Peter Hough

Peter Hough
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Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Government records cast fresh light on missing pilot Frederick Valentich hounded by UFO

In 1987 Jenny Randles and I published our first book together: Death By Supernatural Causes? In it, we discused the case of missing airman, Frederich Valentich, who disappeared while apparently being hounded by a UFO on the 21 October 1978.

Now this case has come back to haunt us with the recent release of Government files in Australia. Information they contain casts new light on the mystery. The 315 pages of documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, contain official interviews with the father, friends and superiors of the doomed pilot, as well as a clue to what didn’t happen.

Valentich was twenty when he took off in his Cessna 182L from Moorabbin Airport near Melbourne at 6.19pm on the twenty-first of October, 1978. He was flying to King Island, he said, to pick up crayfish and three passengers.

At 7.06pm he contacted Steve Robey, air traffic controller at Melbourne, and asked him if there was any known traffic nearby, as he had sighted a large ‘aircraft’. Robey said there was nothing, and asked him to describe it. He said it had four bright lights on it, and had passed overhead. Valentich went on to describe how it played cat and mouse with him, appearing and disappearing at speeds he ‘couldn’t identify’. The pilot then said ‘it’s not an aircraft... as its flying past, it’s a long shape’. In response to Robey, the young man went on to say: ‘It seems like its stationary. What I’m doing right now is orbiting, and the thing is just orbiting on top of me. Also it’s got a green light and sort of metallic... it’s all shiny on the outside’.

Valentich then reported that the object had vanished, but seconds later that it was approaching from the south-west. His aircraft was now playing up: ‘The engine is rough idling... and the thing is coughing.’ Robey asked him what his intentions were, and Valentich said he would continue to King Island. His final words were:

 ‘Melbourne, that strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again. It is hovering, and it’s not an aircraft...’

What followed were twelve seconds of a metallic scraping noise and then communication was lost.

An intense air and sea rescue ensued, but despite calm conditions, neither wreckage nor a body was found. It was suggested that the pilot had become disorientated in the dark and misidentified the lights from a lighthouse on Cape Otway, or that he had been fooled by a bright star or planet in the clear sky, although none of that matched what he had described. Frederick Valentich and his aircraft had disappeared into thin air.

The files illustrate that all who knew the young man had good words for him. Robert Barnes, an Airforce Reservist, who tutored Valentich for some of his flying exams, said he had a responsible attitude towards flying, he was always friendly and showed respect, and rarely criticised anyone, and was a real ‘battler’ when it came to exams. 

His friend Gregory Reaburn said Valentich was very strict with alcohol and didn’t take drugs. In fact Reaburn suggested that Valentich would report anyone on illegal substances to the police. He said the young man was not prone to hasty decisions or panic, and while he believed in UFOs, he wasn’t fanatical about it. Valentich had never been in trouble with the police, and had no financial problems. Guido Valentich, the pilot’s father, said that his son always did his share of chores around the house.

But the files revealed that there was another side to Frederick Valentich. Despite his enthusm and hard work, academically he was a disappointment. After failing to get into the RAAF, he decided to study to gain his Commercial Pilot Licence. He passed three preliminary exams - but then failed a further eight. Yet he told his friends and tutors he had passed, although he did admit to his girl friend, Rhonda Rushton, that he had lied. Was this because he was ashamed and embarrassed, or was it a character trait that might, for instance, encourage him to make up a close encounter with a UFO?

He had also been in trouble with the authorities for straying into controlled air space, and twice deliberately flying into cloud. Prosecution was being considered for this latter misdemeanour.

There were things about the trip which didn’t add up too. He hadn’t arranged for the airfield on King Island to switch on their landing lights. Squadron Leader Grandy had asked him to bring back some crayfish – but Valentich had not ordered any. He took four lifejackets for the passengers he was supposedly picking up, but there were no passengers waiting for him on King Island. Valentich told his girlfriend he would meet her at 7.30pm, when he wouldn’t be back from the trip until much later.

Rhonda saw him on the Friday night, and said he ‘wasn’t himself’. He had also told her previously, that if a UFO landed he would go aboard – although not without her.

