Wilhelm Reich and the Day the Earth Stood Still – A Tall Tale of Spacegun ‘54
- May 31, 2016
by Joan d’Arc
“Am I a spaceman? Do I belong to a new race on earth, bred by men from outer space in embraces with earth women?,” Wilhelm Reich wondered in his book, Contact with Space, published in 1957 before his imprisonment by the federal government. Reich noted that this idea was first presented to the public in the 1951 film, The Day the Earth Stood Still. He stated that the film had prepared the populace for extraordinary events to come … But could it be that extraordinary events had prepared the film for the populace?
Reich believed the film’s presentation of the space drive of the craft portrayed the use of cosmic Life Energy (Orgone), and that the Christ-like Visitor, Klaatu (who takes the name Mr. Carpenter), had used his knowledge of the Life Energy to solve mathematical conundrums. He wrote: “All through the film I had the distinct impression that it was a bit of my story which was depicted there”; although he had not considered at that time that he “could actually be a spaceman’s offspring.” (Reich 2)
Reich claimed that The Day the Earth Stood Still somehow started “a ball of history rolling,” putting him “in the center of space problems.” The Day the Earth Stood Still was the second “alien visitor” film ever, the first being The Thing From Another World (1951), which was released only six months earlier (Scheib).
There can be no doubt that Wilhelm Reich was influenced by the books and films of the era; indeed, the climate of the 1950s predisposed Reich to look for evidence that the UFOs had exhibited aggressive behavior. He had read Donald Keyhoe’s 1953 book, Flying Saucers from Outer Space, which described several hostile encounters between UFOs and Air Force pilots. Reich also claims to have seen the film War of the Worlds on January 9, 1954 (Reich 6). He did not state specifically that he saw himself in this film, but as we begin to weave the details of the story of Wilhelm Reich’s Spacegun, it is clear that the latent programming inherent in these two films might, indeed, have precipitated a nuclear war between the worlds.
In his book Project Mindshift: The Re-education of the American Public Concerning Extraterrestrial Life, Michael Mannion sees The Day the Earth Stood Still as a significant early example of the relationship between Hollywood and Military Intelligence. Likewise, Bruce Rux in Hollywood vs. the Aliens: The Motion Picture Industry’s Participation in UFO Disinformation, makes the claim that The Day the Earth Stood Still was tampered with by Intelligence at the executive level, and was changed in accordance with UFO facts. While these theories are difficult to prove, they certainly have merit.
As Randy Koppang writes, in 1947, “humans could know virtually nothing regarding ET motivations and intentions.” According to Col. Philip Corso in The Day After Roswell, beginning with the Roswell saucer shoot-down (a.k.a. “saucer crash”), the strategy of the UFO cover-up was to “shroud ET facts selectively, while acclimating society to their evolving ET awareness” (Koppang). Corso credited Lt. Gen. Nathan Twining as the author of the Unofficial Disclosure strategy wherein, “we were gradually releasing bits and pieces of information to those we knew would make something of it.” Corso wrote, “It would have to be, General Twining suggested, at the same time both the greatest cover-up and greatest public relations program ever undertaken.”
War of the Worlds
On May 12, 1954, only four months after seeing War of the Worlds, Wilhelm Reich made his first “contact” with what he called “space problems” by aiming his Cloudbuster on luminous objects in the sky from his laboratory near Rangeley, Maine, called Orgonon. Reich claimed that during his initial experiments, between 9:40 and 10:45 that evening, he had caused “two stars” to the west to fade out by drawing cosmic energy to them. His team had “directed drawpipes, connected with the deep well,” toward an “ordinary star,” and it had faded out four times. He had three witnesses and only one conclusion: “The thing we had drawn from was not a star. It was something else; a UFO.”
Describing what seems to be an ancient war, Reich made this journal entry: “Tonight for the first time in the history of man, the war waged for ages by living beings from outer space upon this earth (with respect to DOR, Drought and Desert, WR, 1956) was reciprocated with ORANUR with positive result.” (Reich 37)
Contact had been made, Reich believed, with an unknown type of “UFO.” His description of the object called attention to the artifactual nature of the heavens: “blinking lights hanging in the sky [which] were not planets or fixed stars but SPACE machines.” (Reich 4) The Cloudbuster, which was a tool to modify the environment, clean out DOR (Deadly ORgone) and “bring in fresh energy form the infinite Orgone ocean,” had been transformed on the night of May 12, 1954 into a “Spacegun.”
