The Plot Starts to Brew
It was April 1958, and ‘King George’ was in his garden basking in the early spring sunshine, whilst awaiting a message from the Master Jesus. Suddenly, his telepathic ‘phone’ rang, but it wasn’t Jesus calling after all. It was instead a ‘call’ from Mars Sector 6. George scrambled to switch on his tape recorder in order to capture the message, transmitted courtesy of cosmic laryngeal control. The news was alarming:
“Owing to an atomic accident just recently in the USSR, a great amount of radioactivity in the shape of radioactive iodine, strontium 90, radioactive nitrogen and radioactive sodium has been released into the atmosphere of Terra.”
Not long afterwards, it was Venus on the line, and George’s high-pitched, strangulated voice was back in action to commit the cosmic transmission to earthly tape:
“All forms of reception from Interplanetary sources will become a little more difficult during the next few weeks because of the foolish actions of Russia. They have not yet declared to the world as a whole, exactly what happened in one of their atomic research establishments. Neither have they declared how many people were killed there. Neither have they declared that they were really frightened by the tremendous release of radioactive materials…”
The Master Aetherius from Venus went on to explain that the Interplanetary Parliament had already committed enormous funds to help clear up the mess and that, through their Divine Intervention, they will be saving 17 million lives – although this would require that those concerned ‘vacate their physical bodies’. Putting that in the terminology of Terra, they would all die after all.
All of this was dutifully reported in the June 1958 edition of Cosmic Voice, the monthly journal of The Aetherius Society, Dr George King’s own brainchild. Unfortunately, although being every bit as reliable as The Guardian, the journal lacked the more illustrious rag’s market penetration and so the story went largely unread.
The Plot Thickens
On November 4th, 1976, that other bastion of truth, the New Scientist magazine, published an article called ‘Two Decades of Dissidence’. In it the author, Zhores A. Medvedev, a soviet scientist exiled in London, explained that back in 1957 or 1958 there had been a massive atomic accident in the remote Ural mountains, killing hundreds of people and causing mass evacuation of the contaminated area. Naturally, the Soviet authorities had covered it up. Even more puzzling though, nothing had been said by the Western intelligence agencies, despite the fact that the fallout would have been picked up by their instrumentation within hours. Medvedev would have his readers believe that a huge radioactive explosion had happened in Russia and nobody other than the poor peasants directly affected had even noticed.
Unsurprisingly, Medvedev’s belated confirmation of the Aetherian bulletin was broadly dismissed as conspiracist nonsense. However, further support for the story was soon to emerge in the form of newspaper articles in the British press that linked back to a letter that had appeared in the Jerusalem Post. The letter had been written by another Soviet dissident, Professor Leo Tumerman, former head of the Biophysics Laboratory at the Moscow Institute of Molecular Biology. Whilst disputing the details of Medvedev’s claims, Tumerman maintained that it had been ‘common knowledge’ within certain quarters of the USSR that such a catastrophe had taken place and that it had been as a result of industrial scale negligence at a radioactive waste plant at Chelyabinsk-40. Although he had not been there at the time of the explosion, he had since visited the scene in his professional capacity and was able to report that those arriving by car were greeted by a road sign reading:
“DO NOT STOP FOR THE NEXT 30 KILOMETERS! DRIVE THROUGH AT MAXIMUM SPEED”
Officially, Chelyabinsk-40 did not exist. And so everyone referred to the area of mass radioactive destruction as ‘the Kyshtym disaster’, named after the nearest village that you’ll find on google map.
The Plot is Spilled on the Floor
It took until the dawn of Gorbachev’s perestroika for the official files to be released and for the real story of the Kyshtym disaster to emerge. There had indeed been a huge explosion in the Ural mountains causing widespread radioactive fallout. The culprit was a badly maintained underground tank holding radioactive waste from a plutonium refinement factory. The explosion had happened sometime before 11.00pm on Sunday, September 29th, 1957, throwing the tank’s 160 tonne concrete lid high into the sky, followed by a 1 kilometre high column of highly radioactive smoke and debris. It was at the time the world’s worst environmental disaster, and still now it ranks only behind Chernobyl and Fukushima. And yet, despite the supposed benevolence of the world’s governments, it required a lunatic conversing with imaginary Venusians to bring it to our attention, followed naturally enough by the overthrow of an autocratic regime to confirm it.
There has to be a moral to this tale. I wonder what it is.
The Moral to this Tale
The first interesting fact to reflect upon is that the CIA, despite being fully aware at the time that the explosion had taken place, chose not to say a thing to the American public. There are a number of possible reasons for this. Perhaps they did not wish to reveal to the Soviets the extent or capabilities of their intelligence gathering. Perhaps they were just institutionally secretive. But most likely it was because they did not want to reveal to the American public what can go wrong with nuclear technology, just at a time when the country’s Atomic Energy Commission was so desperate for the public’s support of its nascent atomic energy programme. Either way, both the Soviet and American authorities had proven a less reliable source of information than Mars Sector 6, and this can’t be a good thing.
Secondly, it is sobering to reflect upon the extent to which a conspiracy theorist can get it right even when he is so patently out of his breadbin. This has serious implications for the question recently asked by Geoff Chambers on this website: “What would a conspiracy theory have to look like to be explanatory?” If being right about something can’t be used as a yardstick (I don’t think anyone could seriously consider giving the Aetherius Society true credit for the scoop) then where does that leave us? And when the lunatics turn out to be the only people we can trust, what hope remains?
The promised funding from the Interplanetary Parliament never did materialise. It turned out that the Lords of Karma had decided to withhold the monies so that they could better tackle something called ‘global warming’. Apparently Boris had consulted with the Aetherius Society and its cosmic contacts before forming his latest Build Back Better budget.
George King never did get that call from the Master Jesus on Venus. Jesus never got on with Master Aetherius and he would never forgive George for going public with the Mars Sector 6 briefing. What goes on in Interplanetary Parliament stays in Interplanetary Parliament.