For as long as we have looked up at the stars and wondered about what lies beyond that vast, black void between us there has been the yearning to set out and explore the reaches past our planet, solar system, and beyond. We as a species have spent vast quantities of money and time towards this end, and yet at this moment we are confined to a relatively small region around our own planet. Yet throughout the years there have been those who have claimed to have actually done what we desire, and have reportedly managed to travel between planets. Whether it be by space ship, teleportation, or other mysterious means, such bizarre reports claim that free travel amongst the cosmos is not only possible, but that it has already happened. Here are some of the weirder of these.
Perhaps the most common way that people have claimed to have been whisked off around the solar system is the old-fashioned way; aboard some sort of alien spacecraft. One early account of this type was the deeply odd story of a Dana Howard, who in 1936 allegedly made contact with a towering, 8-foot tall, golden haired woman from Venus who called herself Diane. Howard claims that the Venusian took her aboard a spaceship, described as being gem-studded and translucent, and she was flown off to the distant Venus. There she found inhabitants of ethereal physical beauty, who manipulated life essences to heal themselves and had teleportation technology. Howard would even claim to have married a Venusian and to have had children living there. She went on to describe Venus and its people in great detail over the years in numerous books, including My Flight to Venus (1954), Diane: She Came From Venus (1956), Over the Threshold (1957), and Vesta, the Earthborn Venusian (1959), all of which were purportedly helped along by the occasional visits from the mysterious Diane.
Another apparent traveler to Venus was Howard Menger, who in the 1950s claimed to have had frequent contact with extraterrestrials from when he was a child, and to have made several trips out into the solar system aboard UFOs over the years. He reportedly went to Venus, with its groves of huge redwood-like trees, as well as to the Moon, which apparently had advanced domes and hover trains, and Saturn, where he would claim he had originally been born as a man named Sol du Naro, who had been romantically involved with a woman from Venus. According to Menger, while on Saturn he had learned that he had died and then had his consciousness beamed into 1-year-old Howard Menger, after which he had grown up as an Earthling. Menger wrote several books about his completely bonkers tales, and made quite a splash in UFOlogy at the time. Making it all even weirder is that he would later claim that none of it had happened at all, and that it was all an illusion implanted into his mind during CIA mind control experiments. Again, whether any of it is real or not, it sure is a wild ride.
Even more well-known is the tale of Polish immigrant George Adamski, who in 1952 apparently made contact with a Nordic-looking Venusian named Orthon in the Mojave Desert. Adamski would then allegedly make numerous trips to both Venus and the Moon aboard a giant bell-shaped spacecraft. The people of Venus were said to have blonde hair, blue eyes, and to be very beautiful, and the moon was described as having forests, cities, and mountains, as well as lights that glittered in the air like “millions of fireflies.” Although Adamski’s stories are mostly accused of being cheap knock-offs of pulp science fiction stories, he has nevertheless gone on to become one of the more well-known UFO contactees.
Some claims of strange travels around the solar system were not done aboard any sort of space craft, but rather through supposed mental powers, psychic projection, or other mystical means. One of the earliest and weirdest of such reports is the case of the Swedish philosopher, inventor, scientist, and mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg, who claimed that in 1774 he had a potent spiritual awakening. During this time, he said he gained the power to open his mind to speak with angels or demons, and to make psychic journeys, an ability which he used to travel across Heaven, Hell, and to other parts of the solar system, not through the power of any technology, but through the power of God.
Swedenborg claimed that he had been guided along on this journey by God and angels, and that he saw many wondrous things in other parts of our universe. Among his many detailed accounts, some of the more interesting are what he claimed to have seen in our solar system. He said that he had visited Mars, the Moon, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus, and that each of these places had their own unique civilizations. The Martians were described as being totally without body hair and wearing tree bark for clothing. They apparently lived in a peaceful Utopian society where there was no crime or war. On Venus there were claimed to be two races of people, a benevolent, peaceful tribe, and another dedicated to violence, war, and thievery. Saturn had its humble people who lived simple lives and buried their dead by covering the bodies with leaves, and the Moon had a race of stout dwarves with booming voices. The people of Mercury were said to wear tight-fitting clothing and to be stern and serious deep thinkers and philosophers, while the population of Jupiter were jovial jokesters and liked to walk about on their hands.