His interest in UFOs, coupled with all the other discrepancies led people to consider that he had either committed suicide or had chosen to disappear by landing the aircraft elsewhere. It had a full tank of fuel which would carry him as far as Tasmania. The apparent close encounter with a UFO added drama, and ensured he went out with a bang.

Rhonda had described how on one flight with her boyfriend, the control column had jammed, and he had sweated profusely as he struggled to land, the stress manifesting in his voice. This has been contrasted with the apparent calmness of Valentich while describing the UFO. Surely if it was real, he would have been showing some emotion? The audio tape has never been aired publicly, but Steve Robey, the Air Traffic Controller that night is adamant that in his view, Valentich did become agitated, and that he sounded genuine, not making something up.

If it was a tragic accident due to disorientation, or suicide, where was the wreckage that everyone expected to find floating on the calm sea? Where was the body? If he had landed the aircraft elsewhere – how had he kept it hidden? If it had crashed on land, why had anyone not found it in the intervening three decades or more? And what was Frederick Valentich’s motive? He was scared of water – surely he could have found a better way of killing himself? He had a loving family, friends, and a girlfriend he had a good relationship with. His flying career wasn’t working out – but is that a motive for suicide?

For the first time the released files provide proof that whatever did happen to Valentich, he didn’t abscond. Nearly five years after the disappearance, an engine cowl flap was washed up from a Cessna of the type Valentich was flying. More than this, it had a partial set of serial numbers on it that were within the range of the missing aircraft. No other similar aircraft had gone missing in the region, so it is safe to assume it is from the Cessna.

Valentich attended a lecture just before his flight, and his instructor, Bob Hope, told investigators that the young man was sober, and in a good frame of mind. The possibility is still there that he was taken by a UFO. He had said he wouldn’t go without his girlfriend – but perhaps Frederick Valentich had no choice...

PS: Death By Supernatural Causes? was updated and due to be released under a new publisher in 2000 - but just before it went to press, the company went under! We are hoping to put it out (updated) as an ebook sometime next year...

In the meantime...

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Monday, 16 July 2012

The day the music died... Marc Bolan unplugged!

Talking about Paul McCarney and Spruce Springclean having the plug pulled on them in Hyde Park, reminded me of the time I went to see T.Rex at the old cinema in Wigan.

It was 1971 (I was only a child), and the band were promoting Electric Warrior - the album that made Marc Bolan a rock god. The band were in full swing to a packed audience. Many had left their seats and were crowded together at the front 'freaking out' to the music, when suddenly all the power onstage went and the sound died. A Ted Heath look-alike wearing a suit and bow tie appeared beside Bolan, and taking the microphone from the soon to be legend, demanded that everyone returned to their seats otherwise the concert wouldn't continue!

Bolan's jaw dropped, but he kept his cool (I think he was high on something), and put his arm around the cinema manager, assuring 'Ted' that he would ask them to sit down, and that it wouldn't happen again.

The power was switched back on, and the concert resumed without further problems. T.Rex had been treated like a Saturday night pub band. Who would believe it!

I often wondered if, as Bolan became a household name, whether the manager concluded in retrospect that he had over reacted, and might have treated Bolan with a bit more respect? But then again, in light of what happened to Sir Paul...

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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

When we almost got caught taking pictures in a public toilet

We were on a camp site in Beddgelert Forest in North Wales. On one of my trips to the toilet block, I thought how often it happens that someone goes into the cubicle next to yours – even when the others are empty. Then I began thinking, supposing that there was a purpose to it, and that the person doing it was stalking you for something bad you’d done.
Over the next day I had almost the entire plot of a story in my head, including the title. I began writing it in the caravan, and finished it while we were on a cruise to the Arctic Circle a week or so later. The urge to write it down was so strong, that it interrupted work on The Devil Inside, the sequel to my novel, Stench of Evil.
This photograph almost got us arrested!
For the eBook publication, I also had to create a cover illustration. I knew what I wanted – a cubicle door ajar, with a hand gripping it. While we were still in North Wales, and I was halfway through the story, we visited a town (which shall remain nameless) and parked near to a public toilet. It was a quiet day. We had the camera, so we could get some photographs of me gripping a cubicle door.

