“When we see the shadow on our images, are we seeing the time 11 minutes ago on Mars? Or are we seeing the time on Mars as observed from Earth now? It’s like time travel problems in science fiction. When is now; when was then?” – Bill Nye

Sir Victor Goddard: Air Marshal, Time Traveler, and Defender Against the Paranormal

Air Marshal Sir Robert Victor Goddard (1897-1987) began his military career as a midshipman in the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy during the first years of World War I, but by 1915 he joined the Royal Naval Air Service, where he was hunting submarines from dirigibles and flying reconnaissance over the Somme.  Given the dubious airworthiness of most flying things at the turn of the 20th Century, it’s safe to say Sir Victor was a brave dude.  Smart as a whip, too, so much so that the military sent him to Cambridge to get a degree in engineering.  By 1929 he was leading a bomber squadron in Iraq, returned to England to teach aeronautical engineering, and was then appointed deputy director of intelligence at the Air Ministry until the outbreak of the Second World War.  His resume just gets more impressive from there including Air Commodore Chief of the Air Staff, Royal New Zealand Air Force (1941), Air Commander of the RAF South East Asia Command (1943), and RAF Representative in Washington (1946).

Wherever things got hot and you needed to flex a little air power, there was Sir Victor Goddard, and he received so many medals from so many countries, it’s a wonder the guy could stand up in his dress uniform.  In short, Sir Victor was a hard bitten, practical soldier with 41 years of service in arms across the world.  He’d seen some shit.  He’d done some shit.  He’d flown some shit.  When it came to assessing flying stuff, he was the real deal. If I was faced with some sort of preternatural threat, I know I would have called Victor Goddard.  He had both the scholarly chops and the combat skills.  Not only that, as it turns out, Goddard developed a keen theoretical interest in the paranormal later in life, occasionally lecturing on unidentified flying objects.  But Goddard was no alien fanboy.  In fact, he applied those sharp military intelligence skills to the problem, concluding that there was a strong possibility that UFO’s were not likely extraterrestrials, rather more probably interdimensional critters.

John Keel, in his Operation Trojan Horse, picked up on this theme and quoted a speech given by Goddard on May 3, 1969.  “That while it may be that some operators of UFO are normally the paraphysical denizens of a planet other than Earth, there is no logical need for this to be so. For, if the materiality of UFO is paraphysical (and consequently normally invisible), UFO could more plausibly be creations of an invisible world coincident with the space of our physical Earth planet than creations in the paraphysical realms of any other physical planet in the solar system. . . . Given that real UFO are paraphysical, capable of reflecting light like ghosts; and given also that (according to many observers) they remain visible as they change position at ultrahigh speeds from one point to another, it follows that those that remain visible in transition do not dematerialize for that swift transition, and therefore, their mass must be of a diaphanous (very diffuse) nature, and their substance relatively etheric . . . . The observed validity of this supports the paraphysical assertion and makes the likelihood of UFO being Earth-created greater than the likelihood of their creation on another planet. . . . The astral world of illusion, which (on psychical evidence) is greatly inhabited by illusion-prone spirits, is well known for its multifarious imaginative activities and exhortations. Seemingly some of its denizens are eager to exemplify principalities and powers. Others pronounce upon morality, spirituality, Deity, etc . All of these astral exponents who invoke human consciousness may be sincere, but many of their theses may be framed to propagate some special phantasm, perhaps of an earlier incarnation, or to indulge an inveterate and continuing technological urge toward materialistic progress , or simply to astonish and disturb the gullible for the devil of it” (Keel, 1970, p39-40).

As it turns out, Goddard was not just flapping his lips.  One of the more commonly cited examples of “time slips” are his amply documented 1934 experience over Drem Airfield, where he saw it as it would appear in 1939.  Basically in 1934, he saw buildings that did not yet exist, a runway as it would not look for 5 years, and planes that had not yet been invented.  He immediately told his Airforce friends what he had seen, but they suggested that he should drink less of the local beverage.  Nevertheless, the “vision” was related to others and was described in a letter to the lady of the house where he had been staying; but all she wrote in reply was “How peculiar”.  Goddard told the story on numerous occasions in his own words, which I have included below.

