June 2004
  Weird World
NICK POPE 

Welcome to the June 2004 round up of news and views on UFOs, alien abductions, crop circles, ghosts, the paranormal, the unexplained, the weird and the wonderful.

Lord Hill-Norton

Admiral of the Fleet Lord Hill-Norton died on 16 May 2004. He was a former Chief of the Defence Staff and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, who in his later years became greatly interested in the UFO phenomenon. His long and distinguished naval career included active service on Arctic convoy duty during the Second World War, command of a destroyer during the Suez Crisis, and a later posting in command of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. His interest in UFOs came after his retirement, and he wrote forewords to a number of books by Timothy Good, including Above Top Secret and Unearthly Disclosure. He was particularly interested in the Rendlesham Forest incident, and worked with Georgina Bruni on this. He asked her to draft some questions which he subsequently tabled in Parliament, trying to elicit an official response to what he felt were a number of important defence and national security issues raised by the events. I briefed him on several occasions, which could be quite challenging. Many staff officers and journalists found him difficult, especially if they did not quickly get to the point. He was passionate about the Royal Navy, UFOs and a wide range of other subjects. When I called on him last summer, on my way back from a holiday, I found him as lively as ever. He had taken an interest in a UFO sighting involving military witnesses on HMS Manchester and had asked me to update him. He told me that despite the frustrations, he intended to remain involved in ufology for as long as he was able. Lord Hill-Norton appeared in several UFO documentaries and was frequently quoted on the subject in the media. Again, he could be quite outspoken and was often highly critical of the Ministry of Defence policy on the UFO phenomenon. Lord Hill-Norton was a great friend to ufology, where the active support of someone of his rank was without precedent. He will be sadly missed.

The British UFO Files

A new UFO documentary was shown on Channel Five on 26 May. The British UFO Files looked at several intriguing UFO incidents that had occurred in the UK and then examined the way in which the British Government had investigated them. The programme looked at how the Ministry of Defence first took an interest in UFOs in 1950 and set up the Flying Saucer Working Party to look into the phenomenon. The 1952 sighting involving RAF pilot Michael Swiney and his Royal Navy student David Crofts was featured, as was the Rendlesham Forest incident. Also covered was the extraordinary saga of royal equerry Sir Peter Horsley and his extraordinary meeting with a mysterious character called Mr Janus. So far as ufologists were concerned, Timothy Good and Georgina Bruni featured, Georgina commenting on the Rendlesham Forest incident. I was also featured quite a lot, and supplied the programme makers with copies of various declassified documents. Although appearing in a private capacity and not as an official government spokesperson, I commented on the history of the Ministry of Defence UFO project (which I ran from 1991 to 1994) and set out some other facts concerning MOD policy and handling of the subject. Lady Pamela Hicks, daughter of Earl Mountbatten, was interviewed, as was the editor of Eye Spy magazine, Mark Birdsall, who discussed the issue of Nazi flying saucers. The programme covered a lot of the same ground as the BBC 2 Timewatch documentary that was shown in January. In fact, the two programmes were made at exactly the same time last year, with bemused participants sometimes being interviewed about the same incidents twice in the same week. I thought both programmes were good in terms of content, although the style was very different, because of the very different audience demographics of Channel Five and BBC2.

Alien Abduction Study

A scientific study into the alien abduction phenomenon is being carried out by psychologists at Goldsmiths College, University of London. This is the only such study ever to have been carried out in the UK. The project has been underway for some time now, and the interviewing stage of the study has been extended. What this means is that any UK based abductees who wish to take part do still have a little time left, if they are considering participating. I have spoken to several people who have taken part, and despite initial nervousness about getting involved in a project of this nature, they have 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 and experiencers wishing to take part should contact Julia Santomauro at apru@gold.ac.uk or telephone her on 020 7919 7171, extension 4389.

UFO Debate at the Cheltenham Festival of Science

On 11 June a debate on UFOs will take part as part of the Cheltenham Festival of Science. I shall be debating with Dr David Whitehouse, the BBC News online science editor. This is an interesting example of how interest in UFOs appears to be becoming more mainstream and how science, in particular, is taking an interest in the phenomenon. Regular readers of this column may recall that I debated the UFO phenomenon last year at the Dana Centre, a new venue at the Science Museum. The Cheltenham Festival of Science lasts from 9 to 13 June. Details of all the events and information on how to order tickets can be found at www.cheltenhamfestivals.co.uk

Ed's Note:

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

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