There was a possibility of us being caught of course. Imagine someone walking in and my wife’s taking flash photographs of me! Who would believe the explanation? If that did happen, I decided it would be a lesser crime if Linda was caught in the men’s loos, rather than me in the lady’s.

I told her to wait outside while I went in to make sure the coast was clear. It was, but as I came out a man brushed past me in a uniform. His van was immediately outside and it was obvious from the writing on it that he was from the council, and was inspecting the facilities! If he’d come just two minutes later...

We waited for him to depart, then like a military exercise, we dove inside and quickly (very quickly) took some shots. The results are here to see. The things we do for Art...

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Friday, 20 April 2012

The day I met a Pendle witch

Lancashire is rich in tales of magic and sorcery, but the Pendle area is notorious for the witch trials of 1612. This August is the four hundredth anniversary since ten people accused of sorcery were hung in Lancaster Castle.

The drama unfolded in 1595 when an old woman called 'Chattox' and her daughter Alizon were blamed for hexing to death Christopher Nutter and his son Robert. Chattox came into conflict with another family, also known for witchcraft. 'Old Demdike' and her extended family lived in Malkin Tower. People in the villages that skirt Pendle Hill had complained about them all for years, but it was not until 1612 that the authorities stepped in.

On 18 March Alizon was near Trawden when she met a peddler called John Law. He refused to sell her some needles, so she cursed him. Law collapsed with a stroke, and when he recovered enough he accused Alizon of bewitchment. She went before Roger Nowell, a magistrate, and confessed.

She described her initiation into witchcraft by her grandmother, then implicated Chattox and Demdike. Many arrests were made, and they described how Satan had appeared to them, and that demons had helped them destroy their enemies. One victim was a child, killed using a clay image that had pins driven into it, there were other supernatural murders, livestock killings, graveyard robbings at Newchurch and milk and beer souring.

The case, which was very well documented at the time, left its mark on the area. These are different times, but there are still practising witches in the villages around Pendle Hill. I should know - I interviewed one many years ago. I'd been given a commission by the Editor-in-chief of She magazine.

"Would you like to write a piece for us, Peter," she said, "about modern witchcraft in Lancashire?"
Of course I said 'yes', and her next remark was: "Well go and find some witches, and have the copy on my desk by next Friday!"

I did a lot of digging around, and came up with some fascinating interviewees for my piece, including a senior Catholic priest for balance. One of my witches lived in Sabden at the time, although later she moved away. Yvonne wasn't the ugly fairy tale witch, nor old like Chattox and Demdike. She was a very attractive blond in her mid thirties.

Yvonne welcomed me into her stone cottage, and showed me her temple - a converted back room decorated with posters, photos and trinkets. There was a wooden table in the centre covered with occult symbols. On a piece of dark blue lurex sat a crystal ball and some Tarot cards. This was where she carried out her readings.

I later wrote about the Lancashire witches in the
 above book, available from my website
"I knew from the age of five I was different from the other children," she told me.  As far as religion is concerned, I was given a long leash, but my father, a retired army officer, had me educated in a convent. That didn't go down well with either the nuns or me! I worship the Irish mother goddess, Danu. The hill helps me a lot, I draw a lot of power from it."

Pendle Hill was where George Fox had a visionary experience that resulted in him founding the Quaker movement in the 1640s.

I asked her how she got on with her neighbours. She laughed, and said she was friends with most people in the village, including the local vicar. She did note though that sometimes her behaviour could be given a sinister interpretation.

"If one of my neighbours takes their dog for a walk up the hill - they're just taking their dog for a walk. If I do it there's tittle-tattle around the village that I've been up to something."

I saw Yvonne on one other occasion at her new home in Harwood. Then she moved elsewhere. Yvonne, where ever you are, I hope you're still raising tittle-tattle!

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Saturday, 25 February 2012

The Book That I Wrote - with a little help from my ghost writers...

Having produced 18 books on the 'unexplained', and now published my first novel: Stench of Evil, if there is an area of human psychology that mystifies more than any other - it is how the creative process works. 
Stephen King lets 'the back-room boys'
sort out his literary problems
Many fiction writers comment they don't know where their stories come from. Science Fiction author Isaac Asimov said the stories were already written - and he just plucked them out of the air. Stephen King explains that if he has a problem he leaves it a couple of days 'for the back-room boys to sort out'.

