Welcome to the April 2004 round up of news and views on UFOs, alien abductions, crop circles, ghosts, the paranormal, the unexplained, the weird and the wonderful.
This is absolutely your last call for what promises to be the biggest and best UFO conference for several years. The X-Conference is organised by political activist Stephen Bassett and takes place on 17 and 18 April in Washington DC. Check out www.x-conference.com for details.
Sauniere Society Conference
If you have an interest in the Knights Templar, Freemasons, the Holy Grail or the Spear of Destiny, you may like to check out the Sauniere Society conference being held near Rosslyn, Scotland, from 16 to 19 April. Speakers include Henry Lincoln, Robert Cooper, Professor Helen Nicholson, Dr Robert Feather and Lynn Picknett. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01303 894 999 for further details.
UFO Magazine Closes
UFO Magazine has closed down and the March 2004 issue was the final one to be produced. Certain ufologists and journalists have suggested that the closure of the magazine was a result of poor sales, falling numbers of UFO sightings or declining public interest in ufology. This is not correct. Editor Graham W Birdsall died last September and the decision to close the magazine was taken by his family in the aftermath of this tragic and untimely death. It remains to be seen whether other ufologists will succeed in creating a new national newsstand magazine, as a replacement. There is much talk of this among various groups and researchers, but it is far from certain that anything will come of this, despite the good intentions.
The Glastonbury Symposium 2004 will be held on 23 to 25 July. The focus will be on crop circles, and researchers Andy Thomas, Karen Douglas, Michael Glickman and Steve Alexander will be on hand with all the latest information. But the conference goes beyond crop circles, and other speakers include John Mack, Robert Bauval and Michael Cremo.
Near Death Experiences Study
It is widely reported that around one in ten patients who recover from near fatal heart attacks claim to have had an out of body experience. Images include the archetypal tunnel of light and meetings with relatives who say that it is not time to die. Is this proof that death is not the end, or hallucinations of a dying, oxygen starved brain? A new study will attempt to find the answer to this question. Dr Sam Parnia from Southampton University is teaming up with neuropsychiatrist Dr Peter Fenwick in an attempt to solve perhaps the greatest mystery of all time. The study involves placing objects out of the line of sight of patients. If the objects are seen and identified, it will prove that patients were somehow aware of something that in a literal sense, they should not have been able to see. The aim is to prove that there really is a spirit, soul, or whatever word you care to choose, and to prove that death is not the end of our journey. This is not the first time such experiments have been conducted, but previous studies have been inconclusive.
A major advertising campaign is due to start in late March or early April, and will incorporate an alien abduction plotline. I was contacted by a PR company involved in this campaign and have had some involvement in producing some of the material that will accompany the advertisement. The advertisement itself is funny, and this means it will be controversial with ufologists. Several years ago I was featured on a radio advertisement for One 2 One mobile phones, revolving around the concept that I would like to have a one to one with an alien. I originally suggested to the advertising agency that an alternative option would be having a one to one with Gillian Anderson, but this was rejected. Suffice to say that while UFO witnesses and abductees loved the advertisement, certain ufologists had a sense of humour failure and criticised me for being unduly irreverent. I suspect that a similar controversy will develop over this new advertisement. Those ufologists who criticise would do well to speak to abductees before offering their opinions. In my experience, abductees are considerably more robust about this sort of thing than ufologists. I once attended a lecture given by abduction researcher John E Mack, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In the course of a thoughtful and academic presentation he showed a humorous slide listing ten reasons that might suggest to somebody that they had been abducted by aliens. These included: You went to sleep in Manhattan and woke up in a cornfield in Illinois, and my personal favourite: You just realised that you accumulated thirty billion frequent flyer miles. More on this next month, when the storm breaks.
Cheltenham Festival of Science UFO Debate
I have been asked to debate the UFO phenomenon with Dr David Whitehouse, the BBC News online science editor. The debate will take place at the Cheltenham Festival of Science on 11 June. The festival lasts from 9 to 13 June. Details of events and information on how to order tickets can be found at www.cheltenhamfestivals.co.uk
Alien Abduction Study
As mentioned previously in this column, psychologists at Goldsmiths College, University of London, are carrying out a scientific study into the alien abduction phenomenon. This is the only such study ever to have been carried out in the UK. Although the project has been underway for some weeks, there is still time for people to get involved. Witness confidentiality is guaranteed, and abductees can use a pseudonym if they wish. Abductees and experiencers wishing to take part should contact Julia Santomauro at email@example.com or telephone her on 020 7919 7171, extension 4389.
Nick Pope has written four books. Open Skies, Closed Minds is an overview of the UFO phenomenon with the emphasis on his official Ministry of Defence research and investigation. The Uninvited is an overview of the alien abduction mystery. Operation Thunder Child and Operation Lightning Strike are science fiction novels about alien invasion, incorporating UFO and abduction data. All four titles are available from most good bookshops and all the usual Internet book sites.
Nick Pope has a website, which can be accessed at www.nickpope.net