UFOs are Art: James Rigberg’s Flying Saucer News

Cover of Flying Saucers News from 1956 (courtesy of the Archives for the Unexplained)

Cover of Flying Saucers News from 1956 (courtesy of the Archives for the Unexplained)

UFO sightings have inspired not only stories. They also have stirred witnesses and UFO researchers to try to capture the experience in imagery. Drawings, paintings, sketches, photographs, and films have all been used as a way to try to better communicate to others the perceived reality of unidentified flying objects and their crews.

The cover pictured here is from the American magazine Flying Saucer News. First appearing in March 1955, it was published in New York City by James S. Rigberg. Rigberg was the head of the Flying Saucer News Club and ran a bookstore on Third Avenue in New York City for years, specializing in paranormal and new age books and magazines. Rigberg apparently moved the shop at some point to West 45th Street in New York.

James Rigberg (in sweater and tie to the right) in his bookstore, featured in an article in the Saturday Evening Post in 1956. Image from John Kobler,

James Rigberg (in sweater and tie to the right) in his bookstore, featured in an article in the Saturday Evening Post in 1956. Image from John Kobler, “He Runs Flying-Saucer Headquarters,” Saturday Evening Post, 10 March 1956.

Blogger Richard Aguilar recalls visiting the shop in the mid-1970s as an eager, young ufologist:

The store was about the size of a shoebox bodega on the street level of a five-story apartment building at 359 West 45th Street. The window display was a low-budget DIY affair—maybe a pie tin spacecraft hanging by a thread and some books. Inside, running along the two longer walls, you would find steel bookcases crammed with UFO, metaphysical, and self-improvement books and magazines. More books were neatly displayed on a table in the center. The space was so tight and the aisles so narrow, that it could only comfortably accommodate about three customers at a time. Usually I would have the entire store to myself.

The do-it-yourself ethos described by Augilar is something that has characterized the vast majority of those historically involved in the UFO and alien contact movements.

The graphic design here follows a modernist style characteristic of some in the 1950s, with crisp lines and geometric shapes. In the foreground is an image of a flying saucer. But this is not just any flying saucer. It is clearly supposed to be an example of the flying saucer claimed to have been encountered by George Adamski, easily the most famous – and influential – of those claiming to have made direct contact with extraterrestrials (“contactees”) in the 1950s.

Photograph Adamski supposedly took of a flying saucer he encountered in the mid-1940s.. From: http://ovni007.tripod.com/id83.html

Photograph Adamski supposedly took of a flying saucer he encountered in the early 1950s. From: http://ovni007.tripod.com/id83.html

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2 thoughts on “UFOs are Art: James Rigberg’s Flying Saucer News

  1. Curiously (creepily) I read the subheading on the magazine cover as “EATHERIUS speakers”, partly because the crisp modernist graphic looks to me like an industrial design sketch for a hanging pendant light (over you formica and aluminum table, of course[1]) which could be a hanging speaker, but also because I was just reading about a new bluetooth audio speaker that is called “Mars”[2] and features a levitating magnetic speaker over the top of a subwoofer that plays on the UFO idea!
    [1] e.g. Danish modern 1960s light: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/508062401684194811/
    [2] Mars bluetooth speaker: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/508062401684194811/

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