Welcome to the winter Weird World column and the latest round-up of news and views on the unexplained, the weird and the wonderful.
UFOs: The Untold Stories
A new six-part series on UFOs is being shown in the UK. Entitled UFOs: The Untold Stories this new series looks at some of the most intriguing sightings from the UK and (mainly) from other European countries. Featuring eyewitness testimony, expert analysis and some intriguing photos, videos and government documents, the show features some cases that people will be familiar with, alongside some lesser known - but no less interesting - UFO sightings and close encounters. I'm the lead contributor on this series. I comment on many of the incidents, giving an insider's view on how the government and the military viewed such cases and what they concluded. I also helped in the making of the series, working closely with the production company, suggesting cases to cover, witnesses and experts to interview, documents, photographs and videos to feature, etc. I undertaking various interviews to help promote this new series and the pre-publicity included an article in The Scotsman and a feature in The Sun's TV Magazine. The series is being shown on the National Geographic Channel in the UK and should be repeated at various times.
Is Ufology Dead?
There has been extensive media coverage of a debate over whether or not 'ufology' is dead. The provocative question is one that comes up every few years in the UFO community. This time around it's been prompted by a conference organised by the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP). The event is entitled A Summit on the Future of Ufology and was held at the University of Worcester on 17th November. I have a different perspective on this issue than ufologists. Having worked on the Ministry of Defence's UFO project, investigating UFOs was my government job, not a hobby. And I had other official duties too, including setting policy on the issue, handling media enquiries, etc. Accordingly, the media came to me on this story and my views were widely published, with a Sunday Telegraph article and a feature on the Channel 4 news site carrying some of my remarks. For the record, my full statement on this was as follows:
"Ufology isn't dead and if anything, sightings and interest are at an all-time high. The real problem is that the vast majority of these sightings invariably turn out to be aircraft lights, satellites, meteors, bright stars/planets, or Chinese lanterns. Additionally, sites such as YouTube are awash with fake UFO videos, and the subject certainly attracts more than its fair share of cranks and charlatans. We got around this problem on MoD's UFO project by focusing on sightings from police officers, military personnel and pilots, by analysing photographs and videos in a proper, scientific way, and by using military radar systems to aid our investigations. The UFO community simply doesn't get access to the personnel and resources that a government UFO project can bring to bear on the question. However, none of this means people should stop investigating UFOs. Even if you're sceptical - as I am - you should think of ufology in terms of low probability/high impact. And as we used to say on MoD's UFO project, the believers only have to be right once!"
Countdown To Apocalypse
Countdown to Apocalypse is a new mini-series being broadcast on H2, dealing with cultural aspects of prophesies and beliefs in doomsday and looking at a number of ways in which the world might end. I was a major contributor to this interesting new series and discussed some conventional scenarios such as nuclear war and global pandemic, along with some rather more speculative scenarios. Check out history.com and watch for repeats if you miss this series first time around.
H2 graphic for the new mini-series Countdown to Apocalypse
National Atomic Testing Museum UFO Event
On 22nd September the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas held a unique panel discussion on UFOs. The panellists weren't ufologists, but people who have investigated UFOs officially, for either the American or British Governments. The participants were Col. John Alexander, Col. Bill Coleman, Col. Robert Friend, Col. Charles Halt and me. Two of the US participants were involved in Project Blue Book, the United States Air Force UFO investigation program. Though not on the same scale, the British Government's UFO project was based on Blue Book - the terms of reference and the investigative methodologies being virtually identical. This was a unique opportunity for me to meet some of my US opposite numbers and to compare and contrast MoD's UFO project with the US Government's program. I also used my presentation to give an update on the ongoing work to declassify and release MoD's entire archive of UFO files - a process in which I've been closely involved and which is nearing its climax. The National Atomic Testing Museum is affiliated with The Smithsonian and the event attracted significant attention from the mainstream news media. The UFO community were less enthusiastic. Die-hard skeptics asked why a Smithsonian-affiliated institution was hosting a UFO panel, while true believers complained that all the panellists were ex-government or military personnel who had investigated UFOs not as their hobby but as their government job. Ironically, therefore, the believers answered the question the skeptics posed. Now, the DVD of this historic event is available. Click on nationalatomictestingmuseum.org for the details.
The Sun UFO Pullout
On 2nd December The Sun published a massive 8-page pullout on UFOs, which I wrote. There were features on the top cases from the UK and the rest of the world, material from MoD's UFO files, information on alien abductions, near-misses between UFOs and aircraft, maps pointing out UFO hotspots and much more besides. The fact that a national newspaper is prepared to publish such a lot of material on UFOs, showing the subject in a positive light, just shows how much interest there is in this subject. Entitled "The UFO Files", the material is the most extensive coverage of the UFO phenomenon ever printed in a UK national newspaper.
I have an exceptionally busy year coming up, but will mention three areas here. Firstly, television. I'm doing a vast amount of TV work at present on subjects including UFOs, the unexplained, conspiracy theories, fringe science and sci-fi. I'm lead contributor on a number of these shows, but am also in discussions concerning my presenting my own TV series. Secondly, I'm writing a new book about the Rendlesham Forest UFO sightings - a case which is second only to Roswell in terms of how well known it is not just with the UFO community but with the wider public. At the heart of this book will be the full stories from the two men at the heart of the case - John Burroughs and Jim Penniston. John and Jim encountered the UFO in a clearing on the first night of the sightings, but to say that this was only the beginning would be an understatement. The book will be published by St. Martin's Press, one of the world's largest and most prestigious publishing houses. Thirdly, the final batch of MoD UFO files will be released, bringing to an end the five-year program to declassify and release the entire archive of these real-life X-Files. I worked on these files (indeed, I wrote many of them) and have been involved in the release program, working with the National Archives on the project, previewing the files, selecting cases of potential interest to the media, recording a videocast for the National Archive website and promoting the story with my media contacts. In my capacity as a journalist and broadcaster I've written features on the story for most of the UK's national newspapers and as the media's 'go-to guy' on this story I've been interviewed on Larry King Live, Good Morning America, Sky News, GMTV, This Morning, Radio 4's Today programme and literally hundreds of other TV and radio shows. I'll be doing more of the same for the release of the last files. For those who want to check up on my latest news more frequently than my columns here, check out the Latest News section of my www.nickpope.net website, follow me on Twitter under the name @nickpopemod or subscribe to my official Facebook Page at the facebook.com/nickpopeofficial link.
Jim Penniston and John Burroughs, the two central witnesses to the Rendlesham Forest incident
Author, journalist and TV personality Nick Pope used to investigate UFOs for the British Government and is now recognised as a leading authority on UFOs, the unexplained and conspiracy theories.