Space Bug A Boo Boo
1965 Ray Dennis Steckler, the filmmaker who brought into being such
psychotronic wonders as Rat Pfink a Boo Boo and The
Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Died and Became Mixed-Up Zombies
worked on a brief series of short films involvin g a large Bowery Boys
inspired gang he called the Lemon Grove Kids. Steckler's impressions of
Huntz Hall is spot on, but the comic rhythm of the films as a whole
seems more reminiscent of the Monkees than the Bowery Boys. Easily the
most bizarre episode o f the series goes by the title The Lemon
Grove Kids Meet the Green Grasshopper and the Vampire Lady from Outer
Space (1965). This 24 minute celluloid adventure is a trippy little
horror comedy which, though hardly the first example of an alien abdu
ction in film fiction, has a thicket of odd coincidences growing out of
it which should interest UFO-oriented film buffs. First, let's tell the
Lemon Grove Kids get a job of clearing brush from the property of a
gruff fellow named Mr. Miller. One by one the kids are grabbed by a
menacing 4-fingered alien claw till only a few remain. Suddenly a
saucer snaps into existence on the property. Six feet or so across, it
looks like a piece of playground equipment. A big grasshopper, actually
a guy in a thick grade schoolplay-style make-up and fake bug wings up
by his neck, hops out and from out behind slinks the Vampire Lady. The
Grasshopperman point s a finger My-Favorite-Martian-like at Mr. Miller
and he is instantly hypnotized. He zombie-marches up to the Vampire
Lady who bites him the neck. They retire to the house.
played by Steckler, enters the saucer. Hitting a switch the saucer
snaps uncontrollably in and out of existence as he strikes a variety of
unlikely poses on the saucer. Obviously inspired by a bit from Invasion
of the Star Creatures, it mana ges to rise above its source
material to actually be funny. Escaping this peril, Gofer and the
remaining kids sneak into the house by a back window. One takes up
hiding in a suitcase while the others crawl on their bellies seeking
the alien lair. Two more are captured.
lair we see the Vampire Lady and the Grasshopperman have been joined by
plastic-masked assistants, the choopers. The Vampire Lady is going down
on some guy's neck again, but pulls back complaining, "Yuck, it needs
something." The assistant suggests , "some salt perhaps." Salt is
sprinkled and the taste is evidently improved. After the snack is done
the grasshopper informs the man, "And now it is time for us to send you
back to our planet." It taps him with a plastic lawn flower and he
vanishes. Now comes the weird part.
the previously abducted Lemon Grove kids sitting in a row on a long
bench by a wall. They are static and expressionless--in modern
abduction parlance, they have been "switched off." On a table is a guy
laid out with some kind of medical procedure b eing done on him. The
Vampire Lady is trying to stick the rod-like end of an I.V. tube into
his neck. He is semi-conscious and weakly trying to fend off the
procedure. The tube is connected to a large glass watercooler jug and
one can infer they want to d rain him dry. The Grasshopperman is also
trying to do something to the man on the table. It seems like he is
looking for the best place to insert a handle into his body.
comes out of hiding and goes on the offensive. He walks up to the
Vampire Lady and bites her on the neck. An extremely long
scream issues out of her and chaos ensues as the kids snap awake and
they start running in. The assistants also start running about in
confusion. Some kids run into a room which unaccountably has three
witches in it adding to the chaos. Vampire Lady and Grasshopperman slip
out to their saucer and leave. Tickles, the youngest and cuddliest of
the Lemon Grove kids, taps th e rest of the aliens out of existence
with the magic lawn flower. The remainder of the kids escape outside
and run pellmell to safety. Gofer's boss makes a more dignified exit
and stops in relief that the ordeal is over. Only it isn't. gofer
chomps down o n his hand and we see the fangs he has grown. On that
little twist, the film ends.
a bunch of cool weirdness here. To begin with, this abduction story
almost certainly was filmed before the most important true-life
abduction of the era, Betty and Barney Hill's The Interrupted
Journey, was published or publicised. Similarl y, it preceded the
emergence of the Antonio Villas Boas abduction into American UFO lore.
