Show Notes, Peter Robbins, 23.

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Martin Willis: I’m with Peter Robbins and we’re at the Experiencers Speak Conference in Gorham, Maine,  September 8th. How are you doing, Peter?


Peter Robbins: Good. Good to be with you.


Martin: Yes, thank you. I just heard you up there on the podium and you did an excellent job.


Peter: Thank you. I appreciate that.


Martin: It was wonderful. You been doing this a while.


Peter: I have. I’ve been making part of my living as a public speaker for, oh, 25 odd years, I guess.


Martin: And, can you explain how – well, first of all there’s a number of things I want to touch on, and one of them is Rendlesham Forest. Can you explain how you got interested in the phenomenon, to begin with?


Peter: Oh, I’d be glad to. I got interested, literally, in the course of an afternoon with the return of what may well be my only repressed memory of childhood, which was a very dramatically clear multiple UFO sighting with one of my sisters from the property of our home growing up on Long Island, and I say dramatic in that it was 5 silvery–white disc–shaped objects in a very precise V–type formation. They were not shiny. They, more, were like brushed metal, and they were close enough to make out regular detailing around each edge that we could only interpret the way you’d see windows on an airliner, at a distance. How big they were I can’t say. If they were 10,000 feet up they were X size. If they were 5,000 feet up they were Y, but –


Martin: And this is broad daylight.


Peter: It was. It was in the early 60s, not a cloud in the sky. I was a very – I was 14. My sister was 12.


Martin: Where was this?


Peter: Rockville Centre, Long Island, a bedroom community of Manhattan about 30 miles east of the city, and I had a, I would have to say, a very happy childhood.


Martin: Until then.


Peter: Well, it was very troubling because what informed my emotions, at the time, was I had, without saying anything, been brought up to understand that the adult implied message about this phenomena was true, namely, that UFOs are real in the movies, and fairly bad ones, too, and I had so many other interests. I wasn’t interested in the subject at all as a kid. I was in – wasn’t interested in science fiction, really. I was interested in nature and rocks and bugs and building things and collecting stamps and real Leave It To Beaver stuff. We were playing on the front lawn of the house and looked up in time to see these things come in at a very high rate of speed and then just stop. I think what was most troubling, to me, was I understood, intuitively, the tremendous ridicule factor involved, and, as a junior high school student in the throes of adolescence, all I really wanted, as I said, was to get some cooler clothes, to be accepted by kids that I wanted to be accepted by and to get my hands on a girl, and you know how girls are. You tell one of them one thing and they all know, and I’m only half–joking with you. I really felt that if I talked about this to my friends they’d see me as just a weird–ball kid, and I – so I found a way to put it out of my mind.


Martin: Now, were there any other witnesses besides your sister?


Peter: If there were I don’t know. One of the things that I did when I got involved in the research was I went to the newspaper morgue for Newsday, which the big Long Island paper that we grew up with, and, based on the date that I thought it had occurred, I went 6 months in each direction and I looked at all the microfiche. It was the old analog stuff. I couldn’t find anything, but the more I do this work the more I realize, because, again, of the ridicule factor, why should I call the paper? Why should I call the cops? I saw a flying saucer. Give me a break, so a huge number of reports, especially back then, went unreported, and if there were other people that saw it I don’t know about that. I know it was a very quiet, late morning in our suburban area, and nobody was around, and  that memory got a lid on it and 15 years later, almost, 14 and a half years later that memory came roaring back, and, I have to tell you, it was very upsetting for me.


Martin: Do you mean you suppressed the memory?


Peter: I mean that’s what I must have done. I didn’t understand what I was doing, but I knew that I didn’t want to see what I thought this might be so badly that that afternoon I, for the first time in the last time in my life, I went to our village library and I took out books on this subject, and in the 60s there were quite a lot of UFO books in libraries. Interestingly, in the 70s a lot of libraries dumped their UFO books or most of them in UF – in book sales because libraries felt the sting of ridicule. You got books on flying saucers. How serious is your library?


Martin: I think the government was behind that.


Peter: I don’t know, but I know that –


Martin: That was a joke.


Peter: Yeah, well, right. Who knows? The fact is, though, that all I wanted to know was that these things were explainable in conventional terms. I pulled them off the shelf ’cause they both had flying saucers in the title, took them home, went up to my room, closed the door. They were both awful in terms of saying they’re from Venus. No, they’re from Mars. Brought them back to the library the next day and forgot about them.


