It was hard to miss the ads for Arcturus Books in the early days, when I took my first steps into the pool of ufology. Overwhelmed with information as I was, I never thought to contact them or get a copy of their catalogue: magazines, ‘zines, newsletters and bulletin board postings (remember the long-gone days of BBS?) provided a dizzying mix of information where abduction claims, tales of underground bases and straight-out conspiracy theory shared the cramped pages like passengers on a subway train during rush hour.
It was much later that Joan Jeffers – a devoted Pennsylvanian researcher of UFO and related phenomena – told me to get a hold of Bob Girard, saying he could find any book or periodical I might remember from the early days of sauceriana, or even material from other countries. Oddly enough, I was sort of in touch with Bob already. His former partner, the late Ron Bonds, had set up Illuminet Press expressing an interest in publishing my translation of Salvador Freixedo’s “Visionaries, mystics and contactees”, a great introduction to the Spanish Jesuit’s vast body of work on the paranormal. Bob’s wife Monica provided the cover art for the project, so when I picked up the phone to call Arcturus, no introduction was really necessary.
I spoke for hours with Bob that first time. What I’d been told was true – he knew all the corners, light and dark, of the paranormal community, current and past – and an encyclopedic recollection of old books. We spoke at length about his own work, “Futureman”, a dystopic view on the ultimate fate of humankind if the age of abductions proved true. Disturbing reading, but written in a most insightful style.
So it was that Bob helped me rebuild my collection of UFO books, which had been lost over the course of years, some lost over the course of international moves and others forsaken as new interests commanded my attention. Getting into “new” materials was never difficult thanks to Bob’s reviews, which made the Arcturus Books catalogue a joy to read – probably more so than a number of newsstand offerings available at the moment! Some descriptions are etched in my mind, like an old samizdat whose cover “depicted a hayseed peeing into a pond with a flying saucer hovering overhead” – I’m paraphrasing here, but I still smile at the laughter the description caused in me at the time.
Some reviews were at the other end of the spectrum: scathing indictments of the subject matter and sometimes the author. Words that could either make you want to order the book to see if such an assessment was warranted, or enough to make one turn the page and hope for better.
1993 saw the birth of my first newsletter on “UFOs in Latin America and Spain” and Bob Girard was pleased to add it to Arcturus’s offerings, cautioning me not to charge too much for it, since “mystics never have any money”. The price point must’ve been right, as SAMIZDAT (as it was called) became a strong seller for Arcturus over a time frame of five years. When I announced that I the little newsletter was folding (its news stories rendered stale by the Internet), I told him I intended to come back with a new idea. “Whatever you do, make sure it’s good!” he said, and INEXPLICATA came out within months, available in print format for many years before the same situation – the immediacy offered by electronic sources – forced it to migrate to the web, where it has remained since 2003.
We didn’t see eye to eye on everything, though. The Chupacabras Diaries, my initial offering on Puerto Rico’s paranormal predator, didn’t really meet his approval. Bob thought the correct approach to take should have been a dismissive one. He particularly disliked a chapter bearing the title “It’s In the Trees- It’s Coming!” – a homage to Jacques Torneur’s The Night of the Demon (1957). Now you’re part of the problem, I believe he said. However, he gladly accepted my self-published copies of TCD and sold them through Arcturus to a world that was only just starting to hear about the creature’s exploits, way before it became a media phenomenon.
When people ask me where I obtained my knowledge of book publishing, having never worked in the industry, I always say it was thanks to those long telephone sessions with Bob Girard. The ins and outs of the publishing world were as familiar to him as the dark corridors of the paranormal. A good and knowledgeable friend who richly deserves to be remembered as a 20th century Renaissance man.
A few years ago someone asked me if I’d ever heard any weird stories about the Dewitt C. Greer building downtown. They proceeded to tell me they had heard tales of folks seeing blood-smeared walls and other strange haunting phenomena on certain floors within specific rooms.
Recently, as I was working on archiving paper files and periodicals held by the Anomaly Archives, I came across the October 2003 issue (Volume 29, Number 2) of TxDoT’s Transportation News magazine whose cover shouts:
GHOSTS. . . Discovered in the Greer Building !!
The Ghosts of Greer by Mike Cox / Editor
If Harvey Hubert hadn’t fatally stabbed that young Austin man on Halloween night in 1916, he might have lived to see the fine new Highway Department building go up where the Travis County Jail once stood.
But that’s not how it worked out. At 1:50 p.m. on Aug. 23, 1918, Sheriff George Matthews sprang the trap on the gallows inside the jail and Hubert paid for his crime at the end of a rope.
Hubert, 34, had the distinction of being the last of nine men legally hanged in the castle-like stone jail, built for $100,000 in 1876 at the corner of 11th and Brazos streets — present location of the Dewitt C. Greer Building.
Who knows? Maybe Hubert’s spirit has something to do with the mysterious footsteps and strange noises some TxDOT employees have reported hearing at night in the big meeting room and on the eighth floor when the building’s supposedly empty.
But for anyone who believes in ghosts, there are plenty of suspects.
This edition of Transportation News is also archived online here:
Anomaly Archives presents Robert Powell on UFOs & Govt
Saturday, March 29th, 2014
Free Event – Donations Welcomed!
Robert Powell has been the Director of Research at MUFON since 2007 and is also the head of MUFON’s Science Review Board. He is an active Field Investigator in the state of Texas having completed over 120 investigations and is a MUFON Star Team member. He is one of two authors of the detailed radar/witness report on the Stephenville Lights. Robert is also a member of the Society for Scientific Exploration, the National Space Society, and the Académie d’Ufologie. Robert is active with FOIA requests to various government organizations to obtain information on historical cases and is a co-author of a book published in July 2012: UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry. Robert currently resides in Austin, Texas.
Robert has a BS in Chemistry and is a former collegiate debater. He has 28 years in engineering management in the semiconductor industry from 1978 to 2006. While working at Advanced Micro Devices he has taken numerous internal courses related to device physics, design of experiments, and statistical analysis. He helped Advanced Micro Devices develop its first flash memory technology that is used in today’s flash cards for cameras, PCs, video cameras, and other products. His experience includes managing a state-of-the-art chemistry laboratory and managing a Research and Development group that worked on nanotechnology using atomic force microscopes, near-field optical microscopy, and other techniques. Robert is also a co-holder of four patents related to nanotechnology.
Talk Synopsis: UFOs & Government: The Historical and Changing Role of Government over Time
Governments have been concerned about UFO sighting reports since WWII, but historians have never made a concerted attempt to understand their often contradictory responses to the phenomenon. How could something of such potential technological and national security consequence have left no visible trace in the history books? Whether it’s a conspiracy or not, the subject has been marginalized to such an extent that it’s as if the military never acted with alarm on the heels of a UFO sighting, as if the intelligence community never took up the issue behind closed doors, as if government research and development efforts never attempted to duplicate the phenomenon. But they have. Robert Powell will discuss how governments, especially the U.S. government, have dealt with the UFO phenomenon and will provide a hypothesis as to why the phenomenon took its roots during WWII.