(2007 edition 07.01)
Since their first (definite!) appearance in modern times, UFOs have established a powerful hold on the popular imagination, while the nature and content of the claimed "UFO experience" has become increasingly complex throughout the decades. Hence the following brief text - The Concise Guide To UFOs - can only a provide an outline of the various facets of this subject. For more detail, the reader is advised to pursue the source bibliography at the end of this webpage.
UFOs: The Modern Era
UFOs; The Witness Angle
Patterns In Time And Space
Claimed UFO Attributes
Effects on Machines
The Oz Factor
UFOs on Radar
Physical Evidence Of UFOs
UFO Entities; An Overview
The CE III Experience
The "Abduction" Experience
So, what actually are UFOs?
Observations of strange aerial phenomena are not unique to our time. There is much debate whether certain ancient religious texts and myths contain references to "UFOs" (such as the vision of the prophet Ezekiel featured in the Old Testament). Certainly, there are various accounts (dating from Classical, Medieval and Renaissance times) chronicling observations of aerial anomalies resembling flaming spears, burning shields, dark globes or sailing ships.
Observations of similar sky borne oddities also feature in diverse scientific journals throughout the 17th, 18th & 19th centuries. These events could be early UFO manifestations, or simply observations of the same natural phenomena mistaken for "UFOs" in today's world.
In both 1896 and 1897 there were many alleged nocturnal observations of brilliantly illuminated "airships" from various regions of the central United States. Similar "airships" were reportedly seen over other parts of the world thereafter (Britain experiencing several waves of such reports from 1903 to 1914). However, There is no solid evidence that any of these "phantom airship" scares were caused by any flying machine known to exist during this time. However, it is known that some of the American airship sighting-claims are proven hoaxes, and a few others may well be mistaken observations of bright astronomical bodies (such as the planet Venus).
Around the latter half of the Second World War both allied (mainly American) and Axis aircrew claimed observations of "Foo Fighters"; sliver, orange, red, white or yellow "balls" of light which reportedly "paced" or "played tag" with their aircraft (often for extended periods). At the time they were believed to be secret weapons developed by either the Axis or Allied powers; however, no convincing evidence to support this belief has ever been uncovered.
During the middle and latter part of 1946, high-altitude fiery cigar or spool-shaped objects were seen repeatedly over the night skies of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. These so-called "ghost rockets" were often reported to explode in mid-air or "crash" into lakes. On one occasion some alleged "ghost rocket" fragments were recovered, but were later found to comprise simply of lumps of carbon! When these reports were examined by the Swedish Defence Staff most reports were found to be explicable as either bright meteors or aircraft; but around 20% of the sightings could not be so explained.
These historical precedents aside, the modern concept of UFOs was initiated by a single (but highly-publicized) event occurring in the immediate post-WW2 era. At around 3.00pm on Tuesday, June 24 1947, Kenneth Arnold (a fire control systems engineer) observed what he described as a "diagonal chain" of nine "mirror-bright" objects, whilst flying in his private aircraft over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, USA.
These objects moved in a way he stated was similar to how "a saucer would (move) if you skipped it across the water". It is from this description of their motion (and not their shape, as is commonly believed) from which the expression "flying saucer" originates. Kenneth Arnold's sighting was widely featured in the newspapers of the day, causing a minor sensation throughout both the United States and the world. In the wake of the publicity surrounding this report, many others came forward with "flying disc" sightings of their own, some of which had occurred several months before Arnold's experience.
With the "flying saucers" appearing during the late 1940s (at the beginning of the so-called "Cold War"), the government of the United States feared they could be devices from a hostile foreign power (such as Russia). As a consequence, the United States Air Force (USAF), in an attempt to discover what was responsible for these sightings, established Project "Sign" in 1947. However (with no physical evidence of the "flying discs" forthcoming) the USAF soon became sceptical of the existence of UFOs. As a result, Project "Sign" was renamed Project "Grudge" in 1948, and was assigned the task of deflating the "saucer craze" by trying to explain all sightings in normal terms.
By 1949 Project Grudge had officially concluded that all UFO reports resulted from mistaken observations of natural phenomena, mild mass-hysteria, hoaxes or delusional experiences (even through Grudge had classified 23% of it's reports as "unknowns".
However, as the number of UFO reports began to pick up again in the early 1950s, Project "Grudge" was revitalised, and renamed Project "Blue Book" in 1952. For a while this project assessed the sightings reported to it in a fairly impartial manner.
But (by 1966) Blue Book was being widely criticised for what was seen as it's over-sceptical attitude towards UFO sightings. In response to this, the USAF established an independent, short-term project whose aim was to finally determine the truth about UFOs. This program (staffed mainly by scientists) was headed by Dr. Edward U. Condon and based at the University of Colorado.