Martin: Can I interrupt you just a second?


Peter: Yes, you can.


Martin: So you’re, at that point, even as young as you were, you were thinking more of an academic, scientific nature of looking into this.


Peter: I just wanted to know that they were something I could wrap my head around. The idea of being machines from parts unknown by other intelligences was beyond unsettling, to me. It was very upsetting to me. I was living in my own cheerful little world and this was not part of it, and, again, I was 14. I was being informed, primarily, by my hormones, and wanting to be a kid, like all of us do, that fit in, and, again, I’m only half–joking. I really felt that I’d been seen as such an eccentric that I’d never have a girlfriend if people associated me with this subject.


Martin: Sure, you can imagine how it would get around the school.


Peter: Yes.


Martin: Very fast. Wildfire.


Peter: And, very interestingly, when the memory returned it did it in the course of an afternoon. I can tell you why I think it returned that afternoon. It’s, sort of, a moot point, but I ended up calling my sister on the phone, ’cause I knew she’d confirm it for me, or not, and I was really upset that I could have put this out of my mind. I had never heard of repressed memory syndrome. I don’t know if the terminology was used in the mental health professional in the mid-70s, but, if not, the phenomena was, certainly, known, but I couldn’t believe – how could I forget this? And I had, completely, and then it came roaring back, and, by the time I called my sister, I had thought it out enough to say, when I finally got her on the phone, I remembered something that happened to us when we were kids and I need to know if you remember, but I’m concerned that if I tell you what I remember you’ll say yes or no, so what I’m going to try to do here is set the scene, and I began to tell her where we were standing on the front lawn, about how far apart, what the weather was like, about how old we were, and she stopped me in the middle of a sentence and said: stop. I know what you’re talking about, and then, essentially, described to me what I remembered, and that was a strange moment of both elation and anxiety of, oh, my God, they’re real, and, oh, my God, they’re real, and then she said: but there’s more, and you’re not going to like it, and it led to her describing to me her memories of what we would now call archetypical abduction experience.


Martin: That particular day.


Peter: Yeah, right then coming out of that conversation, and my first question to her is: how come we never talked about this? And she had never forgotten it, not one day. She had never forgotten it. She said: very simple. You remember that afternoon I came up to you and I said: do you want to talk about this? And you said: no! You’re my older brother. I love you. I respect you. One week led to the next month led to the next year and here we are, but I never forgot it, and there’s more, and you’re not going to like it, and then she told me, again, what, now, I would say a story – a variation that I’ve heard a thousand times, part of an archetypical abduction experience, series of memories, almost word for word, then I just became extremely upset and I had a moment, and I’ll categorize it as a moment, where I thought to myself: oh, my God. My sister’s gone crazy, and then I caught myself and I said: ah, but three seconds before that it was perfectly okay to have 5 flying saucers with little windows on them hanging over the Parkers’s House across the street in a precise military formation, and, as we talked more, my life simply changed, and the career that I had worked so hard for, the dream I had had as a young child, ’cause I knew what I wanted to be as a 5–year–old as a very gifted visual artist and my parents sacrificed to give me oil painting lessons when I was 8 years old. I graduated from, I think, the greatest art school in America. I went on faculty there as a painting instructor 3 years later.


Martin: Really? Wow! That’s impressive.


Peter: I was showing my work in New York by the time I was in my late 20s. I was living my dream, and I knew it, and I resented the fact that something had, in a moment, superimposed itself on my life that was so much more, for me, significant, important. I was a – I became obsessed with the subject, overnight. That’s – there’s no other way to say it, and it affected my art dramatically, so much so that I had – about 3 months before I had a visit from an up and coming art dealer who, within a few years, became one of the most powerful, wealthy, successful, influential art dealers in New York City, and I’ll go on the record with it, and some of your listeners, ultimately, may know who this is. Her name was, and still is, Mary Boone.  Mary was a smart woman, sharp as a tack with a great eye for art, and I knew, even then, that I really wanted to be represented by this young woman. She was showing out of her home, and she –


Martin: Out of her home?