Reich and his associates learned to distinguish between the yellow-reddish pulsing “stars” and the planets and fixed stars; and established a tenuous causal connection between these machines “hanging in the sky” and the drought conditions observed in both the environment and in people. He noted two powdery substances, Orite and Melanor, white and black (respectively), which caused illness in people and were connected to what he called “EA.”
In Reich’s personal language, the E stood for Energy and the A for Alpha (primordial). EA was essentially a metaphor for visitors from outer space. The visitors were unseen: “encountered in our globe’s atmosphere, observed and experimentally tackled with” (Reich intro, xxiii) Using the ORUR (Spacegun), one could reach far into space… The range was limitless, Reich wrote. His team noted that the artifacts blinked and faded out, and sometimes flared or moved erratically following withdrawal of energy from them.
Reich’s battle was not psychic but chemical, using a material he called Oranur (“ORUR”), which included small amounts of nuclear material, radium, and radioactive cobalt. Reich’s Spacegun used ORUR to clear the environment of DOR. (Reich 30) He wrote, “We could draw off some DOR from zenith and around the horizon first and then orurize from the west or southwest.” The change in the atmosphere, he wrote, was immediately felt by all observers.
Perhaps it is in this ability to give life back to lifeless things that Reich saw in himself the extraterrestrial visitor, Klaatu, the Christ figure in The Day the Earth Stood Still.
In his essay entitled “Disco Volante” (“Flying Disc” in Italian), Paul Laffoley writes that the film’s director, Robert Wise, did not set out to make a futuristic science fiction film, but a “pulp fiction pot boiler.” By 1960, he writes, science fiction had become “not Science Fiction of the future but a set of instructions for the sixth incarnation of ‘The New Age’ (the 1960’s).” Laffoley explains: “From then on, Science Fiction became ad-hoc research and development for whoever would care to avail themselves of the ideas put forth. NASA used the Star Trek TV series for programming directives and inspiration.”
Laffoley points out that Robert Wise had two geniuses in mind in the character Klaatu: “The first was Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), the Croatian-born American inventor and electrical engineer, and second, Leon Theremin (Ley Sergyevich Teremin) (1896-1993), physicist and inventor of the world’s first electronic instrument, the Thereminvox or the Etherphone, in 1920 in the Soviet Union.”
The “Croatian but fully committed to America” and the “Russian but lukewarm Soviet spy” form the two halves of Klaatu’s personality. Tesla had invented both the radio and the first robot (Telautomaton Boat) in 1898, and had completed the “death ray” in 1914. Laffoley points out that Klaatu’s actions reflect those of Theremin when he waves his hand over a device on the ship to contact his home planet. This is the Etherphone of Leon Theremin, inventor of the musical instrument used in science fiction films, the Theremin.
Klaatu also remarks about a train that does not require any tracks, an allusion perhaps to The Lev, an electronic superhighway proposed by Theremin in the late twenties. The resurrection of Klaatu (Carpenter = Christ) toward the end of the film is performed by a device mindful of the Vitatheremin, invented by Theremin in 1928. Laffoley explains: “The device will revive a dead body within 12 hours of death by means of solenoids aimed at the chakras of the body, which first is covered with liquid crystal paint.”
Klaatu deactivates all electrical and mechanical devices around the world from high noon until 12:30, and brings the Earth to a standstill. When Klaatu is shot in the arm as he demonstrates a device to study life on other planets, his robot associate, Gort, begins vaporizing military weaponry with his death ray. Klaatu shouts, “Gort Declato Brosco” (“stop the death ray”). The language of Klaatu, Laffoley points out, “is an imagined variation on Medieval Scientific Latin (circa 1238-1368 A.D.), which has almost English word order.” Klaatu teaches his language to his female Earthling friend, and total annihilation is averted with the command, “Gort Klaatu Brada Nikto.” Klaatu demands Earthlings to be peaceful or be eliminated by the superior weaponry of the ETs (i.e., stop killing each other or we will kill you).
