Welcome to the April 2007 round up of news and views on UFOs, alien abductions, crop circles, ghosts, the paranormal, the unexplained, the weird and the wonderful.
The Condign Report
Norman Baker MP asked a question in Parliament in April 2006 about my MoD work on UFOs. In March 2007 he asked another UFO related question. On this occasion his question concerned Project Condign - a highly classified study of the UFO phenomenon sponsored by the Defence Intelligence Staff. The question was as follows: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much was spent producing the report Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defence Region; who the author was; what the author's qualifications in this subject were; to whom the report was circulated; what actions were taken on the recommendations of the report; and if he will make a statement. As I write this, the reply has not been given, so I will pick this up again next month. For those unable to wait, visit the Hansard (the formal record of UK Parliamentary proceedings) website and check the Parliamentary Questions at www.publications.parliament.uk or check the UFO UpDates website at www.virtuallystrange.net where I will post the answer, which should be available by the time you read this.
It has been revealed that in 2001 the Ministry of Defence ran a secret project aimed at recruiting psychics. The official term used was remote viewing, which is sometimes nicknamed psychic spying. But what this amounts to is seeing whether people can use ESP to track down people and items of interest to the government and the military. Both the Pentagon and the CIA previously funded remote viewing programmes aimed at searching for hostages in Beirut, arms dumps, drugs caches and terrorists, as well as attempting to identify the location of Soviet ballistic missile submarines. When I was running the MoD UFO project in the Nineties I was approached by some people who claimed to be able to remote view and I had some speculative discussions about this with colleagues in the Defence Intelligence Staff. But until a recent Freedom of Information Act release, there was no indication that a study was ever commissioned. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request the MoD released the final report that was written, detailing the work. This report was classified Secret UK Eyes Only and ran to 168 pages. Only three copies were ever made. The tests themselves took place in a commercial property, to disguise the fact that this was a government programme. The potential remote viewers were monitored by a sophisticated array of equipment and attempted to ascertain the test targets, images of which were placed in sealed envelopes. While many remote viewers were adjudged not to have accessed the target, some assessments stated that "the subject may have accessed the target" or that the subject "had accessed some of the features associated with the target". The ultimate aim of this study was "the selection of one or more individuals who it is felt can be 'trusted' to be used for the sensitive targets". The "sensitive targets" are not detailed, but based on the CIA project and bearing in mind the date of the MoD study, it would be surprising if the targets did not include Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and Osama Bin Laden. I was asked about the study by the media and carried out a number of TV and radio interviews, including slots on Newsnight and the British Forces Broadcasting Service. Check out the Freedom of Information section of the MOD website to see the report itself, or go directly to www.mod.uk to view it.
Roy Stemman runs a very interesting website called Paranormal Review. It features a wide range of stories on subjects such as psychic powers, reincarnation, ghosts, poltergeists and much more besides. Regularly updated, and with links to the sources it quotes, check out www.paranormalreview.co.uk for all the latest news from the world of the unexplained.
Bermuda Triangle - The True Story
Channel Five recently showed a new documentary on the Bermuda triangle mystery. Entitled Bermuda Triangle - The True Story, the programme was broadcast on 13 March and covered a wide range of material. Inevitably, a large section of the show concentrated on the disappearance of Flight 19, the six US Navy aircraft that disappeared on 5 December 1945. One of the aircraft involved in the search for Flight 19 also disappeared. I was interviewed for this programme and material from my interview was used throughout the show. Channel Five are not afraid to put shows on mysteries and the unexplained on at prime time, and this show follows their programme The British UFO Mystery, which was screened on 1 November 2006 as part of the Stranger Than Fiction series and drew over a million viewers.
Alien Autopsy Inquest
Philip Mantle, formerly Director of Investigations at the British UFO Research Association, has probably done more than anyone else to investigate the so called alien autopsy video. Proof that a UFO crashed at Roswell and that the US government covered it up, or outrageous hoax? You decide. After years of research into this long running controversy, Philip has written a book on the affair. Entitled Alien Autopsy Inquest, the book follows every twist and turn of a story that was covered by the media and was a watershed for ufology. With a cast that includes everyone from Ray Santilli to Ant and Dec, check out www.publishamerica.com for details of how to order the book, or go to Amazon or similar sites.
The Cosford Incident
I have featured the Cosford Incident in previous columns. This is a famous UFO case from 1993 when a UFO flew over the two military bases of RAF Cosford and RAF Shawbury. The British UFO Mystery, the Channel Five documentary that I mentioned earlier, told the fascinating story of this event. I recently wrote about the incident in Beyond Magazine and UFO Data Magazine and a feature article on the case is now available here www.nickpope.net at my website.
UFO Files Contaminated With Asbestos
A number of old Defence Intelligence Staff files are contaminated with asbestos because of the location in which they were stored. This precludes release until such time as they can be safely scanned and made available online. A number of UFO files are involved and this has led to previous adverse comment from conspiracy theorists. In response to a recent question in Parliament, the government provided an update on the position. Essentially, the scanning project was originally expected to finish in July 2007 but has had to be extended by six months, in view of the amount of work involved, which proved significantly greater than first anticipated. Freedom of Information Act requests frustrated by the contamination are being processed in the order they were received, as the relevant files become available. However, as has been the case with several previous UFO files, it may be that some of the information will have to be withheld, as its release might be damaging to national security or international relations.
Helen Duncan - The Blair Witch
Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Tony Blair to grant a posthumous pardon to Helen Duncan, a spiritualist medium who was the last person to be convicted under the Witchcraft Act. Arrested in 1944 she was convicted and sentenced to 9 months in prison. She had come to the attention of the authorities for stating that HMS Barham had been sunk. She made this claim before the Admiralty had announced the loss, which occurred on 25 November 1941 when the battleship was torpedoed with the loss of 841 lives. She claimed she had seen the spirit of one of the dead sailors, but initially it was feared that she might be a spy. Recent posthumous pardons of British soldiers executed for cowardice in the First World War have reinvigorated the campaign to achieve a similar pardon for Helen Duncan. A petition has been started and the media have taken up the story. More on this next month.
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