In 1930 Adamski was teaching his personal mixture of Christianity and Eastern religions, which he called “Universal Progressive Christianity” and “Universal Law”. In the early 1930s, while living in Laguna Beach, Adamski founded the “Royal Order of Tibet”, which held meetings in the “Temple of Scientific Philosophy”. Adamski served as a “philosopher” and the church was given a government license to make wine for “religious purposes” during Prohibition. Adamski was quoted as saying “I made enough wine for all of Southern California … I was making a fortune!” However, the end of Prohibition also marked the decline of his profitable wine-making business and Adamski later told two friends that’s when he “had to get into this [flying] saucer crap.”
In 1949 Adamski began giving his first UFO lectures in Southern California where he made many claims, including the “government and science had established the existence of UFOs two years earlier, via radar tracking of 700-foot-long spacecraft on the other side of the Moon.” He further claimed “science now knows that all planets [in Earth’s solar system] are inhabited” and “photos of Mars taken from the Mount Palomar observatory have proven the canals on Mars are man-made, built by an intelligence far greater than any man’s on earth.”
In 1950, Adamski took a photograph of what he alleged were six unidentified objects in the sky, which appeared to be flying in formation. This same UFO photograph was depicted in an August 1978 commemorative stamp issued by the island nation of Grenada in order to mark the “Year of UFOs.”
In 1952, Adamski and several friends were in the Colorado Desert when they purportedly saw a large submarine-shaped object hovering in the sky. Believing the ship was looking for him, Adamski is said to have left his friends and headed away from the main road. Shortly afterwards, he claimed a scout ship made of a type of translucent metal landed close to him and its pilot, a Venusian called “Orthon”, disembarked and sought him out. Adamski claimed the people with him also saw the Venusian ship, and several of them later stated they could see Adamski meeting someone in the desert, although from a considerable distance.
Adamski said Orthon communicated with him via telepathy and through hand signals. During the conversation, Orthon purportedly warned of the dangers of nuclear war, and Adamski later wrote “the presence of this inhabitant of Venus was like the warm embrace of great love and understanding wisdom.” Adamski claimed Orthon had refused to allow himself to be photographed, and instead, had asked Adamski to provide him with a blank photographic plate, which Adamski claimed he gave Orthon.
Orthon is said to have returned the photographic plate to Adamski later that year and when developed was found to contain strange symbols. It was during this meeting Adamsk is said to have taken a now famous photograph of Orthon’s Venusian scout ship using his 6-inch (150 mm) telescope.
Anglo-Irish eccentric Desmond Leslie struck up a correspondence with Adamski, having written a manuscript about the visitation of Earth by aliens. Adamski sent Leslie a written account of his supposed contact with Orthon and photos. Leslie combined the two works into a co-authored book Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953). The book claimed Nordic aliens from Venus and other planets in Earth’s solar system routinely visited the Earth.
In his 1955 book Inside the Space Ships, Adamski claimed Orthon arranged for him to be taken on a trip to see the Solar System, including the planet Venus, the location where Orthon said the late Mrs. Adamski had been reincarnated. He claimed in another voyage he met the 1,000-year-old “elder philosopher of the space people”, who was called “the Master”. Adamski said he and the Master discussed philosophy, religion, and the “Earth’s place in the universe”. Adamski said he learned that he had been selected by Nordic aliens to bring their message of peace to Earth people, and that other humans throughout history had also served as their messengers, including Jesus Christ. Adamski further claimed aliens were peacefully living on Earth, and he had met with them in bars and restaurants in Southern California.
Adamski’s stories led other people to come forward with their own claims of contact and interplanetary travels with friendly “Space Brothers”, including such figures as Howard Menger, Daniel Fry, George Van Tassel, and Truman Bethurum. Through books, lectures, and conventions – the contactee movement grew throughout the 1950s and Adamski remained the most prominent and influential among them.
In the early-to-mid 1953 USAF Captain Edward J. Ruppelt and head of Project Blue Book, the Air Force group assigned to investigate UFO reports, decided to investigate Adamski’s claims. He traveled to California’s Palomar Mountain and, dressed in civilian attire to avoid attracting attention, attended one of Adamski’s lectures before a large crowd at his Palomar Gardens Cafe.
Ruppelt concluded Adamski was a talented con artist whose UFO stories were designed to make money from his gullible followers and listeners, and compared Adamski to the famed hoaxer, carnival, and circus showman PT Barnum. In describing Adamski’s speaking style, Ruppelt wrote “to look at the man and listen to his story you had an immediate urge to believe him…he was dressed in well-worn, but neat, overalls. He had slightly graying hair and the most honest pair of eyes I’ve ever seen. He spoke softly and naively, almost pathetically, giving the impression that ‘most people think I’m crazy, but honestly, I’m really not.’” According to Ruppelt, Adamski had a persuasive effect on his audience, “you could actually have heard the proverbial pin drop” in the restaurant as Adamski told of his initial 1952 meeting with Orthon. When Adamski finished his story, Ruppelt noted that many of his listeners purchased copies of Adamski’s UFO photos that were on sale in the restaurant. At another lecture led by Adamski and other well-known contactees, Ruppelt wrote that “people shelled out hard cash to hear Adamski’s story.”
According to Ruppelt, Adamski’s UFO lectures and his first two books had made him an affluent man: “[His] hamburger stand is boarded up and he now lives in a big ranch house. He vacations in Mexico and has his own clerical staff. His two books Flying Saucers Have Landed and Inside the Space Ships have sold…200,000 copies and have been translated into every language except Russian.” Adamski remains the most famous contactee of the 1950s, although most investigators have concluded his claims were an elaborate hoax and Adamski himself was a con artist.