On the project's termination in 1968 it concluded "that further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby". Despite its negative verdict, some 20% of the reports it studied were listed as "unexplained". Following the publication of the Colorado project's findings (in what is usually termed the "Condon Report") Project Blue Book was closed down in 1969.
The UK has never had any official UFO study-effort on the scale of either Project Blue Book or the Condon Report. In this country, most official enquiries into UFO reports are conducted by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Generally, they take a sceptical view of UFOs; their approach based mainly on the conclusions of the various American UFO study-projects. Both military personnel and civilians can report "UFO" observations to the MoD through existing military channels of communication. However, the MoD's main concern is to determine if a given "UFO" incident has any "defence implications" (i.e. whether the UFO observed poses (or posed) a threat to the United Kingdom). Once it is clear that a UFO event does not represent such a hazard, official interest in that report ends.
From 1997-2000 a (presently unknown) military contractor was given the task of formally assessing the UFO issue by the MoD. The final report (codenamed Condign) - which involved only an indirect assessment of the evidence - concluded UFOs were unlikely to have an extraterrestrial origin. It further concluded that "unexplained" reports were probably instigated by sightings of natural plasma-like phenomena, which the Condign author(s) termed "UAPs".
Since 1969, the investigation of UFO reports have been mainly conducted by unofficial civilian bodies manned by part-time volunteers. Examples of such groups include BUFORA (the British UFO Research Association), established in 1964 and (in the United States) MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network), founded in 1967. However, France initiated an official UFO study organisation called GEPAN in 1977; an effort that continues to this day (albeit in a much-reduced form).
"UFO" is the acronym of Unidentified Flying Object, a term which first came into use during the early 1950s. It was composed in order to replace the expressions "Flying Saucer" and "Flying Disc, which (even by the 1950s) had become both much derided and rendered inaccurate by numerous reports of non-discoid "UFOs". Despite this intention, the term "flying saucer" still enjoys widespread use in popular culture even today!
there have been many attempts to define the term "UFO". One of the best was suggested by the
University Of Colorado UFO Study Project (the so-called "Condon Project") in the late 1960s, which defined "UFO" as equating to;
"...the stimulus for a report made by one or more individuals of something seen in the sky (or an object thought to be capable of flight but seen when landed on the earth) which the observer could not identify as having an ordinary natural origin..."
In other words, a "UFO" is basically any aerial "object" that a witness cannot account for in normal, everyday terms!
This is a very important point to make; as on detailed investigation around 80-95% of all "UFO" reports can be explained as mistaken observations of natural and man-made objects, hoaxes and hallucinations. These "false" UFO sightings are collectively termed "IFOs" (Identified Flying Objects). Therefore, most UFO investigators or researchers (collectively termed Ufologists) use the term "UFO" only to describe the 5%-20% of sightings which cannot (seemingly) be so easily explained.
The general study of UFOs is (semiofficially) called Ufology. To aid research into UFOs, reports are grouped into various general types; either based on the observed "UFOs" apparent distance, or on the general nature of what allegedly occurred.
Distant sightings relate to observations of "UFOs" which were seemingly more than 500 metres away from it's observer(s). These are variously known as either Daylight Discs (if seen during the day), Nocturnal Lights (if seen at night) or Low Definition events (a general term, covering both daylight and night time reports).
Then there are the Close Encounter type sightings; reports where the "UFO "concerned appeared to be 500 metres (or less) from those who observed it. A basic "close-up" sighting is called either a Close Encounters Of The First Kind or a Medium Definition event.
However, if such a report is also associated with an alleged UFO-induced effect (or "trace") on a human, animal, machine or the surrounding countryside it is classified as a Close Encounters of the Second Kind. Finally, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind relate to sightings involving observations of supposed "UFO entities". Ufologists often refer to distant, nocturnal "UFOs" as LITS (Lights In The Sky), and the various Close Encounter reports as High Strangeness incidents.
As previously stated, it is generally acknowledged that around 80-95% of all "UFO" sightings turn out on investigation to be IFO's; Identified Flying Objects; reports easily explicable in rational terms. Ufologists have discovered that the majority of IFO reports are instigated by only a few types of natural and man-made phenomenon, with other causes appearing only occasionally.
Aircraft and Helicopters generate a considerable number of false "UFO" sightings. At night, an aircraft's running-lights (or its much brighter landing lights) can be mistakenly perceived as being attached to a dark, unearthly-looking (but illusory) disc, tubular or triangular-shaped "UFOs"! Aircraft can also assume spurious "domed disc" or "cigar" forms even in daylight (due to unusual lighting conditions or viewing angles). To compound matters an aircraft's engine-noise can be muffled when it either flies at high altitude or against the wind.
