CM December 22, 
1995. Vol. II, Number 10-11

image Don't tell anyone, but --
UFO experiences in Canada.

Vicki Cameron.
General Store Publishing House: Burnstown, Ontario, 1995. 195pp, paper, $16.95.
ISBN 1-896182-20-8.

Subject Heading:
Unidentified flying objects-Sightings and encounters-Canada.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Chris Rutkowski.

In a remarkably bold step towards truth in advertising, the title of this book says it all. Perhaps the publisher hopes no one will buy it.

UFOs and aliens are common themes on bookshelves and television programs today, so it is hardly surprising that another Canadian work has appeared concerning these subjects. What is curious is the inability of the author to deal with the topic in a meaningful way.

Cameron admits her lack of experience and background in the subject in the first few pages, and even explains that her work is "not definitive and may not even represent what's out there." She did not investigate any UFO sightings, analyze them in any way, or deal with eyewitness accounts "in a scientific manner." She simply decided to write a book about UFOs, so she placed ads in newspapers asking readers to send her their accounts.

Given these limitations, the author actually does fulfil her purpose. However, many readers may find her approach inappropriate, given the sensational nature of the subject matter. Instead of asking questions and seeking answers, the book merely presents a parade of letters from people who have had UFO experiences.

Some of these experiences are rather dull; lights in the sky that could have been anything. Many, however (and this is certainly an artifact of the author's solicitation process), describe wondrous encounters with aliens and spaceships. One parallel previous work on this subject is John Robert Colombo's UFOs over Canada (Hounslow, 1991), a folkloric recanting of first-person accounts collected by the author. Cameron, however, admits her method was to simply choose a UFO story and "wrote it as the person might have."

Since Cameron has no background in the subject (although she has written previously on unrelated topics), the resulting book is a crosshatch of curious stories, disturbing cases, and outright silliness. The lack of fact-checking and research has caused some problems and lessens the book's value. For example, in one remarkable account, Cameron relates "Old Hank's Tale," told to her by a respondent who heard the story from Hank in the 1960s. Supposedly, Hank and his wife had been picnicking near Atikokan and saw a flying saucer siphon water from a lake through long hoses. Unfortunately, another comprehensive work by Colombo, Mysterious Canada (Doubleday, 1988), relates how this story was discovered, after some effort, to be a complete fabrication.

Cameron's attempt to write a book without any bias (presumably to be "objective") has resulted in an uneven work. A chapter reprinting a sceptical article by Canadian astronomer Peter Millman is placed alongside a much longer, annotated list of the different types of aliens visiting Earth and their respective idiosyncracies. And errors have crept into the book, such as its noting that the famous Hill abduction case "hit the news" in 1961 (actually it was discovered by reporters in 1965). However, these all are ignorable, given the possible value of the book as an accidental sociological study on the human condition.

Throughout Don't tell anyone, people reporting UFO experiences and alien encounters are self-portrayed as near-paranoid and (assuming Cameron did not deviate too far from their testimonies) perhaps delusional. Although her intent was clearly to not paint UFO witnesses Negatively, but rather present them in a compassionate way, the result is somewhat different.

One abductee related: "I feel like [the aliens] are watching me now. I often get the feeling at night that something's in here, in my closet." Another admitted that because of her encounter with aliens, "I have a phobia about cleanliness. I bathe constantly, up to three times a day. I gave myself eczema, and did the same to my kids . . . I've been away from my kids twice in fourteen years. I am afraid to let my children go, afraid to let them out of my sight."

Even those who were not abducted add disturbing images. After he related how he saw "a spaceship land in my backyard," a witness felt compelled to note: "My mother tried to stab me because she hated me from the day I was born." Following his own sighting of a saucer, another noted: "I feel this . . . [has] done something to my perspective on society. It has put a distance between myself and my community, and society in general . . . Organizations don't make sense to me any more."

Other works on this subject have not found such an abundance of dysfunctional individuals. It is possible that the author's solicitation process created a skewing of reports towards the bizarre and unusual. Certainly those "on a mission" (as one witness described her life after her UFO encounter) might have seen the author's invitation as a way of telling others about their experiences. Since the author states that most people do not share their experiences because of a fear of ridicule, the sample of experiences in this book may not be truly representative, as she warns.

But this would raise another issue: is this book helping or hindering those people who are so seriously affected by their UFO encounters? Alas, since this book does not purport to answer any questions, we may never know.

This book may be of limited value to those wanting an indiscriminate look at how some people perceive the UFO phenomenon, but for those who do not, the book's title should be obeyed.

Not recommended.

Chris Rutkowski is one of Canada's leading investigators of UFO phenonomena, and the author of Unnatural History.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to

Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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