In the winter of 1934 I was flying an airplane, it was a Hawker “Hart”—a mighty fast plane for those days! (In fact, it was in a plane of that type that, in the following year, I held the Edinburgh to London speed record.) In the cloud and fog and heavy rain I had come spiraling down 8,000 feet, out of control all the way. So I was wondering whether I should plunge into the mountains of Scotland, or into the Firth of Forth, before I got my “Hart” under control again…My Hawker “Hart” was at last under control; my personal heart was not—it was in my throat…I flew straight on, climbing slightly to clear the foreshore. I said to myself, “If I go straight on, I’ll hit off Drem Airfield. That is, if I’m going where I think I am, and going the way I think I’m going.” In a few minutes, sure enough, through the murk the old hangars of Drem loomed ahead—black in the rain and about half a mile ahead. We’re about to come to the point of this story, but first I must tell you about Drem. I had been at Drem on the ground only the day before. I knew the place and had known it for years. It was built as an aerodrome during World War I. I knew it then. After that war it was abandoned and gradually the buildings fell into ruin. The hangars were used by the farmer as cow-byres and as barns for his crops and farm machinery. The roofs were falling in; the airfield was cut up into many grazing meadows for sheep and cattle, divided off by barbed wire fences. (I had seen all that the day before).  But next day as I approached Drem in foul weather after my hair-raising experience over Leith, I wanted something to re- store my confidence before I again tried to climb through those turbulent clouds. For I was due to be at Andover, in Hampshire, that morning. I was fast approaching those old derelict airplane hangars, then used for barns and cow-byres, at Drem. I climbed through the deluge of rain to the misty base of the continuous low cloud overhead. The hangars were darkly looming towards me only a quarter of a mile away. Then, suddenly, the area was bathed in an ethereal light as though the sun were shining on a mid-summer day. As I raced over the airfield boundary and along the fine of those four double hangars, I saw some surprising things.  Evidently, as I saw it, the rain had recently stopped. The airfield, all unfenced, was evenly mown; no cattle or sheep were grazing. The tarmac around the hangars was wide and new, the hangars all had sound new roofs, the doors of the first hangar were open and five aircraft—all bright yellow (four of them biplanes, one a monoplane)—were lined up on the tarmac. Mechanics in blue overalls were pushing out another monoplane. The men below were not interested in me as I sped over them not more than fifty feet above the hangars and I flew out of the “sunshine” into dark rain and mist again, and into the climb which I immediately began through the clouds to clear the hidden mountains beyond. I was keyed to my flying. But I was full of wonder. I knew that I had been “seeing things.” I also knew that what I had seen was there. It was real…There was a difference in quality between the seeming reality of a dream and the felt reality of that vision.  In 1938 Drem was rebuilt and reopened as a Flying Training School. What I had seen as I flew over, and described to friends, came to pass four years later in all its novel details. And then I knew that I had to sort out my ideas about free will and fate and determinism!” (Osborn, 1961, p101-102).

The behavior of orthodox skeptics always amuses me when faced with a witness like Air Marshall Victor Goddard.  Obviously they can’t put him down to his face.  He’d kick their ass.  Or bomb their country.  And there were few people more expert in aeronautics.  So they make an effort to politely ignore his eyewitness testimony.  Go ahead, try and find a skeptic who has weighed in on the Victor Goddard time slip case (and actually, if you do find one please tell me, I’d love to see the spin).  Interestingly, Goddard’s name frequently pops up in another context, that is, the “Goddard’s Squadron Ghost Photo”, where a picture of Goddard and his World War I flying buddies seems to include a certain Freddie Jackson, who had died thoughtlessly walking into a propeller a few days before the picture.  I’ve seen numerous analyses of the photo that pick apart Goddard’s story, but are always careful to suggest that he and his brave squadron mates were “misremembering”.  If Goddard lived in a trailer park they’d be saying he was a hallucinating meth-head looking for attention or cash.  Class consciousness in professional paranormal skepticism?  Just saying.

Goddard’s encounters with the strange actually predate both the ghost photo, and his aerial time-slip from 1934 to 1939.  At the outbreak of World War I, as a midshipman, he felt he had a precognitive inkling that England would ultimately prevail.  Again, in his own words.

Please don’t suppose that I think I am a prophet. I do not. But there have been times when I have “seen.” And I want to say something to you about different kinds of seeing.  My “seeing” in 1911 that war with Germany was not going to be until 1914 was perhaps only a hunch. And yet I remember a feeling that I had seen and said something that was true; some-thing that had come to me. On the evening before that war began I stood on the deck of an old battleship called Victorious. I was looking at the evening sky. There was a great white formation of cloud catching the light, and a black mass of cloud to the East. The white cloud-mass formed into, as it were, a map of the British Isles. The black mass of cloud, separated by a sea of blue sky, resembled the shape of Europe nearest to us; it seemed to begin to overwhelm the white, and then it receded and disintegrated, and its blackness faded into pink. That “picture” did not persist for long. But at the time I “saw” that our country was not going to be overwhelmed by Germany. The point I want to make is this: never after that moment did I ever think that we would be defeated. The “vision” I had was not up in the clouds: it was within me. I was able, because of that assurance, to go through World War I with never a doubt about the outcome, even in the darkest days (Osborn, 1961, p100-101).

Goddard was still writing high level theoretical treatises on war and security for military journals in the 1950’s, and they evince a man who is concerned not just with what we presume to be the facts, but how we think about them.

It is commonly said that war with modern weapons has become unthinkable. But both the hearer and the speaker of that word, unthinkable, most likely do not think about its meaning: the hazy idea that they probably hold about it is that war with modern weapons, like infanticide, is a subject about which it is indecent to think—an obscene subject. Yet while thinking that deprecatory thought with the conventional part of their minds, the rational part of their minds whose business it is to think and reason about anything and everything is trying to think coherently about war with modern weapons (Goddard, 1957, p104).

Perhaps we need to revisit Sir Victor Goddard and include him in the anomalistic pantheon as both a warrior and thinker, who applied those things which made him a superior soldier to ideas which others scoffed at.  As Paul Coelho said, “The two worst strategic mistakes to make are acting prematurely and letting an opportunity slip; to avoid this, the warrior treats each situation as if it were unique and never resorts to formulae, recipes or other people’s opinions”.

Goddard, Sir Victor R.  “A New View on Security”.  United States. Army Service Schools, Fort Leavenworth, Fort Leavenworth United States. Command and General Staff College, Command and General Staff School (U.S.), and U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Military Review 37:4. Fort Leavenworth, KS, 1957.
Keel, John A., 1930-. UFO’s: Operation Trojan Horse. New York: Putnam, 1970.
Osborn, Arthur Walter, 1891-. The Future Is Now: the Significance of Precognition. New Hyde Park, N. Y.: University Books, 1961.