Betty Hill's unanaesthetized medical terror on an alien examination
table, Barney Hill's "switched-off" state, and Villas Boas's
bloodletting clearly parallel what w e see in the Lemon Grove film. Yet
neither could possibly have influenced the other. To term them
coincidences may, in some sense, be proper. There are, after all, also
many differences--there are no grasshoppers or magic flowers in The
Interrupted Jou rney, nor is the Vampire Lady naked or as vampy as
the lady in the Villas Boas tale. Still, it would be silly to try to
argue they are without significance. Probably they hint at shared
common notions about the abilities and character of scary aliens
present in the culture at that time.
more striking and puzzling is a similarity between the Steckler film
and a currently popular case called The Allagash Abductions.
The abductors: "They're like bugs!" Two of the Allagash abductees sit
on a bench built into a wall in a switched- off state bearing a dumb,
expressionless look. One is poked by a pointy thing and then made to
lie on a table as a medical procedure is forced on him involving the
taking of a body fluid--in his case, sperm.
modern abduction cases having more than one abducted, those left
waiting around in a switched-off state are either lying down on other
tables or standing. The Allagash situation of the guys sitting on a
bench was unique and unprecedented. Bug-like ali ens make up less than
10 percent of the population of alien entities. The recurrence of such
a pairing of bug-like aliens to seated switched-off abductees has to
involve odds against randomness that are difficult to shrug off. Was
one of the Allagash guys a Lemon Grove Kid? Jim Weiner, my pick, would
have been 13 in 1965. He's not in the credits admittedly. (Yes, I did
check.) Perhaps he just visited.
is one final coincidence growing out of this film. The first known
entity case in the UFO literature to involve a large alien insect
appeared in 1965, roughly the same time as the Steckler film. The
individual involved was Ted Owens, "the PK Man." B y his account, UFOs
gave him a system to make contact with Space Intelligences. They showed
him a chamber in which stood two small creatures resembling
grasshoppers and insect-like, but standing on two legs. Was Owens
influenced by Steckler's alien Grassh opperman?
instance, I suspect the answer is no. There are aspects of the Owens
story which point to a film made a year earlier, First Men in the
Moon (1964). The Selenites are very reminiscent of grasshoppers
because of the generally long body profil e and insect face. They walk
about on two legs. Owens drew his grasshoppers crouching behind and
over an eye-like oval machine which translated what he said into
symbols and a high frequency found. This is analogous to a film segment
where a Selenite crou ches over and behind a translator that emitted
high-pitched noises. While the translator's appearance consisted of a
hemisphere of quartz-like crystals, the segment also displays an
examination chamber in which an abducted earthling is X-rayed. It
happens to be eye-like in form.
Owens story also includes his encountering the "Higher Intelligence" or
boss of the bug entities. He sees it on a wall screen and it is shadowy
with only its green eyes standing out. The film insectoids also have a
larger-brained ruler who can only be seen iffily behind a wavy
temporal coincidence of Owens and Steckler appearing in the same year
can be reduced to shared ancestry if we can argue that Steckler was
similarly influenced by First Men in the Moon. This is harder
to do for there is no compelling physical re semblance and nothing else
seems borrowed or inspired by it. The evidence is totally
circumstantial. Prior to 1964 there are no known examples of alien
grasshoppers in the cinema. Suddenly, we see two in two years. It would
make sense of things, but a det ermined critic could fairly have doubts.
Lemon Grove Kids could be regarded as yet another demonstration that
some facets of the modern abduction phenomenon have cultural roots.
Those who wish to deny this will have a ready comeback. Maybe Steckler
was, in fact, an unconscious abductee and t he film is a product of
memories buried deep of a real abduction experience. I want to do on
record as saying that is flatly impossible. UFOlogists time and again
have told us that abductees are normal people. Nobody can tell me a
director who makes films like the totally schizophrenic Rat Pfink a
Boo Boo, Incredibly Strange Creatures (filmed in
Hallucinogenic Hypnovision), The Thrill Killers, Wild
Guitar, or The Lemon Grove Kids films is normal.
maybe--but not normal.
*Reprinted with the author's
permission from Talking Pictures, Issue 15, Summer 1996. Talking
Pictures is a filmzine put out by British UFOlogist Nigel Watson.
The address is VALIS Books, 3b Glengarry Road, East Dulwich, SE 22 8PZ,
Great Bri tain.