UFOs for Israel: The Ufology of Christian Fundamentalist Dr. Carl McIntire’s Twentieth Century UFO Bureau 

It may surprise you to learn that not all Christian Fundamentalists think that UFOs are demonic. One notable exception is Dr. Carl McIntire, the fundamentalist Presbyterian who is considered by some to be the founding father of the Religious Right. McIntire was very much interested in unidentified flying objects.

Claiming that the media was ignoring the UFO phenomenon and the government was failing to investigate them, in late September of 1973 McIntire formed the Twentieth Century UFO Bureau to investigate from a Christian worldview.

McIntire appointed Robert D. Barry as the head of the new organization. Barry had been interested in saucering since the Kenneth Arnold sighting. 

In November 1957, he led the second UFO Conference for Western New York (Olean, NY), the first having been held in March of that same year. The event featured several taped interviews by Barry, including U.S. Rep. Kenneth B. Keating,  former Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Thomas K. Finletter, and contactee Truman Bethurum.  The event was so successful that they were forced to turn 20-30 persons away.  Taking advantage of the interest, the Aerial Phenomenon Investigation Society (APIS) was formed on January 9, 1958 with Barry as its director. A third UFO conference, the first officially hosted by APIS, was held on May 15, 1959 and featured contactee Laura Mundo. Newspaper reports made it clear that she was permitted to tell her tale on account of expressed interest but that APIS did not necessarily confirm the validity of contactee reports.

During that time, he also put on a 15 minute taped radio program called “The UFO Story” that was carried by 45 stations across America for the next two years.

He stayed active in UFO work over the next few decades. He even put on another UFO Space Conference on November 13, 1972 at Dr. Carl McIntire’s Freedom Center Hotel before agreeing to direct McIntire’s Twentieth Century UFO Bureau the following year.

According to an April 29, 1974 column by Joseph Busler for the Courier-Post (Camden, NJ), McIntire’s interest in UFOs was the result of a sighting in the early 1950s when the pilot of an airplane McIntire and his wife were in spotted a UFO and took photographs. “And McIntire somehow found within the confines of his rigid Presbyterian theology room for the belief thst the UFOs are manned by alien, intelligent beings come to snoop on earthlings.” Robert Barry had also spotted a UFO on his child’s 13th birthday.

Upon organizing, McIntire and Barry put together a 32-page booklet called UFO’s in the 20th Century – Visitors from Outer Space.

In addition to various UFO Space Conferences, the Twentieth Century UFO Bureau made the news a few times. Like when it was reported that Dr. McIntire saw the comet Kahoutek as a sign in the heavens of the Second Coming (but not THE sign).

Or when the organization’s solution to a UFO later officially explained as a waterproof flashlight was that it was actually a government cover-up of a recovered Soviet missile. 

It was definitely a flashlight. Twenty five years after what came to be known as the Carbondale UFO, Robert Gillette, Jr. admitted that after tossing a battery-operated lantern into the DeAngelis Breaker pond to scare his sister. More importantly, he and two other boys, Bill and John Lloyd, reported to police on November 9, 1974, that they saw “a red, whirring ball fly over Salem Mountain and into the mine pond.”

A December 8, 1974 editorial in The Times Recorder  (Zanesville, OH) noted that “Suspense mounted steadily for nearly 48 hours after a ‘glowing object’ was reported to gave plunged into a four-acre pond mear Carbondale, Pa.”

Commenting on Robert Barry’s late theory that the Carbondale UFO Crash might be a recovered Soviet missile, UFO investigator Matt Graeber of the UFO Research Investigation Center (Philadelphia), who was also at the scene of the incident, notes:

“If it was a missile it had to be a very small variety as the location of the light source in the pond was only 7-8 feet deep. But, then there’s still the problem of Ron [Hannivig]’s explaining why an unmaned missile would have onboard or exterior lighting?”

In fairness, Graeber’s scorn is evident in his recap of the event, wherein ge continually refers to the Twentieth Century UFO Bureau as a “one man” outfit, even though his report notes that Barry was accompanied by “his assistant (rather strange fellow that some folks jokingly called Igor).”

Perhaps then we should take Graeber’s estimation of Barry’s motives for the Soviet missile suggestion with a grain of salt:

“Barry was chomp’n at the bit to revive the UFO character of the situation. In short, Barry didn’t want the incident to be a closed issue – after all, he and his assistant hadn’t driven all the way from Yoe, Pa. just to go back to his spiritual mentor and UFO Bureau funder (Rev. Carl McIntire) empty handed. 

Mr. Barry said in his report, “With the news conference now in the past, the 20th Century UFO Bureau is at liberty to reveal the story the news media never got on the Carbondale, Pennsylvania UFO Hoax. The bureau first came across the Russian missile report as a result of a conversation with one of the members of a military unit who was at the scene in Carbondale on Monday (11-11-74)”

Obviously, Mr. Barry and Ron Hannivig must be talking about a high-ranking Civil Air Patrol youngster, because there were no military units at Carbondale… not even local National Guardsmen.

