Psychopathology has offered possible answers to why, from
time to time, people in large quantities "see" strange
things in the sky which manage to evade trained scientific
observers, or conform to what is known about the behavior
of falling or flying bodies. And mass hysteria is by no
means a product of the present century. But—what if these
human foibles were deliberately being exploited?
THE FOURTH INVASION
by Henry Josephs
Dr. Clayton's face was impassive
as a marble mask
when he turned to young
Corelli. For a moment, the little
group stood there in embarrassed
silence in the classroom, shifting
uneasily from one foot to the
other, feigning interest in the
paperweights upon Clayton's
desk, or in the utterly uninspiring
scenes on the sidewalk outside
"You say, Corelli, that you
saw three—er, Martian—ships.
Can you describe them?"
Corelli blinked as he felt the
weight of his colleagues' eyes
boring into him. "I didn't say
they were Martian, sir—only
that they seemed to be unearthly.
And they were not the conventional
acted like saucers skimming
across the water. That's
what made me think they were
genuine. And they didn't seem to
be going fast enough so that I'd
expect to hear a roar like a jet-plane.
"It struck me that this might
not be the way they fly, naturally,
but the way they might fly if the
pilots were having trouble adjusting
the controls to a heavier
atmosphere than they were used
Clayton tapped the tabletop
with his fingers. "What about
you, Marty? Did you see three
Big Gene Marty, football star,
was the least nervous. "Can't be
sure about ships, Doc," he rumbled.
"I did see something
strange disappearing over the
horizon. It—I mean they—might
have been what Tony says;
but whatever it was, there were
three of them. But I saw something
else, because I was looking
in another direction. What I saw
first was a couple of funny-looking
shapes floating down near the
ground. Didn't look like parachutists,
yet they seemed big
enough to be men—or at least,
"Interesting. All right, what
about the rest of you? How many
saw the ships?"
A chorus answered him. "I
see," Clayton mused. "You
all agree on the behavior. And
you all think there were three—not
four—not two. Three?"
It was agreed.
Clayton rustled the pile of
newspapers. "The reports in here
vary. I learn with amazement that
you gentlemen seem to have
missed completely the spurts of
flame that issued from the alien
ships—flame which is reported
to have set a house on fire. And
no one seems to have noticed
that the invaders, in descending,
glided on huge black wings."
Corelli blushed a fiery crimson.
"Dr. Clayton," he protested,
"we aren't making these things
up for popular consumption.
We're just telling you what we
actually saw—that is—what—what—we—saw
Clayton nodded. "Of course.
That is all people were doing
back in 1938 when the Martians
landed in New Jersey, at the
time Orson Welles presented a
radio version of H. G. Wells'
'War of the Worlds'. Or when
the 'Flying Saucer' craze first
started. Or when Fantafilm put
on their big publicity stunt for
the improved 3-D movie, 'The
Outsiders', and people saw the
aliens over Broadway and heard
them address the populace in
weird, booming tones.
"Gentlemen, I am not pleased
to find students of this University
engaging in such unwanted
extra-curricular activity as
inventing interplanetary scares. I
don't think Washington will be
Corelli clicked his heels. "Sir,"
he stated in dignified tones, "I
resent these implications. I assume
they have been directed at
me. At no time have I talked
about this to reporters, or in any
way engaged in what you accuse
me of. If you want my resignation
from this school, you may
"Really? You think that an air
of dignified innocence will undo
the damage done? I am well
aware of your experiments with
the y wave, gentlemen—and it
was on the y wave that the messages
came. You may be interested
to know that the number of
lives lost, the property damage,
the business losses due to the
panic, have not yet been fully determined;
but it makes the hysteria
following the Fantafilm
hoax very small potatoes by comparison.
"You may withdraw now, gentlemen;
this affair will be discussed
at greater length later, regardless
of what the FBI decides.
I had hoped that the main culprit
would try to save unwitting accomplices
from a measure of
grief. That is all."
The seven students left Dr.
Clayton's office in record time.
Professor Elton rapped the
table for silence. "Gentlemen,"
he began, "Dr. Clayton
and I both extend our sincere
apologies." He smiled wanly.
"Of course, that does not exonerate
anyone from the charge of
gullibility. But Harvey Gale's
confession has been fully confirmed
by the FBI, and you—and
this University—have been
cleared. The public knows now
that your testimony helped lead
to the facts in the case.
"To me, the most interesting
feature of this business is the fact
that Gale was able to put over
this hoax, despite the fact that
the public had been taken in
three times before. The Orson
Welles scare rode on a wave of
war-hysteria; the Flying Saucer
craze followed world war; the
Fantafilm hoax came when the
world was still in dread of sudden
bombings. But the Gale
Hoax—what can we call it but
what is loosely known as the continuing
gullibility of human
"We trust that this demonstration
you have just observed will
help you to remember that while
seeing may be believing, it's wise
not to believe until it has been
established just what you saw."
In his private office, Dr. Clayton
leaned forward over his
desk. Or, to be more exact, something
that looked like Dr. Clayton
leaned over the desk. The
face was impassive as marble,
but, from out a slit in his chest,
a pair of black antennae-like feelers
were vibrating into a framed
picture on the wall, from which
the picture had been slid aside.
"Landing safely effected. Brief
panic when several Terrestrials
sighted ships; all clear now. Full
report, containing details on latest
successful persuasion of
Earthlings that Martians or other
aliens are imaginary, will follow."
From the speaker beneath the
desk came sounds of gasps, heavy
breathing, then shuffling footsteps.
Clayton pushed the picture
back into place, then took off the
skin-painted vest he wore, with
the flat box on its inside. He
snapped a switch on the side of
"There; now they can't hear—if
any are still hanging around."
Professor Elton looked at him
bewilderedly. "I don't get it.
After all the risk we went to, to
convince the public that there
ain't no ghosts—as the old saying
goes—you arrange to have
students hear you going into a
'report to the home planet' act.
And you use a code they all
know. What's the point in undoing
Clayton nodded. "It looks
somewhat mad, doesn't it? Well ... the
Psychology Team was
sure of the necessity. You see,
more and more humans remain
unconvinced each time one of
these hoaxes are exposed. The
unconvinced are sure that something
fiendish is going on beneath
the surface, that the authorities—all
kinds from civil to
scientific—are engaged in a vast
cover-up. We can't prevent this
belief; we don't know how to
keep it from spreading. So—the
alternative is to direct it."
Elton nodded slowly. "I can
see possibilities along that line—but
just what direction was
this supposed to kind of bring
"Why, obviously, if large-scale
invasion from Mars is imminent—and
this is the belief that
we're all catering to—then it
follows that the invasion hasn't
already taken place. The two of
us, and Harvey Gale, will disappear
shortly in one way or another,
and gradually public cries
for effective planetary defense
"You know who will direct