Welcome to the July 2004 round up of news and views on UFOs, alien abductions, crop circles, ghosts, the paranormal, the unexplained, the weird and the wonderful.
Crop circles have returned again to the fields of England. Several patterns have appeared already, mainly in Wiltshire. I shall be there on the weekend of 3 and 4 July 2004, doing some filming with an Italian television channel. Those interested in Ministry of Defence involvement with the crop circle mystery might like to check out the section of www.nickpope.net on crop circles, which contains an official history of government and military involvement with the subject. More on crop circles next month.
Toutatis - The Doomsday Asteroid ?
The internet is buzzing again with stories of impending Armageddon. This time the culprit is the asteroid Toutatis, which is due to make a close approach to Earth on 29 September 2004. I have received several emails about this and seen numerous New Age predictions on various websites. I hope this does not lead to the sort of tragedy that arose in the run up to the close approach of Comet Hale Bopp in 1997, when 38 disciples of the Heavens Gate cult committed suicide. For the record, Toutatis will indeed make a close approach to the Earth on 29 September 2004. However, it will miss by nearly one million miles, which means it will be around four times further away than the moon. Search for the word Toutatis on the NASA website www.nasa.gov for the science behind the scare stories. And if you have a genuine interest in the threat posed to the Earth by comets and asteroids, you might consider joining Spaceguard UK. I am an Associate Member and can recommend the organisation highly. Check out www.spaceguarduk.com for details.
Veteran ghosthunter Andrew Green died on 21 May 2004. Green was a prolific writer, researcher and lecturer on the subject, whose best known book was probably his 1973 offering Our Haunted Kingdom. As well as writing about cases himself, he edited a number of books on the subject, including The Enigma of Borley Rectory, written by Ivan Banks. Green wrote for a number of magazines, including Prediction, as well as popping up on TV from time to time. In 1996 he undertook a high profile ghost hunt at the Royal Albert Hall, the night before the new Proms season began. Aside from ghosts and hauntings, he was interested in a wide range of other paranormal phenomena. If ghosts do exist, Green may well return to haunt fellow ghosthunter Peter Underwood, whose obituary of Green in The Independent seemed decidedly ungracious.
Alien Abduction Study
July 2004 presents UK based abductees their final opportunity to take part in a scientific study into the alien abduction phenomenon, being carried out by psychologists at Goldsmiths College, University of London. As featured previously in this column, this is the only such study ever to have been carried out in the UK. The project has been underway for some time now, but the interviewing stage of the study will finish at the end of July 2004. I have spoken to several people who have taken part, and despite initial nervousness about getting involved in a project of this nature, they told me they enjoyed taking part, welcomed the chance to tell their stories and be listened to, and felt that the whole experience was empowering. Witness confidentiality is guaranteed and abductees can use a pseudonym if they wish. Abductees, contactees and experiencers wishing to take part should contact Julia Santomauro at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone her on 020 7919 7171, extension 4389. Once the scientists have published a report into the study and its conclusions, later this year, I will feature the story in this column. Watch this space.
UFO Debate at the Cheltenham Festival of Science
On 11 June 2004 I debated the UFO phenomenon at the Cheltenham Festival of Science. The festival ran for five days and is now in its third year. Its sponsors and partners included the British National Space Centre, The Royal Society and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. The idea is to showcase high profile, interesting and contentious issues in contemporary science, such as nuclear power, cloning, climate change and GM crops. Attendees included NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, Beagle 2 inventor Colin Pillinger and Lord Robert Winston. The opening speech was given by Government Chief Scientist David King. The debate itself was comparatively unremarkable. I said a little bit about the Ministry of Defence UFO project, UFO sightings backed by radar evidence, and photographic analysis of UFO photographs and videos. I also gave some examples of interesting cases investigated by the Department. Radio astronomer Ian Morison (a late replacement for BBC News Online science editor David Whitehouse) talked about SETI, the Rare Earth theory, light speed, and witness misperception. This was followed by questions from the audience, and my only disappointment was that despite being billed as a debate, no vote was taken. The interesting thing, of course, is that ufology got onto the agenda at all, at a science festival of this kind. Consider this alongside the fact that psychologists at Goldsmiths College University of London are conducting a scientific study into the alien abduction phenomenon. And consider it too alongside the fact that the new multi million pound Dana Centre at the Science Museum held a UFO debate in December 2003. I believe these are encouraging signs for ufology. If nothing else, it rather undermines some of the silly stories that have been circulating recently, falsely proclaiming that ufology is dead.
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