Of course, it wasn’t these things that caused secular UFO groups like APRO, CUFOS and MUFON to heap scorn on them. It was the overtly religious bent to their interpretation of the phenomenon. 

Specifically, Carl McIntire and Robert Barry began teaching that there UFOs were “piloted by beings of three origins: angelic, demonic and extraterrestrial… angels fly God’s craft, Satan’s agents the demonic craft, and God allows extraterrestrial beings to pilot their own UFOs.” 

The notion the UFOs were vehicles for angelic beings wasn’t necessarily a new idea. In fact, this (along with the idea that they are one of the promised signs in the heavens to prelude the Second Coming) is one if the earliest Christian interpretations of the UFO phenomenon. The Demonic Hypothesis of UFO came later and only took off in reaction to the counter-Christian claims of the contactee movement.

It is interesting to note that the Ufology of the Twentieth Century UFO Bureau is distinctive from other Christian UFO hypotheses because of identifiable differences in attitudes. The Twentieth Century UFO Bureau rejected the contactees as irrelevant to the UFO discussion, much as APRO and other early serious ufology organizations did in the 50s and 60s.

In a November 14, 1972 newspaper article covering his pre-Twentieth Century UFO Bureau conference at McIntire’s conference hotel, Barry noted:

“I’m not comfortable with people like Adamski. I feel more at home with documented reports and scientific investigations.”

In eschewing the contactee and abductee movements from consideration, the Twentieth Century UFO Bureau was able to further develop its UFOs as angelic vehicles theory a bit. Instead of the usual emphasis on the demonic or fallen angel UFOs, McIntire reasoned that there were good and bad UFOs, or rather good and fallen angels piloting these things. Taking into account the fact that the Bible declares that a third of the stars (heavenly hosts) fell with Satan, leaving the majority of the angelic hosts still on God’s side, they started looking to what UFOs might be doing for God. 

I do admit that I find this take on Ufology fascinating because it takes the other side the notion that fallen angels/demons are behind the UFO phenomenon and asks, “So what are the good guys that outnumber these demons two-to-one doing? Does it make sense that only the fallen angels are flying around as UFOs?”

The Twentieth Century UFO Bureau eventually began teaching that four major UFO flaps in 1947-48, 1956, 1967 and 1973 had coincided with Israel’s four wars with Arab nations. In short, they began teaching that “godly or angelic pilots of UFOs could be on the side of  Israel” and that, in fact, miracles had accompanied Israeli UFO sightings.  Given the significance of Israel in Dispensational fundamentalist theology, these miracles, such as a whirlwind fortuitously exposing an Egyptian minefield, did a lot to establish the idea of angelic or godly UFOs working God’s will.

The fact that the Christian Ufology of the Twentieth Century UFO Bureau allowed for the possibility of extraterrestrial life – and even the possibility that ET was visiting this planet – is also very noteworthy. 

Commenting on the possibility of extraterrestrial life, Robert Barry told Joseph Busler in 1974:

“Scientists believe that there are 100 million inhabited planets in our Milky Way galaxy alone, and there are untold numbers of galaxies. Perhaps these UFOs are manned by beings who come from similar worlds to ours, or worlds where there is no sin. Because God tossed Lucifer and the fallen angels down here where we are, the earth, not up there in the heavens, is the logical place for sin to be introduced.” (April 29, 1974 column by Joseph Busler for the Courier-Post (Camden, NJ)).

By this he meant that he and McIntire believed that only unfallen extraterrestrials were possibly visiting this planet.

I think it’s important to realize that the Christian Ufology of the Twentieth Century UFO Bureau differs in the level of its emphasis on demonic UFOs and its allowance for the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis precisely because it concentrates on UFO reports to the exclusion of the experiencer phenomenon, just like most serious secular UFO organizations do! Other fundamentalist views of the UFO phenomenon tend to overemphasize the idea of demonic UFOs based on anti-Christian contactee teachings and practices and the sinister nature of thd abductee phenomenon. Some even claim that the UFO phenomenon is 100% demonic, but, if the supernatural is involved at all and the UFO phenomenon is truly an arena of spiritual warfare as some claim, what’s lost in giving the Devil more than his due is an answer to the question of what the holy angels who outnumber fallen angels two-to-one are doing while all of this is going on? The strength of the Twentieth Century UFO Bureau’s take on Christian Ufology is that it has a significant role for the godly angels within the UFO phenomenon. Conversely, the lack of development of the role of godly angels is certainly a deficit of the prevailing version of the Demonic Eschatological Hypothesis Hypothesis. 

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