Peter: Well, originally, yeah, and she liked my work well enough, what she had seen 3 months earlier, that we made an appointment for her to come back, and now she comes back, about 3 months after this revelation has hit me, and all I know is I’m almost like – if I was a writer it would be the equivalent of automatic writing. I’m doing page after page after page of elliptical shapes and then drawings of disc– shaped objects and then, almost, fake schematic drawings of flying saucers, and then back to ellipses. It must have looked like I went out of my mind. I think about Richard Dreyfus and the mountain of potatoes.


Martin: I was just thinking that, yes.


Peter: I was obsessed, and all I knew was: oh, she came in. Oh, hi, Mary. Here’s my new work, and as she started to look at it it hit me. I mean, she was really – it, obviously, made her very anxious and appropriately so, and I realized: God, I can’t even talk about this, and I put this poor woman on the spot. I should have just cancelled this appointment. I’m so locked in to my own crazy little world right now on this, and it’s a way of trying to just manifest what happened to my sister. What’s this thing all about? I was, literally, in the throes of obsession, and she made it clear to me, as nice as she could, and she’s a very nice woman, that she didn’t know what was going on with my work. Something had happened that had taken it off of the course that she was interested in seeing, and she wished me well, and that was that.


Martin: Now, did you do abstract work before that?


Peter: I did. I was actually doing an interesting, I think, an interesting combination of very stark modern, kind of, conceptual sculptures and drawings and wash drawings and sketches that were informed by political thinking and ancient sites and I wasn’t interested in UFOs, but I remember I had done a lithograph sometime before that, a very simple one, of The Great Pyramid with just, sort of, a hand written caption under it. Was The Great Pyramid a radio receiver? And then a beautiful schematic drawing of Stonehenge in graphite, and, above it, the Chinese, at the time, manufactured these beautiful silk portraits of Marx, Engels, Mao, all the great Communist leaders, and you could buy them at the Chinese stores in New York for a couple of bucks, and I had a beautiful one of Stalin, one of the worse people in the history of the world, and it was black and white and grey silk, and I had glued it on this beautiful rectangle above the picture that I had drawn in graphite of Stonehenge, and then, with, like, a red grease crayon, I had just drawn a slash through the picture of Stalin. It had a great dynamic to it.


Martin: So it’s conceptual work is what you’re –


Peter: Well, yeah, and I was doing wash drawings of fragments of Mayan pottery, and Chinese pen drawings of fragments of Tibetan watercolors. I loved the esoteric. I was looking for dynamic compositions within a rectangle. I was trying to show I was a sophisticated, grown–up, New York artist. I mean, I – just playing the game and taking myself very seriously, and, all of a sudden, my trolley jumped the tracks, and this afternoon happened and I though: my God, I’m lost. This – my sense was, and I – if Mary is listening or ever hears this –


Martin: I’ll email her a clip.


Peter: Well, all I can say is she went on to become one of the most dynamic, important, influential, and successful art dealers in modern times in New York, and, even though I had no part in it, I was very proud of her at a distance, and I wished I could have been part of it, but, and I always understood her reaction and I thought she handled her anxiety, for me as well as the awkwardness of the moment, with a great deal of class and consideration, but, at that point, I realized I needed this to hold onto, and I continued to paint and draw and show my work, to a degree, for another 6 years. I continued to teach, also, but the heart had gone out of it, for me, and I was more and more studying UFOs and learning about them and reading about them and, ultimately, reaching out and making contact with the few people in the field ’cause for the first year I didn’t want to meet anybody that was doing this work. They had to be crazy.


Martin: Well, can I just stop you, for a second, here?


Peter: Sure.


Martin: We’re talking back in a time, you know, everyone is so used to the internet, and we’re talking back in a time where it was books. Books and conferences, and that’s it –


Peter: Yep, that’s right.


Martin: – so, when did you first go to your – the initial conference?


