Last week, I had the opportunity to pay a visit to the city of Torino (Turin), Italy, where I met with several of Italy’s most prolific UFO researchers associated with the Centro Italiano Studi Ufologica (CISU), The Italian Center for Ufology Studies. I was accompanied by documentary filmmaker Richard Sherman, a colleague with whom I am collaborating in making a film exploring the historical interest in UFOs.
Our guide was Edoardo Russo. Russo is Secretary of CISU and a researcher whose work and publications in UFO research date back to the 1970s. In addition to Russo, we met up with Paolo Toselli – a longtime researcher specializing in the psychological aspects of UFO sightings and the history of UFOs in popular media – and Paolo Fiorino – a founding member of CISU, an expert on close encounters of the third kind in Italy, and the key figure in prompting the Italian Ministry of Defense to declassify a good deal of its UFO files.
Together, Russo, Toselli, and Fiorino were kind enough to sit with us for a series of interviews covering their involvement in ufology as well as the history of UFO research in Italy. Among other things, I learned that the first sightings of “flying saucers” in Italy began days after Kenneth Arnold’s original sighting in late-June 1947. Similar to developments elsewhere, over the course of the 1950s and into the early-1970s, Italians involved in studying the UFO phenomenon tended to follow one of two paths: either they followed the more esoteric or theosophical tradition that emphasized fraternity with “our space brothers” or they tended toward a ufology modeled on scientific methods. Then, during the second half of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, a group of young ufologists began to be drawn to the so-called psychosocial approach to UFOs, taking their inspiration from the human sciences, especially psychology.
For those unfamiliar with the Center, its members conduct field investigations, meet to discuss recent reports, carry out research, and publish books and articles. For those of us with an interest in the history of the UFO phenomenon, one of its most important accomplishments has been collecting and cataloguing an impressive archive of materials chronicling the history of UFOs and ufology in Italy and elsewhere. For anyone with a serious interest in European – and particularly, Italian – ufology, a research visit to Turin is a must.
For a CISU perspective on our visit, go to the organization’s write-up here or here