Obituary: Paul Inglesby

Church of England priest who became a leading, and controversial, UFO theorist

Born: 11 September, 1915, in London.

Died: 26 May 2010, in Glastonbury, Somerset.

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A naval Lieutenant-commander, Oxford graduate and Church of England priest who converted to the Greek Orthodox Church and was a UFO theorist with an interest born out of hallucinogenic visions brought on by a tropical disease, Paul Inglesby led a fascinating life.

Born Erik Vrendenberg in London to a Dutch father and African mother, Inglesby was acknowledged as one of the first, and at the time of his death, Britain's most senior UFO theorist.

Educated at Pangbourne College near Reading, Inglesby was an able student who showed great academic promise. He applied for Dartmouth Naval College in 1933 but was turned down, eventually joining the Royal Navy as a Paymaster Cadet on a training vessel.

It was during his time with the Royal Navy, while serving under Lord Mountbatten in 1938, that he was struck down with a debilitating disease, leaving him incapacitated and seriously ill for several months. The illness provided Inglesby with some extremely disturbing images which he described as a "devastating spiritual experience". The visions he experienced were of a "future atomic war and demonic forces controlling space ships and nuclear weapons. When speaking of these hallucinations While "trapped in this timeless limbo" he said: "Not only did I witness future events, in a mental telepathic sort of way, but throughout the whole of this time a battle was raging for possession of my soul." He also claimed to have had an out-of-body journey to Mars.

Following his recovery he continued his naval career and saw action while on HMS Terror in the Mediteranean. The vessel was attacked on 22 February by Junkers Ju Luftwaffe bombers and was sunk off the coast of Libya. His actions on that day saw Inglesby mentioned in Dispatches. He spent three more years with the Royal Navy, during which he spent time in Crete and France. He was invalided out of the forces in 1944.

At the age of 29 he enrolled in to Queens College Oxford where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics, gaining an MA. As he completed his degree, however, the British press began to report sightings of UFOs and Inglesby became convinced that his visions of almost 10 years previous were about to become a terrifying reality. It was during this time that he began his writings on what he believed to be demonic influences of UFO contact, disregarding the ET theories that filled the newspapers and were being circulated by other ufologists.

As a former Naval officer, Inglesby had a passion for sailing and this led to him relocating to Cornwall with his wife, Anne, who he married in 1946.

He spent nine years working in the Cornish education system before another radical sidestep.

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Having already converted to Christianity, he was ordained in to the priesthood to the Church of England in 1964 under the name of Reverend Eric Inglesby. By this time he had written prolifically on the subject of UFOs for 20 years and had fostered strong links with some of the highest figures in the Church and in the wider political arena. A lot of his writings warned of the spiritual dangers of UFOs, much of which was condensed in to his 1978 book, UFOs and the Christian.

Inglesby took his beliefs to some of the highest authorities in the land, including the then Earl Mountbatten, who had expressed a belief in the existence of UFOs in the 1950s. However, Mountbatten then retracted this following a discussion with Britain's chief scientific advisor, Sir Solly Zuckerman, who had assured him that "there was no more evidence for UFOs than for ghosts or the Loch Ness Monster". After founding the Christian UFO Research Association in 1977, achieved by placing an advertisement in The Church Times, Inglesby stepped up his campaign to prevent excessive public misconceptions of Ufology which he believed were "fraught with danger for the unwary and riddled with heresy and false belief".

Despite honorable intentions, there were occasions when Inglesby's obsessions may have strayed in to stranger territory, especially his letters to both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the by then Lord Mountbatten regarding the release of the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He believed the film was part of a satanic plot to hijack the mind of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh and that they must on no account attend the Royal Premiere, which also linked to "demonic possession and alien landings at the "Devil's Tower" in Wyoming".

Both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attended the screening. Inglesby continued to write and explore UFO theory and became an integral part of British ufology. His campaigning led to a UFO debate in the House of Lords in 1979, which promoted Inglesby's view that obsessive interest in UFOs "obscured basic Christian truth".

Having founded yet another group, this time the Christian UFO Concern, Inglesby converted to the Orthodox Church in 1980, taking the name Paul. This was influenced by a meeting with Fr Seraphim Rose when spending time in California. Rose had theories on UFOs as demonic symbols. The reason for Inglesby's conversion was to gain spiritual protection from his obsession with UFO's and their significance.

In 1996 Inglesby wrote The UFO Concern Report on behalf of his close friend Admiral Hill-Norton.. The report highlighted the beliefs of Inglesby and others of the significant satanic element of the UFO subject, describing it as "essentially a religious matter".

Inglesby eventually retired from ufology after the death of Hill-Norton in 2003.

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Father Paul, formerly Reverand Erik Inglesby, is survived by his wife Anne and their three children.

CHRIS MAIR