Peter: Ah, well, my awareness happened, fully formed, in February of ’75, in part, I think, because I – my mind was ready to deal with it, in part because I had not slept very well for the previous few days had been Chinese New Years, and there’s just fireworks for 72 hours. Also, not long before that my father’s mother, who lived on Lexington Avenue and 27th Street, gave me something very special as a young artist, in my 20s. She gave me several dozen drawings that she had saved, of mine, from childhood. Now, that’s something all parents do, now, but they didn’t back then, and some of the drawings were done right in that time period, nothing to do with UFOs, but drawings that I had done at about that time, and I had gone through them very recently, and, I think, the combination of not sleeping well – I had done a human potential workshop, too, that had opened me up a little bit. The drawings, and just the right time it came up, and within 2 years I was a faculty member at the school of visual arts. The next year I met Budd Hopkins, who went on to become such a dear friend and close colleague. In 1977 I had an idea to do a presentation on UFOs. I was, now, very knowledgeable. I had been in it for a year and a half, and The School Of Visual Arts, like many schools, was always open, maybe more than most schools, to “interesting speakers,” and I thought: gee, I’ve got my new friend, Budd, who’s also a painter, who’s into this stuff.


Martin: Budd was a painter. I was going – is that –


Peter: Oh, he – right through his whole life. You’ll find out about it in my talk. He was a – an abstract expressionist, to start with, and then he –


Martin: Oh, I think I knew that. I knew that, yeah. Now –


Peter: Yeah, very fine painter and he never stopped.


Martin: I was going to ask you when you – how you got to meet Budd, initially.


Peter: Well, about a year after I got involved I was surprised to see that The Village Voice, a weekly newspaper in New York, kind of liberal paper, that they had a front page article, as I recall, on a UFO case. I thought: woah, bought the paper. Well, it was not only an investigation of the case, it was about the best written, most down–to–earth start–to–finish investigation of any case I had ever come on, and it involved a case that, I think, the following year the big organization MUFON declared as the case of the year involving a witnessed landing, a multiply–witnessed event in New Jersey, and the guy who it happened to owned a store on West 16th street, where Budd lived, and they were acquaintances, and Budd wrote this article, and I was amazed at what a great article it was and I wanted to meet this guy, and I think I had either been to a show of his, or something. I mean, you’re a serious, young New York artist you try to learn who everybody is on the scene, and Budd, with two ds, Hopkins – there was only one in the New York City phone book and I took a chance, and I, basically, cold called him, and said: hi, I’m a painter. I’m interested in UFOs. My sister and I had a sighting when we were kids. My sister had an experience, at least one, and we talked on the phone, and a few days – he invited me over for coffee a few days hence, and I went over and we spent the afternoon together, and it was, I mean, I think back – we sat at his kitchen table and I could have never imagined that 35 years later we’d probably be having our 800th conversation at that kitchen table, and, so that’s how I met him and that was – he had just been into it less than a year. It was was 5 years before he published his first book, Missing Time, and after that book came out, well, he became Budd Hopkins, the well–known UFO researcher, and he, always, was a painter. He’s a wonderful painter, but the New York City art world is an unforgiving mistress, and I am as sure as I can be that there were many people that looked down their nose at him and thought the less of him for getting off on this quirky, silly little tangent, but he never stopped painting, and his paintings are wonderful, and a wonderful part of his legacy, as well as his written work and his scholarship and pioneering investigation into the UFO phenomena, but that’s how we met, but, to answer your question, in 1977 he and I, together, did our very first UFO presentations in tandem on the stage of The School Of Visual Arts on their 23rd Street building, and, then, I think I spoke at my first conference in 1981 in Albany New York, and the thing I remember most about that was, first, how special and exciting it was to be a speaker at a conference, and that, whatever the Albany newspaper was that was covering it, on the Saturday they came around and asked for comments from the speakers, and I thought: this is too cool, and I had worked out, in my mind, something like: look around you. You see all kinds of professionals. It was sponsored by the organization that was started by this New York City police officer, so there were a lot of cops there, so you have a lot of police officers, you have some doctors, I know, teachers, there’s attorneys. There’s lots of well-educated, real–world people here who have a very serious interest in this subject, and, I guess, what I’m trying to say is we’re not just a bunch of goofballs that wrap our bodies in aluminum foil to keep out the gamma rays. He thought that was very funny, thanked me, and walked away. I think you see the slow car crash coming, and the next day it was Sunday and, you know, it’s The Features Section on Sunday, and, of course, all I want to see is my name in print and I go down the column and it’s like: Peter Robbins, New York artist and conference speaker says: we’re not just a bunch of guys who wrap our bodies in aluminum foil to keep out the gamma rays – end quote, and I thought: hm, very interesting, grasshopper. What’s the lesson, here? So –


Martin: And that’s all they wrote, right?


