Dial U for UMMO (because they won’t get a text)

“If it seems to be real, it’s illusion.”—Ronnie James Dio


Since many of the writings concerning UMMO include a glossary of Ummite words, I’ve included a short UMMO glossary of my own:

Ummites – nonexistent beings from the planet UMMO.

Ummoids – those who believe in the existence of Ummites. See also: dumbass


Although it never really caught on in the United States, the UMMO affair was possibly the most successful UFO hoax of all time, perhaps for no other reason than its staying power. It has fascinated and, in some cases, entranced European ufologists and true believers for more than four decades. Whoever was behind it has never really been discovered, and it probably wouldn’t matter much to the Ummoids. Their faith in our Ummite brothers and sisters is damn near unshakable. It is, admittedly for a hoax, a wild and weird and somewhat convincing ride.

Ummo SymbolOn February 6, 1966, between 8:00 and 9:00 pm in Aluche, Spain, a suburb of Madrid, a luminous, circular object was seen landing by a group of soldiers at an ammunition dump. It was also seen by a nearby Vicente Ortuna and Jose Luis Jordan Pena, who was driving toward Madrid and was probably exhausted after lugging all of those names around all day. Pena got close enough to estimate that the disk was about 30’ across and had an unusual symbol on its underside that closely resembled the Cyrillic letter ж. The object then rose into the air and abruptly vanished. Three deep, rectangular indentations were later found in the ground where the object had landed.

The next event didn’t occur until June 1, 1967 in another suburb of Madrid: San Jose de Valderas. Dozens of people saw a UFO rise from behind a group of trees. It was lens shaped, about 120’ across and had a dome on top. As it moved across the sky, the witnesses could see a symbol on the bottom. At one point, it tilted its bottom toward the people, almost as if it wanted to make sure that they got a good look at its insignia. Then it took off into the sky at a high speed, changing colors as it went, as had the object seen in Aluche over a year earlier.

Later that night around 9:00, at least ten people saw another object, or the same one, land in yet another Madrid suburb, Santa Monica. The next day, three triangular indentations were found in the ground where the thing had landed as well as burn marks at the center and a metallic powder.

Pretty impressive sightings, but it just gets stranger from here. On the night of the June sightings, several witnesses to the event went to a nearby restaurant after the landing in Santa Monica and told the managers there that they had been told that the landing would take place there that night. Furthermore, several strange, metal cylinders about 6” in length and with a disk in the center were found in the area over the next few days. When these were cut open, they were found to contain a tough, flexible plastic material imprinted with the same symbol seen on the Aluche and San Jose de Valderas objects. Seven photos taken of these objects were sent to a newspaper by two separate parties. Thus began the great UMMO mystery.

In the days that followed, letters were received by several shops in the area of the Santa Monica landing which offered a reward of up 18,000 pesetas ($300 U.S.) for the return of these cylinders. The letters were signed by a Henri Dagousset and requested that the cylinders be delivered to Antoine Nancey at the main post office in Madrid. Two of the seven photos sent to the newspaper Informaciones were from a man named Antonio Pardo, who also provided a local UFO researcher with one of the mysterious cylinders. None of these three men were ever able to be located by investigators. No one at the Madrid post office had ever heard of Antoine Nancey.

An analysis of the cylinders revealed that they were 99% nickel with trace amounts of other common metals. The plastic with the insignias was a material called Tedlar, which would have been very difficult, but not impossible, for a civilian to obtain. The main buyer for this material was NASA, who used it to cover rockets awaiting launch.

UMMO SaucerThe seven photos were turned over to a group of French experts for analysis, with disappointing results. First, they determined that all of the pictures were taken with the same camera, so there were not two photographers. They also estimated that the object in the photos was no larger than 9” across. The camera was only about 10’ from the object, and a string holding it up was visible in at least one photo. So much for the most convincing UFO case of all time.

At least that’s what some ufologists thought. Some others weren’t so sure. The photos were obvious fakes, and the cylinders could have been manufactured by hoaxers, although it wouldn’t have been easy. But what about all of the witnesses who undeniably saw something much larger than 9” wide at three separate locations? Some even rejected the findings by the French photo experts, though I’m not sure how they explained the string. That’s a little hard to ignore. Then the letters started showing up.

No one is sure when the first letter arrived or who it was sent to. In the beginning, they were sent to Spanish UFO enthusiasts. Before long, they were also arriving at the homes of similar people in France and then people from various disciplines around the world. The letters stated that they had been composed by the residents of UMMO, a planet revolving around a star called IUMMA 14.6 light years away. These letters cover a broad range of scientific, political, social and philosophical subjects. They were usually six to ten pages long and each page had the now familiar UMMO symbol in each corner. The letters were mailed from locations around the world, giving them an air of authenticity to UMMO believers. Such a feat would be nearly impossible for one or even a few hoaxers. There’s also the sheer volume that some find convincing. By 1970, two Spanish ufologists had collected over 600 pages of them, and there was no way of knowing how many more letters were sent that they didn’t know about. There’s also the longevity aspect of it. Jacques Vallee received his first UMMO letter in 1981 – 15 years after the sighting of the first UMMO craft. They continued to be received into the 1990s and may still be showing up in people’s mailboxes today for all I know. Maybe now I’ll get one. Cool.