According to Richard Scheib, The Day the Earth Stood Still was originally intended to depict other parallels between Klaatu and Jesus Christ, but the studio changed those elements of the story. The ones that remained were the ‘resurrection’, the ‘ascension’ to his celestial home (“Europa”), and the name Mr. Carpenter. Klaatu is clearly a divine personage and an authority on all counts, including the most important one: making real on his threats. It is not clear whether Reich saw Klaatu – the Superman and Scientist – as himself, or as antithetical to himself. Perhaps the killer robot, Gort, represented Fascism and Reich’s flight from Nazi Germany only ten years earlier, as well as his continuing battle with the “Higs” (Hoodlums in Government).
UFOs at Orgonon
Above Orgonon, the vapor trails continued. Reich was observing what is known today as Chemtrails when he wrote, “the vapor emanating from the jets would hold together for a long time and over miles of sky.” As he continued his experiments, clearing the atmosphere of DOR as far as 170 miles toward the coast of Maine where his daughter lived, Reich and his team realized: “Oranur operations on earth seem to be carefully watched by living beings from outer space,” he wrote. (Reich 31)
Reich claimed his discovery of Oranur in 1951 had, “drilled a hole, as it were, into the wall which had for millennia separated man from the universe around him.” In response, the spacemen came. On September 29, 1954, Reich reported his first UFO sighting: four black-gray craft flying in formation at exceedingly high speed. The Air Force also took note of activities and began flying over Orgonon. Reich noted that the Air Force “maintained a most elaborate system of study of the EA problem,” and had become interested in his Spacegun.
Reich’s family and team at Orgonon continued to suffer from the Oranur effect, which he claimed was caused by the interaction of concentrated Orgone with just a small amount of nuclear material. (Wilcox) “We had cleared the sky. Our feet felt heavy when we walked to the Observatory. … the pull of gravity was stronger …” (Reich 34) They lost their appetites and the DOR was turning their bath water a dark, cloudy green. Reich called it a “DOR Emergency”: “the decay of vegetation, crumbling of granite rock, a feverish atmosphere.” He could not avoid thinking that the red and yellow luminous orbs were some kind of machines being directed by somebody “madly minded.” (Reich 45-46)
But there was another invisible menace at Orgonon that was not measured in any of Reich’s notes: Did the experiments actually cause the radioactive pollution felt over Orgonon? Alan Cantwell writes: “While Reich was immersed in the problems of Oranur, his wife Ilse developed uterine cancer. She was convinced her cancer was connected with the radiation experiments at Orgonon. While she convalesced from surgery, Reich cruelly filed for divorce.”
In 1954, Reich read Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, the official government report (1953) written by Edward J. Ruppelt, former head of the U.S. Air Force Project Blue Book. Reich stated that the Ruppelt Report revealed the futility of applying the mechanistic method to “the problems posed by the spacemen.” Reich also became aware at this time that the Report had contained a mention of his work to the effect that it was, “hot because it wasn’t official and the reason it wasn’t official was because it was so hot.” (p 88) He stated: “How much hotter it had become with the EA event on October 10, 1954.”
One wonders if the term “hot” might refer to Reich’s potential instigation of a nuclear encounter with the Watchers, whoever they were. Reich was aware of this possibility and had initially kept his experiments secret, since he feared they would precipitate an “interplanetary war.”
Mass Rumours Run Amuck
Psychologist Carl Jung wondered if the “UFO” is not a flying machine but a symbol coming from the modern technological era. In his book, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies (published posthumously in 1964), Jung called this modern myth a “psychic disturbance.” Using a melding of mysticism and psychoanalysis, he likened the UFO to the mandala, the symbol of totality and order. He referred to the circle as a symbol for Plato’s world-soul: “a supra-celestial place where the ideas of all things are stored up.” He wrote that the simple round form portrays “the archetype of the self” and serves to “unite irreconcilable opposites.”
