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is there life on earth, or are we just dreaming…


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Desmond Leslie: very cool

Posted by lahar9jhadav on August 16, 2011


(29 June 1921, County Monaghan, Ireland – 21 February 2001, Antibes, France)

Desmond Leslie (left) and George Adamski

During his lifetime Desmond Leslie served as a Spitfire pilot in the RAF during World War II, became one of the first pioneers of electric music, and co-authored one of the first books on UFOs entitled Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953), with  George Adamski.

In June, 1954, Leslie kissed his wife and three children goodbye and headed off to California to meet the mystery man who had helped make his book a runaway best seller. He was 33 and Adamski was 63. Despite the age difference the two hit it off straight away. Leslie’s visit was “a great joy,” Adamski wrote a year later. “Endowed with a very interesting mind and a delightful sense of humour, he added much to our little group here, not only in that he shared our common interests but also entered into the nonsense which often overtook us when relaxation from serious subjects was indicated.”

Leslie came intending to visit for a month but stayed on for nearly three. The air at Palomar Terraces, as the property was now called, was crackling with excitement. If there was one place on the planet that a UFO buff would want to be in 1954 it was Palomar Terraces…

In a letter to his wife, Leslie described seeing “a beautiful golden ship in the sunset, but brighter than the sunset. .. It slowly faded out, the way they do.” Another night he got a glimpse of a small, remotely controlled observation disk, about 2-3 feet in diameter. George had watched these sensing devices being launched and retrieved while on one of his space excursions and would go on to describe them in detail in his book. Leslie was walking up the road returning to Palomar Terraces after a visit to Rincon Springs five miles away. “I noticed a very bright ball of light rising rapidly from Adamski’s roof, about a quarter of a mile away. It rose rapidly, rather like a silvery-gold Verey Light, and continued to rise until it disappeared from sight. It gave the impression of accelerating as it rose.

But the following evening I was to see it at very close range. We were sitting on the patio in the twilight, George, Alice Wells, Lucy McGinnis, and I with my back turned facing the doorway. A curious cold feeling came over me as of being watched, as if someone or something was standing directly behind me. I swung round in time to see a small golden disk between us and the Live Oaks fifty feet away. Almost instantly it shot up in the air with an imperceptible swish leaving a faint trail behind it, then vanished. George grinned solemnly. ‘I was wondering when you were going to notice that!’ I was amazed. ‘One of those remote control things?’ I believe I asked. He nodded. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘thank God our conversation’s been reasonably clean for the last half hour,’ and we all laughed. For George enjoyed a good story and was quite unshockable. I felt rather smug, like a schoolboy who for once has been behaving himself when the Headmaster appears silently in the dormitory.”

excerpts from  George Adamski: The Toughest Job in the World By Tony Brunt

In the early 1950s Leslie designed the world’s first effective multi-track sound mixing desk which he had built by Rupert Neve. It can still be seen in his family home Castle Leslie, Monaghan, where it has been an object of reverence for visitors such as Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney.

During the late 1950s, he began nurturing his interest in contemporary music. In his small home studio, he experimented with the sounds of musique concrète. In January 1960, Leslie pressed a single acetate called Music of the Future. All Leslie recordings were later licensed to Joseph Weinburger, and Leslie’s recordings were pressed onto a short series of 78rpm library discs, occasionally being put to use in science and mystery based programing, such as early Dr. Who episodes. He used a great number of tape sources to create his pieces; some sources he mentions in his liner notes are motor horns, humming tops and bells.

In 2005, Jonny Trunk’s British record label Trunk Records re-released Desmond’s 1960 acetate, never before released commercially. The sounds on this release were mastered from the original acetate. The recordings are believed to have been made between 1955 and 1959, and included are Desmond’s original sleevenotes, containing information pertaining to each selection.



Desmond Leslie

By Philip Hoare


Saturday, 10 March 2001

Desmond Arthur Peter Leslie, writer: born London 29 June 1921; married 1945 Agnes Bernauer (Agnes Bernelle, died 1999; two sons, one daughter; marriage dissolved), married 1970 Helen Strong (two daughters); died Antibes, France 22 February 2001.

Desmond Arthur Peter Leslie, writer: born London 29 June 1921; married 1945 Agnes Bernauer (Agnes Bernelle, died 1999; two sons, one daughter; marriage dissolved), married 1970 Helen Strong (two daughters); died Antibes, France 22 February 2001.