Peter: That’s all they wrote. Got me good – yeah, I don’t make it that easy for them, now.


Martin: That’s a riot.


Peter: Yeah, it wasn’t at the time, but it is, now.


Martin: Wow, so we have, like, 10 minutes, or so, to go, here, and I wanted to talk about your book. Is it Left At East Gate?


Peter: Left At East Gate, a first-hand account of the Rendlesham Forest UFO incident, it’s cover–up, and investigation, something I’m tremendously proud of that took almost 10 years to write, took every bit of money that I had saved, that I had made, essentially, put me into undeclared bankruptcy, my co– author the same thing. It became another matter of obsession. I just knew we had to finish this important book about what is now regarded, without question, as England’s best known, and maybe more important, best documented UFO incident, and that book, which was terribly handled by a almost, I’ll call him, felonous publisher. They did a number on us, but the English publisher, a very small press, but they – that book became a major bestseller in the United Kingdom and it changed our lives, and, I think, very – without question it changed the way that the British, many British people, think about the subject of UFOs, in general, and this case, in specific, and I know that Tony Blair, certainly, had a copy. Whether or not he read it I don’t know. The former Chief Of Staff Of The Ministry Of Defence, a former admiral of the fleet, and when we knew him Sir Lord Peter Hill–Norton was a member of Parliament, and he went out on the floor of The House Of Lords with his hardcover copy in hand, and, basically, went in the face of the then Secretary For Defence, and asked him a series of questions out of our book, and it’s all in the daily record of Parliament, which I’m very proud of. That happened in ’97. The book was republished in 2005 in an expanded edition, and it documents my co–author’s involvement, and the ramifications of that involvement, in being an eyewitness to one of a series of events that constitute the so–called incident that took place over 3 nights, consecutive nights, between Christmas and New Year’s in December of 1980, and Larry left the service with an honorable discharge sometime after that, and then, 2 years later, went on to become not a, but the, whistleblower on the case and caught holy hell and 31 and a half years later is still taking heat and static and attacks from people for having the courage to do something extraordinary.


Martin: It was just a lighthouse.


Peter: Yeah, right.


Martin: Now I know.


Peter: It was a lighthouse. It was a fertilizer truck on fire. It was troops smoking reefer in the woods when they’re supposed to be guarding nuclear ordnance. It was so many things.


Martin: Yeah, so, in that case Jim Penniston touched it, but, also, didn’t he come up with some type of algorithms, or something, in his mind that he later attributed to the experience?


Peter: Well, you’re talking – remember, we’re talking about a series of events and incidents over 3 nights, everything from sightings to landings to appearances, etcetera. On the first night, among other things, two law enforcement personnel saw a light go down in the woods, radioed in for permission to investigate, and that was John Burroughs and Jim Penniston, and they came upon a craft of undetermined origin, not terribly large, just gently floating through the woods, as I understand, at about chest height, and, at one point, Jim touched it, and now says that when he touched it a binary code –


Martin: Oh, that’s what it was: a binary code.


Peter: – downloaded into his head, and that, in December of 2010 at the conference that we had created to mark the 30th anniversary, where he and John spoke, I spoke, my co–author spoke briefly, Linda Howe, who they were working with, at the time, spoke, and Nick Pope, formerly of the Ministry Of Defence, came in on the question and answer period, but, at that conference, Jim went from saying: it’s my, in so many words, it’s my stated belief that it was time travelers that were responsible for this to saying: when I touched it this binary code downloaded into my head, and initial translations are that this was time travelers from our future, and the audience went very emotional. How could you have not made this public for all these years, and what was it? Well, I wish I could tell you, but I’m on a non–disclosure agreement with Prometheus Productions, which we’re here working on a documentary, and that documentary came out and the truth was not revealed and Jim and John have made it clear, to all of us, that they’re working on a book about this, now, and I look forward to seeing the evidence to establish that this was time travelers from our future, but this is the tip of – the newest tip of the iceberg, so to say.


Martin: Yeah, is there other new things you can touch on that have come to light?


Peter: Well, the former Deputy Base Commander, who went into this as a skeptic, but then was told that they were back and went out into the woods –


Martin: Halt.