All of these things were explained in meticulous detail in Swedenborg’s writings of his experiences, and although it seems pretty obvious now that there are no such beings as far as we know on any of these planets, at the time it was eaten up by those who followed him and it captured the imagination. He would spend the rest of his life trying to fulfill what he saw as his mission from God to reform Christianity, and he would publish a total of 18 tomes to this effect, the most well-known being his book The Heavenly Doctrine. Did he see any of this at all, perhaps existing in an alternate dimension or reality, or is this all the ramblings of a delusional mind?
In the late 19th century we have the account of the Denton family of England, who were claimed to have the power of psychometry, which means they could basically hold or touch an object and divine facts about it. In the case of William Denton and his family, they could see past events in vivid detail simply from touching historical objects or fossils, and some of them even claimed to have used this power to project themselves to other parts of the solar system. Denton’s son claimed that he had visited Venus and seen numerous strange and wondrous animals, as well as massive trees shaped like mushrooms and water that was “heavy but not wet.” Other members of the family and Denton himself supposedly visited Mars, which had yellow-haired people with four fingers who possessed fantastical flying machines, as well as Jupiter, whose inhabitants apparently had large blue eyes, long flowing blonde hair, and the ability to float through the air at will. Although the Dentons could have very well been attention seeking cranks, it is all very outlandish and entertaining nevertheless.
In the early 1900s there was also the purported 1906 psychic journey of a Sackville G. Leyson, who happened to be the president of the "Society for Psychical Research" at the time. Through astral projection, Leyson said he had managed to travel to Mars, of which he gave a quite detailed description. According to Leyson, the landscape was perpetually shrouded in red clouds and mist, and there was an odd substance like snow that often fell, but which was not cold and made the ground soft. He said that the planet was populated by two different races of beings with vastly different physical appearances. One was a race of hulking giants covered in hair, who towered over him and had a single eye in the middle of their foreheads, elephant-like ears, the nose of a lion, and who lived in rock huts aboveground. There was also claimed to be a smaller race of dwarves, who only came up to Leyson’s knees. These diminutive creatures supposedly lived in underground lairs, had webbed hands and feet, a fish-like face with no nose, bulbous eyes on the sides of their heads, and the ability to scale sheer walls like an insect. It is widely believed that this report was likely a piece of creative journalism, but it is certainly strange enough to warrant mention.
In more modern times we have far-out tale of Ingo Swann, who was allegedly a psychic with the power of remote viewing, which basically entails being able to witness things happening in different locations far away from the person's actual physical body. In this case it was far away indeed, because Swann would claim that in a remote viewing experiment along with fellow psychic Harold Sherman they had managed to project all the way to Mercury and Jupiter to make observations of these places before the U.S. had even launched its Mariner 10 and Pioneer 10 space probes to explore these regions of the cosmos. While at Mercury, Swann claimed that he had discovered that the planet had a thin atmosphere, a magnetic field, and solar winds, and that its sky was painted with constantly shifting lights akin to the Aurora Borealis.
He also claimed that Mercury had a primitive form of plant life like a sort of lichen, which covered the rocks on the surface. Shockingly, when the Mariner 10 did a flyby of the planet just 3 weeks later, it found that indeed Mercury was very much as Swann had described it, although the probe was not close enough to be able to verify the presence of lichen on the surface. It had been previously thought that Mercury had no magnetic poles or any atmosphere at all, but Swann had apparently seen this first, and the Mariner 10 findings backed this claim up somewhat.