While Vallee isn’t buying any of this “letters from aliens” business, he does admit that they are far more sophisticated and internally consistent than the usual sophomoric ramblings of similar alleged messages from our space brothers. Whoever is responsible for these communiques has knowledge of several branches of science, mathematics, philosophy and the social sciences. For instance, he points out that there are two ways to calculate the acceleration of gravity for a planet, and the two should match up. In the case of the UMMO documents, they do, so whoever included that in one or more of the UMMO letters wasn’t just throwing around impressive looking but meaningless equations. Which brings us to the equations themselves. At first, no one could make sense of them. They seemed like complete nonsense until one mathematician realized that they were computed using base-12 math.

For those of you for whom that means nothing, I’ll give you a crash course. Don’t worry, this will be relatively painless. It’s actually kind of fun, depending on whether or not you have a math phobia.

We use a base-10 system in the modern world, but that wasn’t always the case in all civilizations. Different cultures have used mathematical systems based on other numbers. For example, the Mayans used a base-20 system, and the Babylonians used base-60. Contrary to what you might think, there is no law of mathematics that says that any number must be single or double-digits. In base-12, the numbers from 1 to 10 would be: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, T, E, 10, with T and E being the single-digit symbols for our 10 and 11, and 10 is the new 12. Easy, see? It gets a little more complicated when you try to understand that now 6 + 5 = E, but all you have to do to find that is start at 6 and count up five spaces. That’s how we first learned to add as kids. It gets even more complex when you consider that 3,497 in base-10 is 2,035 in base-12, and 86412 + 28612 = E2T12. Now imagine trying to solve an equation like QuadraticEquationin base-12. And that’s a fairly basic equation that most of us learned in high school. (Whether you remember it or not is another matter.)That’s why it took a while to decode the far more complex equations in the UMMO letters.

Lest you take this as proof that the UMMO letters must come from higher intelligence, I remind you that this is a similar system used by some cultures that we now consider to be primitive compared to us. Anyone with a degree in math should be able to pull off the conversion to base-12, though it would take some time. Some mathematicians argue that math would actually be easier to learn if we switched to a base-12 system. What is impressive is that a mathematician who analyzed all of the equations that he could get his hands on found no mistakes in any of them. Anyone who has ever played around with a non-base-10 system knows how easy it is to slip up and do a simple calculation here and there in base-10 out of habit.

Vallee points out that, while some UFO enthusiasts are easily impressed with complex equations, the ones in the UMMO letters contain nothing that we didn’t already know. All of the math and science in the UMMO documents would be nothing new to a graduate student in physics. He likewise points out that the computer technology that the Ummites claimed to possess sounded very impressive in the 1960s and 70s, but by today’s standards, their technology is decades behind our own. Your phone is probably a more sophisticated piece of equipment than anything described in the letters.

The philosophy and psychology of UMMO also sounds very enlightened and advanced at first glance, but Robert Anton Wilson points out that there is also nothing new about this. It’s just impressive and unknown to most in the UFO community. He particularly cites this missive from the Ummites.



(The Ummites always write in all capital letters. I guess they had no way of knowing that writing in all caps would come to be interpreted as the printed version of yelling. Or maybe they did. Maybe they’re just really loud.)

Wow, I guess they told us. Or maybe they just read the philosophy or logistical assertions of people like Kant, Zadeh, von Neumann, Korzybski, Brouwer, Rapoport and Lukasiewicz, all of whom have put forth the idea that the Aristotelean ”yes/no, black/white, up/down” way of thinking is obsolete in modern science and philosophy. In case you think that I’m just trying to sound so much smarter than the rest of you, I’ll admit right now that I haven’t read any of these guys. I’m somewhat familiar with a couple of them, but I haven’t studied them. But Wilson has, and he assures us that UMMO philosophy is nothing new under the Sun. It’s just that it’s mostly only known to geeky people like scientists and mathematicians and philosophers and, most of all, scientific philosophers. Yeah, that’s a real thing; there just aren’t many of them. That the naïve take this as being evidence of a great truth being revealed to us by a higher intelligence is just further proof that we should all be spending more time reading and less time watching America’s Got Talent, a sin which I’m proud to say is one of the very few that I’ve never committed.