One should realize that Jung was initially speaking here of dream visions reported by his patients which contained UFOs in the skies. Yes, the UFOs were invading our dreams, and Jung took this to mean that the dreamer should “remember his own soul and his own wholeness.” Yet, following the American “occupant” and “contactee” reports of the 1950s, Jung’s thinking began to vacillate. He could not figure out if the reports were of real spaceships in the skies or whether they were “psychic rumours.” He wavered between “manned machines” or “species of living creature.” He was unable to deduce whether “the whole thing is a rumour with concomitant singular and mass hallucination, or a downright fact.” (Jung)
Jung noted that the “universal mass rumour was reserved for our enlightened, rationalistic age,” i.e. the era of mass media communication. At the time of Jung’s death in 1961, the UFO abduction reports had not yet surfaced. The 1961 abduction of Betty and Barney Hill in Exeter, New Hampshire was not to become public until October 1966 when their story was published in Look Magazine.
Across the ocean Jung had apparently read the news reports and concluded that, “As they did no harm and refrained from all hostile acts, it was assumed that their appearance over the earth was due to curiosity or to the need for aerial reconnaissance.” He later wavered, noting that, “the dangerous development of atomic physics and nuclear fission had caused a certain disquiet on our neighboring planets and necessitated a more accurate survey from the air.” This mass rumour caused people to feel they were being “observed by space beings.”
It is just this question of hostile intent that must be addressed with regard to Wilhelm Reich’s activities at Orgonon. Official UFO reports at this time indicate that UFOs did not show any purposeful hostility aside from aerial defensive maneuvers (Robert Dean / youtube). It is suspected that the military shot down and captured one or more UFOs beginning in 1947 in New Mexico (and perhaps earlier) for purposes of reverse engineering of the craft (Corso). Had Wilhelm Reich’s hysteria about spacemen been created and manipulated?
Indeed, Reich’s Spacegun battles foreshadow by only a few years the first satellite in orbit: the Russian Sputnik of 1957. Soon the Earth would actually be surrounded by a matrix of space machines hanging in the sky. The Eyes of the Watchers would become part of the natural world, or Nature 2. The first inkling of the integration of nature with machine would begin with a great mass rumour over Orgonon. These are perhaps the “extraordinary events” Reich foresaw in The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Reich warned of the power of the Oranur Spacegun if it got into the fascist hands of the Higs, which we can assume it eventually did. The other enemy was “at our backs,” Reich wrote of the Higs: “the malignant activities … of frustrated, dorized, neurotic individuals of our own kind,” as well as “… the conspiracy of corrupt, ignorant officials, the Higs in the FDA,” who had informed the judge at the hearing that, “Orgone Energy does not exist.”
A U.S. court issued an order on March 19, 1954 to stop all OR activities, including publication of his experimental research at Orgonon. Reich deliberately refused. He wrote, “Early regulation and coordination of its use is paramount to planetary safety from abuse by Higs.” In “Atoms for Peace vs. The Higs,” Reich wrote, “Our EA work was infinitely more important than an order which had been inspired and unlawfully obtained by Moscow Higs.” (Reich 43)
Road Trip 1954
On January 28, 1954, Reich began his first contact with the U.S. Air Force, reporting to them in writing of a UFO sighting two miles from his house. Dr. Reich filled out a UFO sighting report, which is reproduced in full in Contact with Space. Later that year, Reich requested assistance from the Air Force to transport nuclear materials (ORUR) across the country to set up a new laboratory in Tucson, Arizona. His request was denied, so he and his team set out on October 18 to make the 3,000 mile journey from Rangeley to Tucson.
Reich’s road trip is described by Wes Wallace in a 1996 article in Newspeak entitled “Wilhelm Reich On the Road.” He observes: “Reich’s own account of his journey by car from Maine to Arizona is both poetic and apocalyptic, competing well with passages of Kerouac or Nabakov. But Reich’s point of view is both more hopeless and more visionary. One wonders just how much of what he describes could be metaphor, perhaps a projection of his internal landscape.” In Sperryville, PA, Reich spoke to people “in whose faces despair and listlessness reflected the desperate state of affairs in their environment. They knew about the severity of their situation: ‘Meadows and fields are burnt up, wells gone dry… people are sick, slowed down, dying…” Wallace wonder if this is, “some kind of vision, a descent into hell reminiscent of Greek myth?”
