I learned with heartfelt sadness that my UFO sky-watching friend and boxing icon Muhammad Ali has passed from this realm to the next. There was no one like him inside or outside of the ring for that matter. He was among the most well-known individuals around the world – a true good will ambassador who attracted crowds like few others could. When he spoke, those around him would listen.
When promoting an upcoming fight he was outrageously bombastic and full of self-praise – he made Donald Trump seem like a little punk left in the schoolyard talking trash to kids much younger than he. In person was a real charmer that crowds would encircle just to be within his aura.
I visited Ali in his New York hotel following one of his UFO sightings, the first that he made public; journeyed to his home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey; and took Uri Geller with me to Ali’s training camp in Pennsylvania where the mothership was waiting nearby. For those who say that UFOs are NOT a part of the Afro-American experience, this is NONSENSE. Ali tied in his sightings with his religious affiliation with the Nation of Islam and believed that the ultimate UFO was a giant wheel in the sky. We will miss him, of course, but we have fond memories and are happy to share them with our community of friends.
No more rope a dope or stinging like a bee, but the Champ is in Heaven as peaceful as can be.
The following is an excerpt from “Shirley MacLaine Meets The Pleiadians, Plus the Amazing Flying Saucer Experiences of Celebrities, Rock Stars and the Rich and Famous” by Timothy Green Beckley.
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Of all the famous folks I’ve spent time with discussing UFOs and theories about extraterrestrial civilizations and life in outer space, no one seems to know more about the subject – at least from a firsthand point of view – than retired heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Thus, Ali deserves an entire chapter for himself.
I’ll never forget the first time I went to visit Ali at his home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I remember thinking to myself, “What a place! This looks more like a Holiday Inn than somebody’s residence.” There was a long, circular driveway paved with massive cobblestones with four or five classic cars parked in front of an adjoining garage that would be any collector’s dream. Ali owned them all! Even here where the wealthy reside, it was hard to believe that few would ever attain the financial plateau reached by their most prominent neighbor. Towering well above six feet, I had first met the most famous prizefighter of all one morning around 5:00 AM as he sprinted along the trail that leads into Manhattan’s Central Park around 80th Street. His long-time friend and trainer, Angelo Dundee, warned me that Ali wanted to talk and jog at the same time, as he was getting into shape to fight then-arch rival Oscar Bonavena.
I looked at my own less-than-perfect physique, wondering whether I could keep up with Ali’s pace, even for a short distance.
As luck had it, Ali didn’t plan on doing any heavy sprinting. After introducing myself and giving Ali a brief rundown on what I wanted this opportunity to speak to him about, we began to trot and chat simultaneously – fortunately at a speed that, though taxing, I could maintain.
The “knockout” king had been working out in the park on previous mornings and had made the news by claiming to have seen not one, but two UFOs moving over New York City. Both in the park and later in his home, Ali would tell the same story to all those willing to listen.
“I happened to look up just before dawn, as I often do while running, and there hovering above us was this brilliant light hanging as if by an invisible thread. At first I thought it was a beacon projected from a helicopter,” Ali explained, “but moments later a similar object passed in front of us.” The second UFO had a glowing red trail behind it.
“I brought it to the attention of my trainer, who was standing nearby. We watched them come from behind the skyline and move slowly across the sky for at least 15 minutes. The best I can describe the sighting is to say they were just round and big.” Ali says he later found out there were other UFO sightings made that same night, “including a report from a pilot about to land at Newark Airport.”
A number of reporters traveling with the Champ jumped on the story and it was picked up by the wire services, though Ali was concerned that these reports made it sound as if the subject were to be treated as a joke. He wanted to let me know right from the starting bell that he was quite serious about what he had seen. “This is no joke. All my friends here saw it.”
Ali added that this was by no means his only encounter with a UFO. “Actually, I’ve seen them many times before. I’ve had 16 sightings total to date,” he said as he headed toward his limousine. I was prepared to bid him goodbye, but he waved me over and said he wouldn’t mind talking further.
“I have a few more stories you’ll definitely find of interest. Why not come over to the hotel and we’ll discuss these things some more.”
When I arrived at his hotel suite sometime later along with Global Communications correspondent Harold Salkin, Ali was trying to relax. He was flat on his stomach talking a mile a minute to a small group that had gathered while at the same time getting a massage and rubdown from one of his personal aides.
Trying to cram as many words and thoughts into each sentence seems to be his method for getting a particular message across.
