Paranormal Propagandist: Gray Barker: Background information when reading Journal of a UFO Investigator

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Journal of a UFO Investigator

A Novel

by David J. Halperin

Journal of a UFO Investigator by David J. Halperin X
Journal of a UFO Investigator by David J. Halperin
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Feb 2011, 304 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Marnie Colton

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Paranormal Propagandist: Gray Barker

Print Review

West Virginia, the small American state best known for its "Wild & Wonderful" motto, ravaged coal mines, and rich Appalachian history, might seem an unlikely birthplace for UFO phenomenology; after all, most people associate aliens and flying saucers with Roswell, New Mexico's otherworldly desert landscape. Without the pioneering West Virginian pulp writer, huckster, and alien enthusiast Gray Barker, however, the seeds of the famous "Roswell Incident" might never have borne fruit. And as the 2009 documentary Shades of Gray - a warm and wistful look at Barker's life - shows, that would have been a shame for American pop culture.

Barker got his start as the voice of the paranoiac fringe of ufology (the study of unidentified flying objects) in the early 1950s, embellishing yarns about a creature sighted in Braxton County, West Virginia, near his hometown. Known alternately as the Braxton County Monster and the Flatwoods Monster, this alleged ten-foot-tall apparition with huge, blank eyes protruding from a heart-shaped face, startled a group of young boys who saw it emerge in a cloud of foul-smelling fog, a red light pulsating beside it.

Barker, an avid sci-fi and horror film fan who worked as a distributor for local drive-in theaters, took the story and ran with it, submitting it to a popular occult magazine of the time, Fate. While contemporary research now suggests that the boys exaggerated the admittedly unsettling spectacle of a large barn owl and a meteor shower, interest in this creature has never waned, and it receives its homage in an annual event, the Flatwoods Green Monster Festival.

Not content to confine his imagination to local monster sightings, Barker made his most lasting contribution to ufology with the 1956 publication of the best-selling book, They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. As Journal of a UFO Investigator author David Halperin states in Shades of Gray, Barker's book invited readers to participate in solving the mystery of the U.S. government's cover-up of alien encounters and found its niche in the Cold War era. Barker's fanciful tales of "Men in Black" who strong-arm ufologists privy to the secrets of flying saucers and alien colonies into silence resonated with a public that was gradually realizing just how much their government might be hiding from them.

Several interviewees in Shades of Gray also poignantly suggest that Barker's UFO conspiracy theories had their roots in his experiences as a gay man living in a rural small town at a time when homosexuality was feared and demonized. As author David Halperin explains, "Certainly Barker had a tremendous secret that he had to keep - the idea that there is something so explosive that it cannot be revealed and then if you speak about it, you get into trouble, was something that echoed for him."

Barker continued to write books and articles and to speak at ufology gatherings until his death in 1984; The Silver Bridge, published in 1970, speculated on another West Virginia monster, the Mothman, allegedly seen several times in the 1960s. Whether Barker actually believed in Mothman, the Flatwoods Monster, or even the flying saucers that were his bread and butter is open to debate. His friend Jim Moseley deflates the hopes of ardent ufologists when he posits that Barker was "happy to take other people's delusions and encourage them." Another Barker associate, John C. Sherwood, has even published an article in the debunker's bible, Skeptical Inquirer, admitting his part in several of Barker's elaborate hoaxes.

Although Barker may not actually have known "too much about flying saucers," his infectious enthusiasm for local folklore and visitors from other worlds has shaped our paranoid millennium's search for truth.

Article by Marnie Colton

This article is from the March 24, 2011 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Future Home of the Living God
    Future Home of the Living God
    by Louise Erdrich
    Louise Erdrich began Future Home of the Living God in 2002, set it aside, and picked it up again in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Last Mrs. Parrish
    The Last Mrs. Parrish
    by Liv Constantine
    Amber has lived in poverty all her life, and she has had enough. Of course, wishing to have money ...
  • Book Jacket: Never Coming Back
    Never Coming Back
    by Alison McGhee
    18 out of 23 reviewers gave Alison McGhee's Never Coming Back a rating of 4 or 5, with an average ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss

A debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Strangers in Budapest
    by Jessica Keener

    Strong characters and a riveting plot combine in this psychological thriller set in Budapest.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

The thing that cowardice fears most is decision

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E Dog H I D

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.