Science fiction tells us that Martians are little green men, but in the late 1920s, Dr. Hugh Mansfield Robinson, a psychical researcher, disagreed. They weren’t little at all. The women, in fact, were six feet tall, had “sweet faces” and big ears. The men were seven to eight feet tall. They did, however, wear green.
We Earthlings have long had a fascination with Mars. H.G. Wells famously wrote about Martian invaders in his classic 1898 story, The War of the Worlds (and forty years later, radio listeners believed the story was real).
In 1901, Nikola Tesla believed he received three magnetic signals from Mars at his Colorado Observatory. Seven years later, a Johns Hopkins professor, R. W. Wood, hoped to observe life on the red planet with a new mercury telescope.
And in 1926, the aforementioned Dr. Mansfield Robinson began sending a series of messages to Mars, and claimed to have had psychic communications with a Martian woman named Oomaruru.
It was October 27, 1926, when the doctor walked into the central radio office in London and handed them a message to be delivered to Mars. But first he wanted to know the rate for the 42 million-mile journey. Luckily, he got the “long distance ship rate” of 36 cents per word. That brought his grand total to 72 cents, since his message was composed of just two words: “Opestiniptia secomba.” When the station clerk inquired about the language of the message, Dr. Mansfield Robinson replied, “no known language.”
The station received no reply from Mars.
Still, Dr. Mansfield Robinson hadn’t given up on Oomaruru or her fellow Martians. Two years later, the United Press reported that the doctor was taking another shot at reaching his alien friends. And this time, he wasn’t alone. A young scientist, Professor A. M. Low, was another believer.
“I have a friend who says he has been to Mars and who tells me that all Martian women have two thumbs on each hand,” Low told reporters. “He also says they have x-ray telescopic eyes and already know all about the earth.”
Not to be outdone by Low or his mysterious friend, Dr. Mansfield Robinson added that he had a recording of a Martian love song, the national anthem, and the alphabet. All gifts from Oomaruru, delivered through a medium in a trance. Per the October 22 article, the medium “uttered the strangest noises, including wails and groans and hideous laughter.”
The doctor added that his ethereal body had already traveled to Mars at the speed of light. “I traveled holding the hand of the woman in green,” he told the press. They communicated telepathically, and he arranged to send a message within a few days.
Sure enough, on October 24, the United Press reported that he sent two more messages from a radio station at 2:30 am. The first read, “Mar la oi de earth,” which Dr. Robinson translated to, “love to Mars from earth.” This friendly message was suggested telepathically from Oomaruru.
The second message was even shorter: “Com Ga Mar,” which meant, “God is Love.”
Once again, station operators received no reply.
Dr. Mansfield Robinson was surely dismayed. Fortunately, he received some good telepathic advice from Oomaruru: Go to bed.
His wife also had a few things to say on the matter. “I don’t know anything about this Mars affair,” she told reporters. “I have refused to have the experiments conducted in this house while I remain in it. I don’t know whether anyone encouraged my husband, but there will be no more of that foolishness in this house.”
The next day, an Associated Press article offered Dr. Mansfield Robinson’s simple explanation for the failed communication. The 18,700-meter radio wavelength was too short.
“The Martians were very annoyed that the signals could not come to them,” the doctor claimed. “They were sitting up for hours to receive them. They laugh at our scientists because they themselves have got rid of atmospheric troubles altogether, and yet we have not.”
To date, NASA’s Mars Rover has yet to spot any irritated, big-eared Martians.