There is a feeling of both saturation and foreboding – “a kind of imagery that just doesn’t come from nowhere.” Staff member Robert McCullough’s road-trip narrative describes things just as bleakly: “We stopped at a restaurant for supper. It had fluorescent lights. Everything was dead in it: the waitresses looked and acted dead, the service was horrible, tempers all around were short.” Along the road trip the jet trails are described: “Three jet trails with vapor trails were seen between 9:30 and 9:43 above the barrier, flying from east to west. The vapor trails were short and rather thin.” Reich describes the DOR barrier that lays across the mountains, “like a sleeping animal that was being tickled: it moved somewhat but refused to wake up.” In another strange passage, he writes: “An atomic bomb was exploded on March 7 at 5:30 mountain time. We drew mostly from zenith all that day.” (Wallace)
In another bizarre passage from Contact with Space, Reich charters a small plane to transport the nuclear materials (ORUR) in a football-size container, which was towed on a cord 100 feet behind the tail of the plane. The two former Air Force pilots are given a set of instructions, which include taking ‘CPM’ counts and visual observations of each other’s faces for redness every half hour. They are instructed to inform all landing fields of their radioactive cargo and keep the container at least ten feet from any metallic object while on the ground.
The Higs Close In
In March 1957, Reich was examined by a psychiatrist at Danbury Federal Prison, where he was diagnosed with “Paranoia manifested by delusions of grandiosity and persecution and ideas of reference.” Only a year and a half earlier, he had read in the New York Times a story touting General MacArthur’s statement (to the visiting mayor of Naples on October 7, 1955), that another war would be “double suicide.” Reich quoted directly from the article, entitled “Space War Possible is MacArthur Hint”: “He believes that because of the developments of science all countries on earth will have to unite to survive and to make a common front against attack by people from other planets… The mayor had noted also the General’s opinion that the politics of the future will be cosmic or interplanetary.” (Contact with Space, Preface, xxiii)
General MacArthur’s delusions of grandiosity and persecution had gone unnoticed at the time and, indeed, Ronald Reagan would reiterate the same “ideas of reference” in 1983 during his (Teflon) presidency to inaugurate the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program, a.k.a. Star Wars. Some delusions of grandiosity are allowed, and even prepared as propaganda spin.
Wilhelm Reich died of heart failure in prison on November 3, 1957, in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania at the age of 60, just days before he was to go before the parole board. On June 5, 1956, FDA officials traveled to Orgonon and destroyed Reich’s Orgone Accumulators and burned his books. Later, on August 25, 1956, six tons of Reich’s research notes, journals and books were burned in New York’s Gansevoort incinerator. On March 17, 1960, more of his research materials and books were incinerated.
Attitudes toward Reich’s work range from “genius“ to “madman.” It has not been the intent of this essay to make any assessment of Reich’s personal psychology, but to tell what would seem today to be a Tall Tale of Spacegun ‘54. P
©2008 Joan d’Arc (www.huntergatheress.com). This article appeared in HunterGatheress Journal, Vol. 1. For a copy of HunterGatheress Journal (144 pgs, 8.5 X 11) send $12 post paid, payable to “HunterGatheress” POB 9532, Providence, RI 02940. Out of U.S. add $6 shipping. Please specify Volume 1 or 2. Or you may order by PayPal through this website.
Cantwell, Alan. “Dr. Wilhelm Reich: Scientific Genius – or Medical Madman?,” (www.whale.to/a/cantwell.html)
d’Arc, Joan. “The Land of Superlatives and Science Fiction,” Paranoia, issue 31, Winter 2003.
Koppang, Randy. Camouflage Through Limited Disclosure (www.thebooktree.com), and “The Revelation Will Not be Televised” (Paranoia, issue 46, Winter 2007).
Kottmeyer, Martin. “The Day the Earth Stood Still: Government Education Film?”
Laffoley, Paul. “Disco Volante,” HunterGatheress Journal, Vol. 1, 2008.
Reich, Wilhelm. Contact with Space, Core Pilot Press, New York, 1957 (o/p).
Scheib, Richard. “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Moria Film Review (www.moria.co.nz/sf/dtess.htm)
Wallace, Wes. “Wilhelm Reich On the Road” Newspeak Magazine 1996 (o/p).
Wilcox, Roger. “The Oranur Experiment, A Skeptical Scrutiny of the Works and Theories of Wilhelm Reich,” http://members.dslextreme.com/users/rogermw/Reich/oranur.html