“Hey, I wanted you to check out these paintings. The champ’s an artist you know.”
Timothy Green Beckley with Muhammad Ali
He motioned to four or five medium-sized canvasses. “I’m quite good, I’ve been told” he went on, rapping to no one in particular but everyone in general. It was easy to see how the public always got the impression that Ali’s a braggart. He is, but it’s all part of the hype that made him the most talked about – and highly-paid – boxer in the annals of prize fighting.
Now he looked directly at me. “I thought you would find this really fascinating,” he remarked. “In my painting, I brush in the number of the round I’m going to win my next bout by. See this one with the number three in it? I did that a few weeks prior to pounding Jerry Quarry into the mat. It happened exactly as I predicted.”
During his career, Ali had long been known for his poetic flights in which he foretold the round his opponent would be knocked out in or otherwise defeated. Some of his divination was accurate; other times . . . well. But his paintings all contained the right round number.
“Remarkable?” One reporter was heard to mumble under his breath that he wasn’t sure our host hadn’t airbrushed the correct round numbers in after his successful ring appearances. (Some people will just never believe, I thought to myself.)
After testing the credibility of the group further, Ali went from predictions and poetry to UFOs. “You know those objects we discussed in the park? I’ve mentioned this to no one before, but they’ve been watching me for some time now!”
“When?” “Where?” “Why?” We all queried at the same moment.
“Many times, in the early morning hours, if you look up in the sky you can see them playing tag between the stars, really high up. I’ve had a good number of sightings myself. The closest one happened when a cigar-shaped ship hovered briefly over a car I was a passenger in one night driving north on the New Jersey Turnpike. What a sight that was. We could see the shadow made by the UFO as it passed over the pavement of the road in the light of the full moon.” His trainer put down the bottle of rubbing alcohol; Ali raised himself on his elbows.
Ali’s voice shifted to a more confidential tone. “I don’t like to talk about this much, but we all seem to be open-minded here. One day, walking through the Florida Everglades, I saw this ship land and, as I watched, a door slid open and a ramp projected itself onto the ground. Out stepped a human-looking figure more than seven feet tall who proceeded to walk down the ramp and stand in front of me.
“‘Muhammad,’ he said, ‘You will beat Sonny Liston in . . .’”
The room filled with laughter. What had sounded at first like it could have been an honest account of an Ali fantasy was really another of Ali’s famous put-ons.
After a last round of stories, Ali excused himself and headed for the shower. “Be sure to call me at home,” he said, grasping my hand, into which he placed a slip of paper with his unlisted phone number. “I just bought a new house and would like to you to see it.”
Three weeks later I called and a soft, feminine voice answered, introducing herself as Mrs. Ali. Muhammad took the phone a few seconds later: “You sure Joe Frazer didn’t tell you to call?” he shouted in jest. All I had to do was mention UFOs, and Ali knew who I was.
“Listen, I’ll be back in around ten days, so come down and bring some photos, slides, films, anything you have on saucers, okay? I’ll even tell you what they are, if you’re interested enough.”
Promising to bring all the material I could carry, we concluded the brief conversation. On the appointed day, I piled everything I could possibly carry into the car, and, with a few friends, headed for southern New Jersey.
Muhammad Ali’s house in Cherry Hill, NJ
We hardly knew what to expect, having read various journalistic descriptions of Muhammad Ali’s new home. Locating the house was a breeze (everyone in Cherry Hill knew where it was located). The house itself was set back a good 500 feet from the road, hidden from the mainstream, but obvious to those looking for Ali’s estate. (I equate it with trying to hide Madison Square Garden on 32nd Street in New York City.) On the edge of the property sat a large mobile house trailer, easily a forty-thousand dollar score. Parked in the drive was Ali’s Rolls Royce, complete with TV and telephone.
Ringing the bell brought no response, and since signs of life in the front section were nil, our entourage hiked through the soft mud to the back entrance. Knocking loudly, we were greeted by a smiling black man who ushered us down into an elaborately set up basement-den-and-work-area.
Here sat the “king‚” gabbing to a roomful of people, mostly teenagers from nearby communities. “Joe Frazer better worry ‘cause when I get finished, he’ll wish he never insulted me.” Ali was using his time-honored trick of turning the truth around to make his opponent look bad.
“Hey, here are my UFO men. What did you bring with you?” he smiled. I explained that we had brought along some motion picture film of flying saucers taken in West Virginia.