The extraordinary life of Desmond Leslie rivals any fiction by Nancy Mitford or Anthony Powell, with overtones of a Fifties sci-fi movie, and a little Weimar decadence thrown in. A cousin of Sir Winston Churchill, son of a colourful father, husband to a Berlin-born cabaret singer, Leslie was a Spitfire pilot, proponent of extraterrestrial life, composer of revue lyrics, and a collector of electronic noise.

A scion of the Irish ascendancy, he was the son of Sir Shane Leslie, third Baronet, and lived at Castle Leslie, in Co Monaghan. Sir Shane scandalised his family by converting to Roman Catholicism whilst an undergraduate; a supporter of the nationalist cause, he habitually sported a saffron-coloured kilt, even in London. He wrote or translated 58 books, on subjects ranging from Irish politics to the paranormal. Of Sir Shane’s three children, John, Desmond and Anita, the last would herself become an author, known notably for her Jennie: the life of Lady Randolph Churchill (1969).

Born in 1921 (the Duke of Connaught was a godparent) and educated in England, Desmond Leslie was early on introduced to strange phenomena: one November night in 1934 after “lights out”, he claimed his dormitory was “suddenly lit by a brilliant green glare”, an X Files moment which had his fellow schoolboys rushing to the window to see “an immense green fireball move slowly across the sky and disappear behind the Sussex Downs”.

The sky continued to fascinate Leslie. Educated at Ampleforth and Trinity College Dublin, during the Second World War he became a fighter pilot. A family historian remarked, “He destroyed a number of aircraft, most of which he was piloting at the time.” During the war he met Agnes Bernauer, the daughter of a German Jewish impresario who had given Marlene Dietrich her first job. They married in August 1945, on the first day of peace in Europe, and, having managed to crash a selection of Spitfires and Hurricanes, Leslie ended the war on a high note, drinking claret with Agnes and his cousin, the Prime Minister, at 10 Downing Street on VE Day. During the Fifties, the couple lived in London, where they counted among their friends Claus von Bulow and the exiled King Farouk.

In July 1954, Agnes – now Agnes Bernelle, and appearing as Salome at St Martin’s Theatre (a part in which she became the first “nonstationary” nude on the English stage) – reported to the Daily Mail,

“If all goes well there will be flying saucer landings in England next year . . .” Those are the words of my husband, Desmond Leslie, written from the Californian desert, where he and an American investigator, George Adamski, are watching the sky in search of flying saucers.

Leslie’s book with Adamski, Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953), had been published in the wake of the post-war ufo flap. An entertaining mix of sci-fi theory and historical accounts (including a description of an 1883 photograph of a ufo), many gleaned, as Leslie acknowledged, from the researches of Charles Fort, the book was written with witty rhetoric and disdain for the sceptics. “Why should they risk a public landing?” Leslie mused:

Their ship would be impounded for evasion of custom duties. Their clothes would be torn off and sold as souvenirs. They would be denounced as saboteurs, anti-Christs, disturbers of the peace, emissaries of Satan, and the rest.

An Eric von Daniken before his time, Leslie drew on levitating saints, Atlantean myths and ancient airships to evolve a specific theory of interplanetary propulsion which he sought to relate, Gaia-like, to the Earth itself. “As I write this, I am riding on a great green luminous spaceship . . . rushing through the Ocean of Space.” The book culminated in a 50-page account of Adamski’s encounter of the third kind with tall, long-haired Venusians in outfits “like ski trousers”.

Leslie and Adamski’s work became a 1950s best-seller, a classic of ufology which even now is the subject of website chatrooms.

While her husband pursued ufos, Agnes continued with her career. In 1963 – the year in which the couple moved to Castle Leslie – she created a Weill/Brecht cabaret, Savagery and Delight, which she débuted at Peter Cook’s Establishment Club in 1963. Her husband created television history when, during the live filming of That Was The Week That Was with Bernard Levin, who had given Savagery and Delight a bad review, Leslie emerged out of the audience and took a swing at him.

Despite their mutual eschatological beliefs, the Leslies’ marriage ended in the late Sixties when she met the architectural historian Maurice Craig. An incarnation of an Otto Dix painting with a gravelly voice to rival Lotte Lenya, Bernelle went on to record with Elvis Costello (the 1985 album Father’s Lying Dead on the Ironing Board) and perform with Marc Almond and Gavin Friday, as well as appearing in the film Hear My Song.

