Welcome to the November 2008 round up of news and views on UFOs, alien abductions, crop circles, ghosts, the paranormal, the unexplained, the weird and the wonderful.
MoD UFO Files Released
As trailed in this column last month, a second batch of Ministry of Defence UFO files have been released and are now available at the National Archives. There are 19 files, many of which contain several hundred individual documents. The files date from 1986 to 1992 and therefore include cases from my tour of duty on the MoD's UFO project (1991 to 1994). It's fascinating to see these files again - it's a real blast from the past. Most of the UFO sightings in these newly released files can be explained as misidentifications of ordinary objects or phenomena, but some were more difficult to explain. The cases that concerned me most were those involving near misses between UFOs and commercial aircraft. There are several such cases in these files, along with sightings from police officers and instances where UFOs were tracked on radar. The files were released on Monday 20th October and that week I did a seemingly constant stream of TV and radio interviews, appearing on most TV news programmes and on others shows such as GMTV, The Alan Titchmarsh Show and Newsround, as well as prestigious radio shows such as Radio 4's Today programme and BBC World Service's The World Today. I appeared twice on this latter show, once giving a conventional interview and the second time reading a science fiction story they asked to write, based on the files, which listeners were then invited to continue.
Close Encounter Over Kent
One of the most interesting cases from the files occurred on 21st April 1991. I remember this incident very well and indeed I was involved in the official investigation. We were informed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that there had been a near miss involving a commercial aircraft. The aircraft was an Al Italia MD-80 with 57 passengers on board. It was a height of around 22,000 feet over Kent, near Lydd, when a brown, cigar-shaped object passed so close to the aircraft that the pilot shouted "look out, look out". In the normal course of events, any near-miss would be investigated by the CAA. However, most such incidents involve other aircraft, and as the crew were not able to identify the object, it was treated as a UFO incident and passed from the CAA to the MoD. We launched a full investigation and eliminated all the usual possibilities, including weather balloons, military aircraft, etc. We even checked to see whether we had accidentally fired off a missile of some sort. We drew a complete blank and the incident remains unexplained to this day. This incident had a profound effect on me, because I realised that a commercial aircraft had come within seconds of being blown out of the sky over the UK. This illustrated that whatever one believes about UFOs, the phenomenon raises important defence and air safety issues. However, some people at the MoD and the CAA did not treat the incident as seriously as me, simply because of their automatic reaction to hearing the word "UFO". This was deeply troubling and convinced me that I should make every effort to ensure that all UFO incidents were investigated thoroughly, in a proper scientific manner. It also convinced me that I should make efforts to ensure the subject was taken more seriously within government, the military and the intelligence community.
Another case that I discussed in my various media interviews was that of Milton Torres, a United States Air Force pilot who stated that on 20th May 1957 he was ordered to open fire on a UFO that was being tracked on radar. He was based at RAF Manston in Kent and was scrambled to intercept a UFO that had been tracked over Kent. He claims that he came within seconds of firing off a salvo of 24 rockets when the UFO accelerated away at a speed of around Mach 10. Torres stated that he was subsequently warned to stay silent about the incident and only mentioned it years afterwards, at a reunion. While Torres has gone on the record and given a number of media interviews, following the release of the documents from the MoD files, most people have not realised that the account in the MoD file is not an official USAF or MoD witness statement. It is a transcript of an interview with Torres, undertaken years after the event and forwarded to MoD by a ufologist. The ufologist then speculated that the incident was part of some secret test, which is patently false, as such tests would be conducted in the restricted airspace of various ranges over the sea. Needless to say, one does not conduct tests involving the potential firing of live weapons over the mainland UK! Torres is clearly an honourable man, recalling a difficult and potentially life threatening mission. But I would suggest that ufologists need to track down the original 1957 paperwork if they are to get to the bottom of this incident. Torres is not the only pilot to have been ordered to open fire on UFOs. General Parviz Jafari from Iran and Comandante Huertas from Peru were placed in similar positions and their stories, in their own words, can be found on the Coalition for Freedom of Information website. Check out www.freedomofinfo.org for further details.
Other Highlights From The MoD Files
There are plenty of other fascinating cases from the MoD UFO files. These include a case from 5 November 1990 when a number of RAF Tornado aircraft were overtaken by a UFO. There is a case from Scotland where a spectacular UFO photo was sent to the MoD. It was on my office wall for years, but was removed by my Head of Division, who had convinced himself that it showed Aurora - supposedly a prototype aircraft, the existence of which has never been confirmed. Additionally, there is a file that I opened on alien abductions and alien contact cases, with a series of bizarre letters, and material on crop circles, including papers showing how the MoD tried to get the military to stop flying over crop circles and photographing them, as it undermined the line that we were desperately trying to push at the time, i.e. that we weren't interested in the phenomenon!
Crash Con 2008
American readers can meet me this month, when I will be speaking at the 2008 Crash Retrieval Conference. The conference is organised by Ryan Wood and will take place at the Tuscany Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on 7 - 9 November 2008. The speakers already announced are Linda Moulton Howe, Don Scmhitt, Stephen Bassett, Richard Dolan, Ryan Wood, Dr Robert Wood, James Clarkson and myself. I will be discussing the latest release of MoD UFO files, explaining the background to the release and picking out some highlights. Check out www.ufoconference.com for further details.
Author, journalist and TV personality Nick Pope used to run the British Government's UFO Project and is now recognised as one of the world's leading experts on UFOs, the unexplained and conspiracy theories.
Check out www.nickpope.net for more information about Nick.