Archivist delighted to comb through mountain of late UFO researcher's records
Stanton Friedman, who died in May, donated vast collection of research to provincial archives
In the months leading up to his death, nuclear physicist and ufologist Stanton Friedman started donating his vast collection of records to the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.
And he had a lot of records.
Archivist Joanna Aiton-Kerr said they've received about 300 boxes so far — that's about 60 metres if you line them up single file, she said — and she expects several more cargo vans to come.
But the daunting task of archiving the records has been anything but a hardship for her team, she said. It's a treasure trove that reflects a brilliant, curious mind, a thorough researcher and a funny, kind-hearted individual.
"This has been a real education for me, and I don't know if I've ever enjoyed helping to process something more than this one," Aiton-Kerr told Shift New Brunswick.
Friedman, the famed UFO researcher based in Fredericton, died in May at the age of 84.
A nuclear physicist by training, Friedman had devoted his life to researching and investigating UFOs since the late 1960s.
He was credited with bringing the 1947 Roswell Incident — the famous purported crash that gave rise to theories about UFOs and a U.S. military coverup — back into the mainstream conversation.
Friedman was many things, including an accomplished writer and lecturer, but what he wasn't "was much of a filer," he told Aiton-Kerr.
"I would say he was more of a stacker," she said. "He would stack records up. And so when we get each cargo van coming to the archives, we have a team of archivists and we just start going through it."
The team has thousands of documents to examine and organize — from subject files with titles like "Soviet Space" to piles of publications he's gathered over the decades.
"I would say that, by the end, we are probably going to have our hands on each piece of paper five or six times before we finally have it organized in a state where we can say, 'OK, it's done and researchers can come in and start taking a look,'" she said.
Kathleen Marden, a UFO researcher who co-wrote three books with Friedman, marvelled at his work ethic in an interview shortly after he died.
"He did his homework," Marden said.
"He went further than most researchers in that he did on-site investigations. He went to actual physical archives to do his research. He was an outstanding researcher, highly intelligent and had a great sense of humour."
Thousands of letters
Aiton-Kerr said that among the more fascinating aspects of the collection are the thousands of letters written to him from all over the world by people of all ages, many from non-believers sharing unexplained experiences.
"There's lots of letters that start, 'Oh, I'm a retired teacher, I'm a retired nurse and I have never believed in UFOs, but this is what I saw,'" she said.
"And people in the letters that they wrote to him, they're so affectionate. … In the community, he was regarded as such a warm, welcoming man."
And funny, too. Some letters include artifacts or drawings, and one had a papier-mâché mask of an alien head that also resembled Friedman. Aiton-Kerr said a colleague of hers asked him if the mask should go in the collection.
"He looked at it and shrugged and said, 'Well, I don't wear it often, you know'," she said. "That marvellous sense of humour coming through.
"I believe it's the only collection of its kind, certainly in New Brunswick, certainly in Canada, possibly even worldwide, to have such a mass of UFO research by such respected nuclear physicist."
She said they hope to be able to share it in the not-too-distant future.
With files from Shift New Brunswick