelley was descended from Benjamin Haxton. He was the son of Scottish immigrants and was born in Connecticut colony in 1705. By 1737 he had become a ship’s carpenter. The only ship we know for sure Benjamin served on was the “Charming Betty”. This is a well-recorded vessel and its name belies the nature of its fame. For some “Charming Betty” was far from charming.

This period in the history of the American east coast was still intimately linked with events in Europe, largely because the powers in Europe had neighbouring colonies in America, and the conflicts between them played out on both continents.

The War of the Austrian Succession (referred to by the English colonists as King George’s War) broke out in 1744. It was one of those international wars which revolved around dynastic power struggles. In the American colonies it primarily involved conflict between the English and French.

“Charming Betty” was one of several ships to which the British government gave letters of marque. This meant that these ships had the legal permission to attack any French ship, capture its cargo and ransom a prisoner. In effect, “Charming Betty” was a privateer (the polite name for a pirate ship).

In 1746 when Benjamin Haxton was the “Charming Betty” ship’s carpenter the vessel had already captured one French ship called “St. Charles” in 1744. Whether Benjamin was a crew member in 1744 isn’t certain, but he may have been on board “Charming Betty” when it fought against a French frigate in 1747. Many prisoners were taken in that skirmish and many were killed.

Benjamin survived his pirating years and went to live with his family in Greene County, New York province. Ironically, he was killed in his own home by native Americans in 1754.

Staying on the sea we encounter Mayflower Pilgrims in Shelley’s ancestry. Through her maternal great-grandmother Delna Little (1906-1995) Shelley was descended from the Mayflower passenger Francis Cooke (from the same village as my own ancestors at the time, so I wonder if they knew each other). There’s also an unproven line of descent from the Mayflower’s Samuel Fuller.

Also through Delna Little Shelley Beattie had other ancestry which links to another group of religious refugees. Delna’s own great-grandmother was Susanna Young (1795-1852), the sister of Brigham Young, the second President of the Mormon church. Delna’s grandfather (Susanna’s son) was a Mormon Patriarch, James Amasa Little. Just like the earlier Mayflower Pilgrims the Mormons were persecuted for their beliefs and sought a safe haven to worship. The Pilgrims sailed across the Atlantic to New England. The Mormons, led by Brigham Young and his family, travelled across the USA to found Salt Lake City.

Taking Shelley Beattie’s ancestry as a whole, her ancestry is dominated by the Celtic heritage of Scotland and Ireland. As with a lot of immigrant descendants there’s many stories of struggle against life’s challenges, whether it leads to the need to migrate and just survive in a new country, or the need to face personal challenges.

Finally, yes, Shelley had royal blood. Through Susannah Young Shelley was descended from King Edward I of England (1239-1307).