Peter: Yes, Colonel Halt, with a number of men and his own tape recorder, recorded their reactions as they watched a unknown come in very close over them and shine down a beam of light to their feet, and, what I now know, that I learned in June through Gary Heseltine. Gary is a respected British UFO investigator who also happens to be finishing a long and distinguished career as a serving British police detective in Yorkshire, and has, certainly, earned his retirement, and is getting married later this month, and we all wish Gary the best, but Gary has been working on a screen treatment, a screenplay, on Rendlesham, working with Charles Halt from his point of view, and what, kind of, shocked me was learning, in June, that Charles Halt and his men, who observed the light coming in that later manifested itself as a craft on the ground that Larry and the men he was with were ordered to surround, was actually, at one point walked around the far end of the field that Larry was in, came into a second farmer’s field, came around the other side to the beginning of a stand of trees that comes out into the field called Capel Green, where Larry Warren my co–author’s event took place, and, by my reckoning, would have been in a position to observe, if the time frame were right, what was going on there with these other men, and when Gary asked him what happened next, what he saw, what he remembered, his response was: that’s the funny thing. I don’t remember, which I found absolutely shocking. Now, for a lay listener that might sound like somebody making believe they don’t remember or that the government made you forget, or something like that, but in events where there is an intercession, so to say, with these other intelligences the reactions of people who are having a profound sighting, or an experience, or an abduction, or what have you, and I don’t claim to know what happened, but your reactions can be so antithetical to the reason – to the reasoning of the seriousness of the moment of – gee, how lovely the flowers look, or, gosh, I’m tired. I think I’ll take a nap. No joke, these are – or, gosh, I wonder what’s on TV, and something just shuts down in your brain, and for them, having just had this beam of light shine down to the ground as this unknown comes over them, we can only imagine the adrenaline dump, or what have you, at that moment, to now know that that is what he says, for me, in a way, gives me a certain amount of extra compassion for former Colonel Halt, retired Colonel Halt, because he may be struggling with a lot more of memory or not memory or not wanting to talk about things that he is not in control of, so to say, and, again, this is the tip of the iceberg. This incident has spawned a tremendous amount of controversy, a number of books, thousands of pages of articles and monographs, ever so many documentaries, and it’s 31 and a half year later, now, and it is still hitting the fan. It is still ongoing. I gave a talk, 6 weeks ago, in Phoenix and one slightly before that in Sedona, Arizona on updates on this case. The month before that I spoke at a conference right back on location in Woodbridge, Suffolk, England on updates on the case. The personalities – it is such an important event, and there’s so much real evidence for it. If our Congress ever had the courage – they don’t have the courage of anything, right now, overall, but if they ever had the courage to look into UFOs this could be the case that could crack it open. Obviously, it’s not going to happen, certainly not in this incarnation of reality we’re in, right now, but it’s a terribly important case and I’m really proud of our book and the hard work we put into it, and –


Martin: Now, did Nick Pope help out with any part of it?


Peter: Nick was – he was very supportive of my efforts. We hadn’t met until, literally, the week that the book came out. Larry and I had come over to England for a month to do what amounted to close to a 15–city speaking tour, and I had made a positive acquaintance of Nick in his role in the Ministry Of Defense, and he had just been very supportive and wishing us well on our project, and when it was in galleys I sent them to him. I was hoping that because he is an important, distinguished personage in this that he’d write us up a blurb, and he liked the book very much and he wrote us a great statement that I really appreciated, and for years, when he lived in London, I’d often stay with him on follow–up trips. He’s now married to an American woman. We all wish Nick well and he, now, is a resident of southern California and Arizona, depending on the time of year, on a new part of his life, yes.


Martin: Wow, I didn’t know that.


Peter: Yeah.


Martin: Well, hey, this has been absolutely fantastic. We’re out of time, and I really, really enjoyed speaking with you, today.


Peter: Well, a real pleasure and so good to connect up with you at this conference and, earlier, on the phone, and I’d be happy to return at any point in the future and pick up on the UFO topic, in general, or talk a bit more about Rendlesham, and, again, all the best with the podcast and I am fascinated by this and, wow! I know you’re going to be a major player in this as we move forward.


Martin: Well, thank you very much. Okay, so this is Martin Willis with Peter Robbins and that’s it for now.


The End

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