The term “contactee” originally referred to a small group of individuals who in the 1950s claimed a direct contact with the space people who piloted the flying saucers. These contacts usually contained many psychic elements (telepathy, psychokinesis, dematerialization) as well as a religious or an ethical message.
However, for at least 200 years before George Adamski’s first contact in 1952, some people have claimed contact with extraterrestrials, and their accounts bear a strong resemblance to the later saucer contactees. While spacecraft are present or at least implied in most of the accounts after 1952, they are not integral to the contact because communication with the aliens is usually by telepathy. Before 1952, UFOs are almost completely absent, with visits to or from other planets accomplished through an out-of-body experience.
The modern era of extraterrestrial contact began on November 20, 1952, with George Adamski’s alleged encounter in the California desert with a long-haired man from Venus named Orthon. Adamski soon became the first contactee to achieve national and international fame. His three books became best-sellers and brought him a following that still persists.
Of course, critics claim that Adamski had faked his photos of UFOs and their occupants; used the same phraseology in his allegedly true Inside the Space Ships (1955) that he had used in his much earlier science fiction book, Pioneers of Space (1949); and reprinted his 1936 Questions and Answers by the Royal Order of Tibet as his Science of Life Study Course in 1964, substituting the words “Space Brothers” and “Cosmic Brotherhood” where the words “Royal Order of Tibet” had appeared in the former work.
Sifting out the fraud and fantasy from what Adamski really believed and experienced may well be impossible. Perhaps Adamski saw himself as a latter-day space prophet—he certainly acted as a catalyst for many other contactees who assimilated his philosophy if not his methods.
Since then, hundreds of individuals have claimed a direct face-to-face contact with extraterrestrials. Although these accounts have very little to do with the UFO phenomenon, the contactees of the 1950s saw their experiences as a solution to the UFO mystery.
By the 1960s, two types of contactee literature had emerged. The first had a more spiritualistic flavor with space entities resembling disembodied spirits, like the members of the extraterrestrial Ashtar Command described by George Van Tassel and others. The second followed theosophical tradition and described entities closely resembling the ascended masters of the I AM movement begun by Guy Ballard.
Since the mid-1960s and the development of the US space program, contactees have either consciously or subconsciously de-emphasized spacecraft and received their communications via mediumistic voice channeling, telepathy, or dreams. The latest development in the 21st century is with people who are experimenting with the hallucinogenic brewed drink ayahuasca and its active ingredient DMT; they have compared their experiences with higher-dimensional entities as similar to encounters with extraterrestrials and alien abductions.