An Encounter with Martians Before the Space Age

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Portrait of the Martian landscape based on the reports of medium “Hélène Smith” (1900). All figures are from publicdomainreview.org

Since World War II, stories of encounters with extraterrestrials have generally revolved around tales of alien space travelers visiting earth in technologically advanced aircrafts. But there were reports of alien encounters before the modern age of rockets and human space exploration. While more contemporary accounts have portrayed earth’s inhabitants as passive observers of the actions of technically superior extraterrestrials, encounter stories before the 1940s generally emphasized the active efforts of certain “gifted” individuals who were capable of initiating communication with aliens. At around the turn of the 20th century, these individuals tended to be people who claimed to have special powers allowing them to leave their bodies and spiritually communicate with and visit alien worlds (not unlike spiritualists at the time who claimed to be able to talk with the dead).

Not surprisingly, perhaps, these encounter tales offer a very different portrait of extraterrestrial life from that of contactees during the second half of the 20th century. One such example is the case of the medium “Hélène Smith” (real name Catherine Müller), who was born in 1861 and died in 1929. Among other things, Smith claimed to have visited Mars, offering up her own descriptions of the Martian landscape.

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She also met and conversed with Martian inhabitants as well.

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Unlike the contactees of the space age – who mostly speak of communicating with aliens telepathically – Smith learned what she said was the Martian language, and she provided examples of Martian script.

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Smith’s teachings and work were studied for five years by psychologist Théodore Flournoy (1854-1920). He published his findings in 1900 under the English title From India to Planet Mars: A Study of a Case of Somnambulism. You can access a free copy of the book here.

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