Desmond Leslie too had theatrical aspirations, despite his friend John Betjeman’s dismissing his first play as “bad”. His attempts to write topical revue songs and lyrics were staged at the Gate Theatre by Michael MacLiammoir and Hilton Edwards. In 1954 he provided the screenplay for the film Stranger From Venus, inspired as much by the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still as by Leslie’s own experiences. He also created his own studio “where he collected tapes containing thousands of sounds: bees humming, cars hooting, babies crying”, as Kim Bielenberg records. A prescient nod towards modern “sampling”, some of his “sound pictures” were used by Stanley Kubrick in his film Dr Strangelove.

When, in 1963, Leslie returned to Castle Leslie, it was, he said, “in the set determination to restore its ruined finances”. He set up a night-club in one of the estate houses and invited such house guests as Marianne Faithfull and Mick Jagger. In the 1990s he moved to the South of France with his second wife, Helen Strong, although returning regularly to Castle Leslie.

Desmond Leslie believed in reincarnation, and the holistic theories of Gaia, and joined a faith-healing sect, the White Eagle Lodge, run by a medium. He also continued to pursue his near-Messianic belief in ufos, lecturing at ufo conferences in Laughlin, Nevada, in 1998, and, as late as June 2000, at a similar conference in San Marino – a now legendary witness to the birth of ufology.

By Philip Hoare


Eccentric Irish aristocrat whose book The Flying Saucers Have Landed underpinned the New Age movement

DESMOND LESLIE, who has died aged 79, was a celebrated Irish eccentric and self-styled “discologist” best known for his book The Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953), which became a key text of the New Age movement.

The prevailing scientific materialism of Leslie’s time held no appeal to him, and he turned his attention instead to the world of mysteries. Attracted to ancient history, archaeology and esoteric philosophy, he saw in them evidence of a world view quite different from that of more soberly academic contemporaries.

To Leslie, ancient monuments and artefacts were proof of a sophistication of culture and technology that could not be attributed to the people of their times. The makers, he concluded, were evidently super-human – or came from elsewhere. In the 1950s, there were regular reports of “flying saucers” and of encounters with alien creatures, and Leslie’s merger of these accounts with his antiquarian researches led to The Flying Saucers Have Landed.

During his investigations, he wrote to the Californian mystic and ice cream salesman George Adamski, who in the presence of witnesses had encountered blond visitors from Venus and taken photographs of their spacecraft. Adamski replied with pictures and an account of his experiences. Leslie added these to his text, and credited Adamski as co-author.

Leslie asserted that the first inter-planetary vessel had arrived from Venus in 18,617,841 bc. He made no apologies for his precision, saying that “it was calculated from ancient Brahmin tables”. Brahmins, he explained, were “exceedingly accurate people”. He addressed potential doubters and seekers of proof with matter-of-fact disdain: “Why should they risk a public landing? Their ship would be impounded for evasion of custom duties. Their clothes would be torn off and sold as souvenirs.”

The Flying Saucers Have Landed became a bestseller and was translated into 50 languages. To Leslie’s gratification, it was denounced by the sort of people he liked to infuriate. Arthur C Clarke attacked it as a “farrago of nonsense”; Professor Bernard Lovell suggested it be “dumped overboard in space”.

With his mystical doctrines and cult following, Adamski was an easy target for the sceptics, but Leslie stood by him. In 1954, Leslie visited his co-author in California and enjoyed with him several flying saucer sightings. In a letter from San Diego to his wife, he described seeing “a beautiful golden ship in the sunset, but brighter than the sunset . . . It slowly faded out, the way they do.”

Back in London, Leslie joined forces with another Anglo-Irish aristocrat, Brinsley le Poer Trench, who as the 8th Earl of Clancarty later promoted a debate on UFOs in the House of Lords. Together they founded Flying Saucer Review. Contributors included C G Jung, who published his own book on flying saucers in 1959.