“We’ll plug in the projector and let’s see what they look like.” There was never any question in his mind about their being real or not; he’s a stone cold believer. At Ali’s request, we ran the film three times while he pointed out the physical characteristics on these video saucers that were similar or identical to the ones he observed in real life.
When we completed the screening, Ali asked if we could have copies made for him.
“I’d like to show them at my college lectures. UFOs tie in with what my teacher, Elijah Muhammad, says.” To back up his point, he produced a copy of a book, “Message To The Black Man In America.” Thumbing through the clothbound volume, he stopped about midway. Under the heading, “Battle in the Sky is Near,” Ali read us the following passages: “The vision of Ezekiel’s wheel in the sky is true if carefully understood. There is a similar wheel in the sky today which very well answers the description of Ezekiel’s vision. The similar Ezekiel’s wheel is a masterpiece of mechanics. Maybe I should not say the wheel is similar to Ezekiel’s vision, but that Ezekiel’s vision has become a reality.
“The present wheel-shaped plane known as the Mother of Planes is one-half mile by a half mile and is the largest mechanical manmade object in the sky. It is a small human planet made for the purpose of destroying the present world of the enemies of Allah. The cost to build such a plane is staggering! The finest brains were used to build it. It is capable of staying in outer space six to twelve months at a time without coming into the Earth’s gravity. It carries fifteen hundred bombing planes with the deadliest explosives – the type used in bringing up mountains on the Earth. The very same method is to be used in the destruction of the world.
Mother of Planes
“The small circular-made planes called flying saucers, which are so much talked of being seen, could be from this Mother Plane.”
After closing the book, Ali concluded our discussion of UFOs and indicated to the dozen or so persons seated around that it was time to leave. He pulled me aside and asked if I was interested in seeing the rest of the house. “I got it at a real bargain,” he said proudly. “Originally it was priced at $750,000, but I got it for nearly half.” (Just imagine as I write this, years later, how much that house would be worth at today’s inflated prices!)
Walking up the semi-spiral staircase connecting the basement with the first floor, we stepped into the dining area that is built around an outdoor patio, enclosed on all four sides with glass, behind which two frisky dogs romped. I could see Ali’s eyes glow as he pointed out items of interest. “The crystal chandeliers cost me only $25,000. Can you believe that?”
Looking at them, I could.
Escorted out of the dining room, we were then shown his wife’s and children’s personal quarters. “Notice the black velvet wallpaper. I got that at a real buy. Bet you’ve never seen anything like this,” Ali challenged, pointing to gold bathroom textures.
Indeed, I hadn’t and I suspect neither have many other people. Next, the exclusive set of silver and chinaware were brought out and we were allowed to examine it. I could not even guess the cost of something like this. But from the way Muhammad talked about everything. I’m sure he got the best of the deal.
A tour of the grounds surrounding the house completed the inspection, and I bid Ali farewell. My impressions at that point were mostly positive. I felt an affinity for him, for he has a warmth and glow his public image does not convey. I couldn’t wait to get together for Round Two and find out more about Ali’s interest in UFOs.
THE SECOND ROUND
Some time passed before I was to see Ali again, which is to be expected, considering the fact that he was in such demand all over the world as a champion prize fighter, a celebrity and a peacemaker who always felt that, because of his status, he had the opportunity to help mend fences and bring about a better Earth.
He’s one of the few well-recognized figures who is comfortable whether he is speaking with a group of ghetto kids, being interviewed on national television or dining with presidents or kings. Regardless of the circumstances, he has always been permitted to get his message across because he is Muhammad Ali.
Muhammad Ali with Johnny Carson
One of his messages happens to involve UFOs. Ali even went so far one time as to break away from a pre-planned conversation on the Johnny Carson Show to bring up a subject that “The Tonight Show” host seemed to have little interest in discussing.
Our next “confrontation” was at Ali’s training camp high in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania at Dear Lake. This time I went along with an entire entourage, including my old friend Harold Salkin, health writer Herbert Bailey and super psychic Uri Geller.
In addition to finding out more about Ali’s UFO experiences (there were several sightings that had transpired since we last met), Ali expressed interest in meeting the young Israeli sensitive who was said to have the power to bend metal utensils and make objects disappear and reappear upon command.
For the record, Geller put on quite a show that afternoon. I remember him standing in the outside doorway of one of the buildings on the camp site with Ali’s ex-wife, Belinda. Clasping her hand in his, Uri asked her to tell him when she felt anything unusual. After a minute or two, she commented that she felt her ring getting warm. After another minute or two, she commented that she felt her ring getting warmer. After another minute of deep concentration, Geller removed his hand and everyone standing around – particularly Belinda – gasped out loud. Without applying any physical strength that was visible to the naked eye, the stone inside Belinda’s ring had vanished from its setting and was nowhere to be found!