Concerning Jupiter, Swann described it as a frigid place with a noxious, poisonous atmosphere possessing a myriad of colors like a “giant fireworks display.” He also said that he had seen vast, raging tornadoes on the surface, as well as ferocious winds far stronger than any on Earth, and he claimed the planet also had strong magnetic forces and a 30,000-foot-high mountain range. Eight months later the Pioneer 10 passed Jupiter and saw that many of these predictions were all strikingly true. It was impressive enough that former American astronaut Edgar Mitchell was reported as saying:
He described things and gave details that were not known to scientists before the Mariner 10 and Pioneer 10 satellites flew by and got the information. These are things that Mr. Swann couldn’t have guessed or read about. His impressions of Mercury and Jupiter cannot be dismissed.
Another who praised Swann’s findings was former scientific consultant to the U.S. Air Force's Project Blue Book, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who said “His impressions of Jupiter, along with his experience with Mercury, most certainly point the way to more experimentation.” It all seems very impressive, but it has over the years become apparent that the story was played up to be a lot more amazing than the actual facts suggest. One of the problems is that only the things that matched up with what was found by the space probes were apparently reported on, when in fact there were many other details that were flat-out wrong and just not mentioned. Indeed, renowned science fiction author Isaac Asimov found that half of Swann’s observations were wrong, and that the other half could have been lucky guesses based on information already available on planets in science books of the time. Even more damning still was an assessment made by famous astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, and author, Carl Sagan, who at one point said after looking through the whole case:
Recently, two courageous American mystics made an “astral projection” trip to Jupiter, describing the nature of the planet prior to the arrival of the Pioneer 10. I was asked to examine the accuracy of their account. If their reports had been submitted in my elementary astronomy course, they would have received grades of “D.” These reports were not better than what can be extracted from the worst popularizations of planetary astronomy; they were filled with the most obvious misunderstandings both about Jupiter and Pioneer 10. There is no evidence that any mystic has done better in guessing the nature of the planets than he could do without his mystical powers but with the ability to read the better elementary astronomy books.
Ouch. It appears that the few things the two remote viewers had happened to stumble upon as correct were played up in news reports and a legend was born. It is important to note that in later years Swann did not stop making claims of the weird. In the 1970s he began trying to establish psychic connections with plants, and through these activities he claimed that he had learned of an impending ecological disaster through mental images projected into his mind by the plants. He wrote of these efforts and other various psychic pursuits in his 1975 book To Kiss Earth Good-Bye. Considering the time-frames involved coinciding with heavy drug culture and the damning skepticism against him, whether any of this planetary travel was achieved through the use of mind powers or the tripping of balls is left open to speculation and interpretation.
In more recent reports we have yet another Mars story and those military bases, which I have touched on before. In 2014, a man only known as Captain Kaye came forward to claim that he was a whistleblower for a military base on Mars. Kaye said that he had spent 17 years on the Red Planet in a program called “The Mars Defense Force,” which had the purpose of protecting the solar system from invading alien races, and which has a colony on the planet, called Aries Prime. Eyebrows might be raised even more than they already are when hearing that Kaye explained that Mars has a completely breathable atmosphere and a balmy, pleasant climate. According to Kaye, military personnel at the base were ordered to retrieve an alien artifact at a cave on Mars, and this resulted in a catastrophic battle that would see around 1,000 soldiers lose their lives. It has since been determined that Kaye’s real name is Randy Cramer, and that he is a vocal advocate of the idea that the U.S. faked the moon landings in order to cover up the work being done on Mars, so make of that what you will.
These are truly outlandish claims to be sure, seemingly ripped straight from a science fiction story, and perhaps they are just that: science fiction. After all, we have no evidence at all of any of this other than these, let's be honest, rather implausible claims. However, some of these have gone on to be discussed and debated, and they do go to show that we will probably always have stories like these of people supposedly breaking out of the confines of our planet to reach out towards the stars. Whether real or not, such reports serve to capture the imagination, and illustrate our fascination with the universe beyond what we know.