Thereafter, Leslie continued to preach the message of the space people. Their intentions, he was at pains to explain, were wholly peaceable. Desmond Arthur Peter Leslie was born on June 29 1921 and grew up at Castle Leslie beside Glaslough in County Monaghan. Glaslough, “the green lake”, has been extolled in verse and song. Richard Hayward, the balladeer, sang: For there’s no place like lovely Glaslough/In all Monaghan wide. Dean Swift, on the other hand, once wrote in the visitor’s book: “Glaslough with rows of books upon its shelves/Written by the Leslies all about themselves.”

Desmond’s father was the colourful man of letters Sir Shane Leslie, 3rd Bt, who supported the Nationalist cause and habitually wore a saffron kilt. Shane’s father, Sir John, had married Leone, one of the three beautiful daughters of Leonard Jerome, of New York. Her sister had married Lord Randolph Churchill, and their son Winston paid regular visits to Castle Leslie until banned by his uncle (a staunch Ulster Unionist) on account of his espousal of Home Rule.

Sir Shane’s interests extended from politics to the paranormal – his works include Shane Leslie’s Ghost Book (1955) – and his fascination with the latter rubbed off on his younger son. Desmond later recalled that one night at prep school, his dormitory was “suddenly lit by a brilliant green glare” as “an immense green fireball moved slowly across the sky and disappeared behind the Sussex Downs”.

After Ampleforth and Trinity College, Dublin, Leslie became a fighter pilot in the RAF, flying Spitfires and Hurricanes during the Second World War; according to family legend, he destroyed several aircraft, most of which he was piloting himself. He celebrated VE day with his cousin, the Prime Minister, at 10 Downing Street.

During the war, Leslie had met Agnes Bernauer, the daughter of a German Jewish impresario (Marlene Dietrich’s first employer); they married in August 1945. In 1954, Agnes Bernelle – as she now styled herself – became the first non-stationary nude on the English stage as Salome at St Martin’s theatre. A decade later, Leslie caused a sensation by throwing a punch at Bernard Levin during a live transmission of That Was Week That Was (Levin had given Agnes Bernelle an ungenerous review).

For all his enthusiasm for UFOs, Leslie was no zealot and enjoyed all the pleasures of life, imaginative conversation above all. He published several other books, including Hold Back the Night, and The Jesus File. In 1963, he moved back to Castle Leslie, where in a bid to restore its finances he opened a night club, Annabel’s on the Bog, and entertained such house guests as Marianne Faithfull and Mick Jagger. A gifted musician, he also experimented with Musique Concrete, using samples of recorded natural sounds.

Desmond Leslie’s first marriage was dissolved in 1969. He married secondly, in 1970, Helen Strong, who survives him, together with his two sons and four daughters.


Biography of Desmond Leslie

When a guidebook to Ireland described his family as being ‘mildly eccentric’, Desmond Leslie took offence and wrote to the publishers informing them that, on the contrary, the Leslies were very eccentric. Son of writer Sir Shane Leslie and brother of historian Anita Leslie, Desmond Leslie has never before been the subject of a biography. Throughout his life, he maintained a reputation for unconventionality. Hardly surprising, when one of his godparents was a noted Satanist who kept a pet parrot in his trousers. Desmond Leslie more than matched this behaviour. Thanks to his 1953 bestseller The Flying Saucers Have Landed, co-written with George Adamski, this ‘myriad-minded’ man is still a cult figure among UFOlogists. One of the most popular items on YouTube shows him punching the critic Bernard Levin on live television in the 1960s in defence of his first wife, the actress Agnes Bernelle. After serving as a Spitfire pilot during the Second World War, he settled in London and embarked on a career as a writer, producing a succession of innovative, critically acclaimed novels, one of them anticipating George Orwell’s 1984 by a year. He also worked as a film producer and screenwriter, and composed music for film and television in the 1950s. In 1963 he returned to Ireland to live at Castle Leslie in County Monaghan, devoting himself to protecting the family estate, today one of Ireland’s finest country-house hotels. Desmond Leslie (1921-2001), The Biography of an Irish Gentleman includes recollections by family members and author Herbie Brennan. Robert O’Byrne portrays the Anglo-Irish during the second half of the twentieth century and offers a wholly engaging case study of Leslie’s propulsive, charismatic personality.



Desmon Leslie wrote 'The Amazing Mr Lutterworth' in 1958

I quite liked this – you can download the book here









One Response to “Desmond Leslie: very cool”

  1. Lubo said

    It’s a very interesting album. I liked it!

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