Welcome to the February/March 2014 Weird World column and the latest round-up of news and views on the unexplained, conspiracy theories, the weird and the wonderful.
Special One-Off Talk on the UK Government's UFO Project
Having emigrated to America two years ago, I haven't seen much of the UK recently, and tend only to come back for brief trips to film for TV shows. I haven't spoken at a UK conference for a while and to redress this situation I'll be giving a special, one-off talk at the Maltings Theatre & Cinema in Berwick-Upon-Tweed on Thursday 3 April 2014. The talk will start at 7.30 pm and will last for approximately two and a half hours, but there will be an interval where people can socialise at the bar! I'll be talking mainly about UFOs, and topics will include the inner workings of the Ministry of Defence's UFO project (where I worked), and the recently-completed release of the UK Government's UFO files, with insights into what's been released - and what hasn't. I'll also be covering the UK's best-known UFO sighting - the Rendlesham Forest incident - and dipping into the real-life X-Files to highlight some other intriguing cases. I'll also touch on crop circles and alien abductions, and address the issue of whether or not there's a government cover-up on UFOs. Finally, I'll be reviewing the scientific search for extraterrestrial life, examining just how close we might be getting to discovering ET - and asking what happens when we do! After the interval, there'll be an interactive Q&A session where the audience can quiz me about my government work on this subject, and share their own thoughts and experiences. Click on www.maltingsberwick.co.uk for details of this talk - I hope to see some of you there!
Encounter in Rendlesham Forest
Encounter in Rendlesham Forest, the book that John Burroughs, Jim Penniston and I have written on the Rendlesham Forest incident, will be published on 22 April 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of the US publishing giant St. Martin's Press. The deal was struck last year by the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency, after lengthy negotiations with a number of US and UK publishers, and we all felt that signing with a major US publisher was the best way forward, not least because we all live in America. John Burroughs and Jim Penniston are the two former United States Air Force witnesses at the heart of the Rendlesham Forest incident, and while previous books and TV shows have contained much information about the UFO case that many regard as being bigger than Roswell, this is the first time that the two people most centrally involved have revealed the full facts about what happened at the twin bases of Bentwaters and Woodbridge, over a series of three nights in December 1980. The full story of what happened, and the subsequent attempts to cover up the truth, will shock a lot of people. Click on www.andrewlownie.co.uk for further details of this forthcoming book, which is now available to pre-order on Amazon in the US, the UK, and Canada; via the Barnes & Noble website, and on a wide range of other book-related sites. Expect to see mainstream media coverage of this story in the run-up to publication.
In my previous column I wrote about Comet Ison, which had been tipped by some astronomers to be the "comet of the century". I highlighted how some people in the UFO and conspiracy theory communities were excited about the comet, and were implying (often without being specific) that there was something special, or unusual about it. This was worrying, because in 1997 similar theories about Comet Hale-Bopp led to the deaths of 39 people in the Heaven's Gate cult, who committed suicide in the belief that they'd be reborn on an alien spaceship hiding behind the comet. As it turned out, Comet Ison was something of a damp squib, and disintegrated after its closest encounter with the sun. While this was disappointing for astronomers, it silenced those people in the alternative belief community who were getting a little over-excited about this story. And maybe, just maybe, this prevented another Heaven's Gate style tragedy.
One of a number of new UFO-related series that launched recently is Close Encounters, airing on Discovery Canada, but doubtless available elsewhere in the world - if not now, soon. I haven't caught any of the shows yet, but flew to Toronto to film an interview last year and appear in at least one of the episodes, talking about the Rendlesham Forest incident. Other people interviewed for the series include investigative journalist Leslie Kean and former US Army officer Kevin Randle. The series tackles a wide range of UFO sightings, some well-known, others less well-known, and uses eyewitness interviews, expert testimony and high quality recreations to tell the various stories featured. Click on www.discovery.ca for details of the show.
What Planet Am I On?
In my last Weird World column I gave details of a number of new TV shows on UFOs, including a six-part History Channel series called Shaun Ryder on UFOs. The series saw the Happy Mondays rock star travel around the world looking for evidence and meeting witnesses, not least to try to help him come to terms with his own UFO sighting. I featured in the show and gave Shaun a tour of the National Archives and a briefing on the inner workings of the MoD's UFO project. What I didn't realise at the time, was that this meeting would be the subject of an entire chapter in Shaun's new book, What Planet Am I On? The chapter is called Meeting the Pope and the book is available from Amazon and all the usual book outlets.
Issue 2 of the exciting new digital magazine, UFO Today, was published on 3 February 2014. Released by Dead Good Publishing Ltd, who publish a range of paranormal, horror and gore titles, including Haunted and After Dark, this new online title is edited by author and researcher Philip Mantle, who has long been one of the mainstays of the UK UFO scene. With features, articles and columns from a wide range of UK and international writers, this new title is a welcome addition to the scene, given the current lack of good quality UFO magazines. UFO Today also features photos and letters from readers, who have the chance to share their own stories and experiences in the magazine. Go to www.ufotoday.net for details of the magazine and how to order it. The premiere issue featured the longest, most comprehensive and most controversial interview that I've ever given on the program to declassify and release the MoD's archive of UFO files, and the newly-available second issue features the most wide-ranging interview ever on my government UFO work, packed with inside information about the inner workings of the MoD.
Author, journalist and TV personality Nick Pope used to investigate UFOs for the British government and is now recognised as one of the world's leading experts on the unexplained, conspiracy theories, fringe science and sci-fi.