That's not true for all writers. My friend Professor Raymond Leonard, who has written several science fiction novels, approaches his writing in a very methodical and scientific manner.

He has the plot and all the characters in advance, and even knows exactly how many chapters there will be. Ray then writes a synopsis for each chapter, and works from that, enlarging and creating the text.

That's not how it works for me.

I had the seed for the plot of Stench of Evil (see my blog Stench of Evil - satanic ritual abuse ), three main characters and that was all. The thing had an organic growth of its own, to the extent that at times I felt it had its own life, and I was just a clerk writing it all down.

It began while we were on the island of Gozo for a couple of weeks in a friends holiday home. The August heat was almost unbearable at mid-day, but the views across the bay to Comino were spectacular, and in the villages they were preparing for their annual firework festival. A perfect environment for writing. Linda spent most of the days scuba diving with a local club, and I was working on Stench of Evil. She'd return late afternoon and we' d walk down to the restaurants and bars in Qala.

I was about a third through the novel (although I didn't know that at the time) when I lost control of the story.

I lost control to some minor 
characters who got above themselves
I would sit down at the blank screen, thinking I knew what I was going to write, but when the words dutifully fell onto the page they weren't the ones I was expecting. More than that there were several characters I had down for minor roles - who against my wishes promoted themselves into star players. It was as if they were saying: If you think I'm just having a walk-on part you've got another think coming!

This wasn't a one-day wonder - it carried on for the next 40,000 words or so - until once again I regained control. It was as if they were saying: Okay, we've finished doing what we needed to do - you can have it back now.

The fascinating thing was that every decision they made, every plot change, every paragraph that was produced was exactly right. I couldn't have done better myself!

I'm not saying that I was producing 'automatic writing', that the story was 'channelled' through me by a spirit or demon (they might want a share of the royalties), but it was a strange experience, and if nothing else it highlights how much is going on in the unconscious mind, to the extent that it can over-ride what we consciously think.

I'm well into the sequel; The Devil In Them, and so far my ghost writers haven't wrestled it from me. There's still some surprises when I write, but I don't feel the loss of control I had with Stench of Evil. Perhaps now they think I can be trusted to do a good job on my own - or maybe they're still there, rubbing shoulders with me, making changes here and there, hoping I'll believe it's all my own work.

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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Search for Alethea Taylor

When we went down to Ludlow recently for a caravanning break, we didn’t realise we would be involved in the search for a missing woman.

 Linda and I were staying on a farm on the edge of Orleton, a picturesque village in north Herefordshire. There are two pubs, a village hall and a shop and post office supported by the 800 or so residents. Two of those residents are Alethea and John Taylor who have a funeral services business.

A few days into our break we were alerted on the Thursday evening, 19 January, by the noise of a hovering helicopter. I went outside and saw a police helicopter above the houses, moving to and fro, obviously searching for someone. This went on for an hour or two. 

In the meantime we tuned into BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester and learned that a woman had disappeared from Orleton earlier in the day. According to the reports, John Taylor left for work at around 8.30am and on his return in the late afternoon his wife had gone – although her car was still at home. When he couldn’t find her whereabouts, he called the police.

Apparently, I learned later, Mr Taylor was concerned because his wife had recently experienced two or three episodes where she would find herself in a place she didn’t recognise, with no idea as to who she was. It would seem she had wandered from home while in this altered state of consciousness. Fortunately on these occasions she had been re-united with her husband, and the amnesia had passed.

I spoke to villagers who described Alethea as a pleasant, jolly person, who was a prompter for the current play being put on by the local amateur dramatic society. It seems these amnesiac events were isolated incidents which didn’t affect her usual daily life.

The following day we went walking up on Bircher Common and the woods above the village, accompanied by the police helicopter as it widened its search. We kept a special look-out and walked as far as the hill fort above Croft Castle, but found no clues to the missing woman.

Over the weekend police dogs were out searching for her scent and the footpaths and hedgerows were investigated. Farmers were checking their outbuildings, and villagers looked in garages and garden sheds.