Jose PenaSo if it’s not aliens from UMMO, who is responsible for all of this? One of the prime suspects, mostly because he later took full credit for it, is the first one to report having seen the UMMO symbol on a UFO, Spanish telecommunications technician Jose Pena. He claims that he staged the whole thing as a sociological experiment that got out of hand. That makes sense on the surface, but it gets more sordid and difficult to believe when you take a closer look. Two separate women have accused Pena of using hypnosis and psychological manipulation to both enlist their aid in spreading the UMMO message and to procure sexual favors from them. Sleazy.

None of them strike me as being particularly credible, and this makes it hard to know who to believe. It’s entirely possible that all three were just publicity hounds looking for their moment in the spotlight. There’s also some doubt as to whether Pena even possessed the scientific knowledge necessary to have produced some of the UMMO material. If he had help writing it, he wasn’t saying, and no one has yet stepped forward to acknowledge their role. Pena also claims that “friends” helped him procure the Tedlar as well as some radioactive material to help him perpetrate the hoax, a claim that seems pretty unlikely unless his “friends” had access to restricted materials and were willing to risk going to prison for a lark. Unfortunately, unlike police investigations, all that is necessary in these sorts of cases is for someone to confess/take credit and the skeptics go merrily on their way without ever bothering to determine whether or not the alleged hoaxster was even capable of pulling off the hoax.*

Another suspect is, naturally, the CIA, possibly working in tandem with one or more European intelligence agencies to gauge how people would react to extraterrestrial intelligence arriving on Earth. Since they wouldn’t want to risk causing further civil unrest in the U.S. (remember, this was the 60s), they decided to perpetrate their hoax primarily in Spain, or so the theory goes. That the whole UMMO craze lasted at least 30 years is generally attributed to outside individuals picking up the ball and running with it. This could be why the earlier, more scientific UMMO communications were eventually replaced with the much more sappy “peace and love” messages that came later.

Others think that it was the Russians doing it for completely different reasons. An acquaintance of Vallee’s in the French government told him that such an operation could have given the Russians insight into Western areas of scientific research and ideas at the time, although I fail to see how. In either of the previous two scenarios, it would explain why no one credible has ever come forward. A small team of scientists, mathematicians, psychologists and sociologists working under the umbrella of a top secret intelligence operation would be much easier to keep quiet than a band of mischievous pranksters.

In his book Revelations, Vallee outlines the case of Kirk Allen, a research scientist working for the U.S. government who believed that he lived a sort of double life on another planet. His employers sent Allen to a psychiatrist named Lindner, and Allen turned over to the doctor more than 12,000 pages of documents, maps, charts and every other sort of data you can imagine describing his alternate home. It was all so detailed and internally consistent that the doctor got sucked into the fantasy and became more of a participant in the delusion than a therapist trying to cure it. Luckily for both of them, Allen just seemed to snap out of it one day and eventually confessed to Linder that he had just been playing along with the psychiatrist’s obsession for some time. He had come realize that it was all nonsense weeks before.

Psychological WarfareVallee mentions this because it demonstrates the possibility of how one extremely erudite person who seems perfectly normal in every other way can develop a delusional belief in another reality. Allen’s body of work dwarfs the UMMO documents in both volume and detail. Had he secretly released them to scientists of various disciplines under the pretext of being alien communications, they would have been much more convincing. So it is possible that UMMO was the work of just one extremely intelligent but distorted human being. But even if this was the case, it’s still likely that others horned in on his act, like the people who called radio talk shows claiming to be Ummites.

Finally, there is one last mystery. What about those three Spanish UFO sightings by multiple people in each case? Some write those off as being hoaxes as well, but it’s hard to believe that all of the witnesses, some of whom were soldiers, were all somehow in on it. If that isn’t the case, then these people all saw something unusual. The fake photos may have been of a saucer 9” wide, but it’s highly doubtful that this is what the people who estimated it to be 120’ across saw. As for the UMMO symbol, they may have actually seen that. Strange markings on UFOs are nothing new. Maybe the ones behind the UMMO fraud just used that to add an element of authenticity to their story. Who knows?

Whatever the truth may be, UMMO remains the single greatest UFO hoax of all time. There are still devout Ummoids on at least three continents and numerous countries. And oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that the Ummites are all tall with long blond hair, just like the beings reported by some UFO abductees. They have come to be generally referred to as the “Nordic types” and are usually described as being much more like us than the other beings frequently encountered.

So now the “aliens” imitate scams from the Iberian Peninsula? And I spend most of my mental energy trying to make some kind of sense out of all of this idiocy. No wonder I’m probably about six months away from spending the rest of my life in the laughing academy. At least I won’t be the first.


*I suppose that I could have given Mr. Pena more of the benefit of the doubt since he just died a few weeks ago, but I’m tired of having to be nice to people just because they’re dead.

and all the devils are here



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