Muhammad Ali and Uri Geller
Hopefully it was not a valuable stone, because I do not recall it ever being returned, like all professional magicians would do as part of their act. Later, Uri was talking with one of Ali’s sparring partners when he asked if he could demonstrate his powers again. He held a very heavy religious medallion that was around the boxer’s neck and, by merely touching it – and without pressing down his hand – Geller made a considerable impression in the medallion with his fingertip. Again everyone was impressed, as there was no “logical explanation” as to how this extraordinary feat was accomplished.
Meanwhile, back in the main house, Muhammad Ali was doing some fancy “trick work” of his very own. It turns out that the champ is a bit of a magician himself and thinks he can do everything Geller can do with sleight of hand. He did accomplish an impressive rope trick where a piece of thick hemp was sliced in two pieces, only to have it tum back into a single length of rope. Apparently some of Ali’s professional magician friends had told Ali that Geller was not “the real thing” and to be leery of what he was able to accomplish.
Be that as it may, once the “magical” interlude part of our visit was out of the way, Ali happily returned to the topic of UFOs, which he seemed genuinely more comfortable with than psychic phenomena.
“Remember how I told you about Elijah Muhammad’s belief in a large mothership circling the Earth? Well, I think this is what I observed recently over my training camp here.”
Prodded into giving additional details, Ali seemed willing to talk about this sighting, which had taken place over a two-night period on a Friday and Saturday during the summer.
“I had been training for three hours in the afternoon, getting ready to do battle with George Foreman. After a light supper, I decided to take a stroll around the grounds. Around 9:00 PM – it had just gotten dark – I walked up a gravel path that runs along back of our log cabin gym.
“The nighttime sky was as picturesque as one of my poems,” he interjected. “The sun had been down for only a short while, and so the sky was still quite light.”
Suddenly, seemingly from out of nowhere, Ali’s eyes caught a glimpse of a bright glowing orb off in the distance. “At first I thought this flicker was the North Star rising in the heavens. However, within moments, I could tell I was watching something out of the ordinary.”
Muhammad Ali claimed to have seen UFOs on several occasions.
Ali went on, talking with unusual candor. “Before I could blink my eyes, this ‘light’ had come down toward the mountains until it hovered right above the valley here. I knew I couldn’t be dreaming. Sure ‘nough, it was still there. This had to be one of those big ships they talk about! The UFO was streamlined and shaped sort of like a cigar, but blunt on both ends. I couldn’t see any windows or anything, but I’m certain there must have been people onboard.”
I asked how he knew it wasn’t a helicopter or an airplane. Ali said that the object acted like no conventional aircraft he was familiar with. “First, it would stand still, and then move about, jumping from one portion of the sky to another. From time to time, it would speed away, up to the far reaches of the heavens, and then, minutes later, it would come down toward us again. It did this numerous times during the two hours I watched it.”
Upon first hearing Ali tell the story, a skeptical individual might suspect he was pulling your leg a bit. But, no, as usual the champ seemed sincere enough. In fact, as usual, he shied away from talking about his experiences unless there was someone around to verify them. This time was no exception. Ali says the nocturnal visitor came back to haunt the skies above his mountaintop retreat at the identical hour the next evening.
“For two more hours, until 11:00, I watched this ‘stranger’ maneuver about. It was really somethin’ to see,” Ali related. With him on the second evening was business manager Gene Kilroy.
“I never paid too much attention to Muhammad when he talked about these things. I chalked it up to a vivid imagination. But I know there was something mighty peculiar happening over the camp that night. I looked up and saw this thing – this UFO – doing acrobatics up among the stars. The sighting changed my previous opinion concerning UFOs,” Kilroy conceded.
During our next – and final – formal meeting, Ali only had a few minutes to spare, as he was flying to the West Coast on a promotional tour. Wiping his brow with a towel – he had just gone four rounds with a hard-slugging sparring partner – Ali said he found it a lot easier to live with UFOs than ever before.
“I always speak my mind, since I found out that so many other people have had similar sightings. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years lecturing to college campuses around the country and I find students are open-minded toward the existence of things like this. I hope others will listen in the future as I’m convinced UFOs are of tremendous importance to the whole world.”