When I went for a Sunday paper from the village shop, I talked to a few locals, and everyone was mystified. We were due to travel home on Monday, but I had been told a search was being organised that morning, so we decided to stay an extra day and help.

We arrived at the village hall to find it a hive of activity. About 80 villagers had turned up with police and members of Severn Area Rescue Association who were using inflatable boats to search ponds and lakes in the area.

After we had ‘signed in’ the volunteers were divided into four groups each with its own leader. Linda and I were in Andrew Summers’ group who owns the village shop. We travelled with him in his jeep and a convoy of cars to the starting point of our search – about two miles east of Orleton near the hamlet of Morton.

Andrew was very well organised, which he put down to his involvement in the Sea Cadets! We stretched out in a single line and slowly walked across the fields. Over the course of the day we swept a number of fields and searched pockets of woodland for Mrs Taylor, or a shoe or item of clothing which might lead to her discovery. The only thing we found was an umbrella, which wasn’t linked to her.

We returned to the village hall at lunch time for a cup of tea and some sandwiches. The local BBC radio and television were also there, and they interviewed us, intrigued that we were from near Southport. Then we all went back to continue the search.

During the hours we spent with the group we got to know many of them, and they were surprised to learn that we weren’t local. They were dedicated to finding Mrs Taylor and very thorough. Some of them knew her personally.

I would like to say that we found the missing woman, or that she had been discovered in the eight days since we left. After we had gone the search did continue for a time, and the lake at nearby Berrington Hall was also examined. Sadly Alethea Taylor seems to have vanished. 

There were three potential sightings of her on the day she disappeared – but these were not confirmed. The Herefordshire police have now passed on her details to other forces nationwide. Of the 350,000 people who go missing every year in the UK, 2,000 remain unaccounted for. For the moment at least, Alethea is one of these.

PS: Police issued a statement on 12/06/12 that a man in his sixties has been arrested on suspicion of murder. It was revealed the next day that it was John Taylor, Alethea's husband. He has since been accused.

Read my paranormal thriller; Stench of Evil available only from Amazon:

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Sunday, 1 January 2012

Stench of Evil: Satanic Ritual Abuse

Most writers are asked: 'Where do you get your ideas from?' In the case of my novel Stench of Evil, its genesis was the satanic ritual abuse phenomenon in the 1980s and early 1990s that swept through many countries around the world, including the UK .

I wrote a book about it at the time called Witchcraft - A Strange Conflict which was based in part on interviews I carried out with some of the main players. These included a Church social worker, several witches, a senior Satanist, a prominent vicar, police officers, journalists and those who were alleged victims of SRA.

People claimed that from childhood they were kept in cages and physically and sexually abused in Satanic rituals to raise demons from the underworld. Babies from unregistered births were sacrificed to Satan and members of the cults had apparently infiltrated the highest echelons of society.

The phenomenon first emerged in the USA, and after police officers and social workers came to the UK and conducted seminars for their counterparts it spread here. Children in Nottingham, Rochdale, Manchester and the Orkneys were taken from their parents who, it was suspected, were Satanists, and put into care while police investigations were carried out.

In true medieval tradition, some of these children implicated other adults and the contagion spread. Not only here but in Australia, Canada, Scandinavia, New Zealand and the Netherlands. In Manchester and Rochdale parents were prevented from sending their children Christmas and birthday cards - in case they contained 'trigger' words used to remotely control them.

When over a year later the cases finally came to court, they were thrown out from lack of evidence. Most of the children were returned to their parents - after being abused, some commentators said, by the very system that was meant to protect them.

I spoke to a senior police officer about the lack of evidence. He commented: "It's true there was no concrete evidence, but both myself and other detectives got a strong feeling all through the investigation that something indeed had been going on."

Years later, this was the starting point for Stench of Evil. What if, I postulated, that officer was right, and the allegations were true, but they had been covered up. If it was true, what were the powers that lay behind it, and what were their ultimate ambitions?

The story is pure fiction and set in the present day, but it is based on a very real witch hunt that gripped late 20th century society.

Read my novel: 'Stench of Evil' - a supernatural thriller
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