Rev. Orval Lee Jaggers, founder of the World Church, began preaching about the possibility of alien abduction after the publication of his 1952 book, Flying Saucers!, which doesn’t mention the subject at all. (We commented on that book in a different post.)
The earliest reference to his alien abduction sermon comes in a December 12, 1953 advertisement. The sermon is entitled, “How Flying Saucers are Kidnapping Human Beings from Planet Earth.” The ad also claimed that O.L. Jaggers would provide “documented proof that it is happening with names and addresses of individuals kidnapped.”
Another ad from May 22, 1954 provides some further bullet points of his now “nationally famous sermon.”
Apparently, his sermon also provided:
“1 – Documented proof that Flying Saucers are real
“2 – Little Men in Flying Saucers are real.
“3 – Flying Saucers are Kidnapping Human Beings”
That is a lot.
Of course, the reference to the idea that Flying Saucers are Real calls back to Major Donald Keyhoe’s 1950 book by the same title. That book doesn’t realky mention alien abductions, but his next book did. Flying Saucers from Outer Space was published in 1953. Chapter XII includes the following:
“Letters from readers of my book and articles gave me another cross-section. Most of those who had seen saucers were soberly concerned, though only a few admitted any fear. Some showed the effect of certain scare stories published since ’47. One of these stories reported that a nurse and a salesman, driving along a desert road, had been kidnapped by spacemen. Another described how a private plane had been stopped dead, suspended in mid-air, apparently under study by a saucer crew. A third fear-provoking story was built on the theory published by AMPRO Laboratory Associates, which suggested that spies from Saturn were circulating on earth, working for our downfall after a saucer invasion.”
(p. 224) [Emphasis mine]
Of course, that was about it.
The real inspiration for his sermon is a little more teling. The October 1953 issue of Man to Man magazine (“the Stag magazine”) featured an article by Leroy Thorpe entitled, “Are the Flying Saucers Kidnapping Humans?” (Relax. I’m sure the good reverend was just reading this racy magazine for the flying saucer articles…)
“Are an unlucky few of us —and perhaps not so few at that –being captured with the same ease as we would net butterflies, perhaps for ‘zoological specimens,’ perhaps for vivisection or some other horrible death designed to reveal to our interplanetary invaders ‘what makes us tick?’
“There is great deal of evidence that just this is going on. It is evidence, mostly, of inexplicable levitations into the sky by invisible and unknown forces, sometimes accompanied by electrical or magnetic phenomena which our science is powerless to explain.”
The magazine made its case by naming names and places but provided no dates for the incidents, making it impossible in those pre-Google days to, in any way, confirm the incidents.
Well, that’s not quite true. The story did mention a horrific abduction incident in Zanesville, Ohio, and, well, the editor at The Times Recorder in Zanesville was mighty intetested to know why he’d never heard if the attempted abduction of the Greer brothers. He told his staff to, “Find out about this thing. Call New York. Radio Mars. Anything.”
It turns out that Mr. W W Scott, editor of Man to Man, was under the impression that the incident was taken from a book by Charles Fort; however, when pressed, he could not recall which one and then claimed to have lost the book altogether!
Fort did record incidents of strange disappearances, but the Greer Brothers incident does nit appear in any of his books. It may be that the New York editor was thinking of the general idea that we are being “fished for.”
In Book of the Damned (1919), Fort wrote:
“I think that we’re fished for. It may be that we’re highly esteemed
0by super-epicures somewhere. It makes me more cheerful when I think that we may be of some use after all. I think that dragnets have often come down and have been mistaken for whirlwinds and waterspouts. Some accounts of seeming structure in whirlwinds and waterspouts are astonishing. And I have data that, in this book, I can’t take up at all–mysterious disappearances. I think we’re fished for. But this is a little expression on the side: relates to trespassers; has nothing to do with the subject that I shall take up at some other time–or our use to some other mode of seeming that has a legal right to us. [pp. 265-66]
Nevertheless, by the time Jaggers placed the May 1954 ad, he would have also had source material for his documented proof of alien kidnappings.
In 1954, Harold T. Wilkins wrote Flying Saucers on the Moon, released in the U.S. under the mote exciting title Flying Saucers on the Attack. In that book Wilkins wrote:
“One wonders how many cases of mysterious disappearances of men and women in 1948 – 1952 might be explained as TAKEN ABOARD A FLYING SAUCER IN A LONELY PLACE” (Watkins’ capitals).
As Peter Rogerson summarizes in a June 1993 Magonia article.
“[Wilkins] backed up this claim with some of the earliest ufological references to a variety of Fortean disappearances, such as Flight 19, the Flannan lighthouse, etc.”
By the time Jaggers placed this next ad on August 31, 1957, he was claiming that the Bible describes flying saucers “and their great significance in minute detail” and thst his sermon was the result of 10 years of research on the subject. Which is to say that he developed his interest at the Kenneth Arnold sighting like everyone else.
I do find it odd that Jaggers never quite capitalized on this allegedly world famous sermon with a follow-up book to Flying Saucers! There is a variant title thst gets mentioned in connection with O.L. Jaggers called U.F.O.s and the Creatures That Fly Them allegedly published in 1974, but this is from a now-defunct parody site called McChurch.com ran by a guy styling himself as Elder Perm Poom. He refers to Jaggers as “Otis Lee Jaggers” (though he uses Orval Lee Jaggers’ actual photo) and credits him with writing this book (as opposed to Flying Saucers!) and provides a parodic version of the real McCoy. Tellingly, McChurch.com is also the source of the 1974 copyright date.
Of course, it’s always possible something will turn up later, since Jaggers allegedly wrote over 300 books, most of which we seem to have no record of.
In any case, it was interesting to see that people were writing about and discussing the alien abduction phenomenon well before it became an official thing with Betty and Barney Hill.