Another common source of IFO reports are bright Planets and Stars. Of these various astronomical objects the planet Venus and the star Sirius generate the most spurious "UFO" reports, due to their considerable brightness. Most such events are fairly straightforward, often relating to an observation of a bright, stationary pinpoint of light. However, stars and planets can also be subject to numerous visual and atmospheric effects, giving them illusory motions or other unusual attributes. It is sometimes possible for stars (and occasionally planets) to rapidly and repeatedly "flash" different colours of the spectrum. This effect is induced by atmospheric turbulence; a more extreme form of the effect that causes stars to "twinkle".
Furthermore, involuntary eyeball movements may (due to what is termed the Autokenesis effect) "cause" a star or planet to seemingly make apparently erratic, stop-start "darting" motions, confined to a limited area of the sky. Of course it doesn't; it's merely a natural effect involving the eyeball! Finally, a star or planet viewed from a moving vehicle will seemingly "follow" or "pace" it, stopping and starting whenever the vehicle does.
Rare, bright long-duration meteors (termed bolides) are observed on rare occasions, usually at night but also sometimes during the day. Sometimes, a bolide breaks up into fragments whilst still in "flight", the pieces of which continue to travel in the same general direction as the original "complete" meteor. This spectacle is often perceived as being a large darkened cigar-shaped "UFO" with illuminated "windows", ejecting a luminous trail from its "rear"! Bolides follow either continuous straight or curved trajectories, and are usually visible for 10 seconds or less (upto 30 seconds in a few rare instances).
A bolide may either quietly "fizzle out" or explode spectacularly at high altitude; the sound of this explosion (or of the sonic boom produced by it's passage through the atmosphere) sometimes being quite audible. Expended rocket-booster or satellite re-entries look the same, but tend to move more slowly and are hence normally visible for much longer periods than bolides (usually around two minutes).
Weather balloons are responsible for a fair number of daylight "UFO" observations. The majority relate to sightings of large balloons used to accumulate data on upper-atmospheric conditions. Balloons can resemble a greyish, white or orange coloured object with a ball, teardrop, triangular or discoid shape. They normally drift slowly with the prevailing wind but - in rare instances when caught in an air-thermal - can be capable of a sudden vertical ascent, or of temporarily darting off in a different direction. High-altitude balloons travel on upper-atmospheric winds, which can blow in a direction different to those prevalent at lower altitudes.
In recent years, paper luminated lanterns (traditionally termed 'Khoom Fay' or 'Khom Loy') have become popular for parties and social functions. These commonly manifest as a cluster of orange lights sometimes observed rising from the ground and slowly drifting with the wind, eventually vanishing as they burn up. They have a duration of up to several minutes or more.
Artificial satellites appear to the naked eye as a single, distant, white pinpoint of light, traversing along a swift, continuous arch-like path. A satellite may vanish suddenly when near the horizon (due to it being eclipsed by the earth's shadow). They can also appear to assume a zigzagging course, an illusion resulting from a variation of the autokenesis effect.
Following their entry into widespread use during the early 1980s, laser-light displays have become a major source of false "UFO" reports. Those unaware of their actual nature describe observing either a multitude of white lights executing swift, repeating rhythmic motions (such as circling, meeting at a single point and then shooting away), or a "dark spinning disc" with white lights "running around its edge". These displays can be seen from a considerable distance (anything from 30-60 miles away) if the prevailing cloud-base is fairly high.
Airships, birds, model aircraft, parachute flares, highly-reflective "Mylar" kites, spotlights and toy disc-shaped balloons also generate numerous false "UFO" reports (but much fewer in comparison with aircraft, astronomical bodies, balloons and laser-displays). Rarer still are sightings instigated by ball lightning, lenticular or noctilucent clouds, mirages and sundogs or moondogs (fuzzy glows created by free-floating ice crystals reflecting the sun's or moon's light, respectively).
Almost as uncommon are sightings based on subjective causes, such as afterimages (transient "blurs" on the eyeball caused by staring at bright light-sources) or myopia ("spots before the eyes"). Few reports involve either alcohol or drug-induced hallucinations. The tiny percentage of reports that are hallucinatory in nature usually involve naturally-induced altered states of mental consciousness, normally experienced by people on the verge of falling asleep or waking up.
Hoax reports are thought to be relatively rare in regard to distant sightings, but become more commonplace in relation to claimed UFO photographs, videos and "close encounters".
From figures derived from various "opinion polls" it is estimated that 2%-7% of the British population (1.1 - 4 million people) have observed what they believe to be a UFO. It is further estimated that only around 10% of these witnesses report their sightings to the Ministry of Defence and/or civilian UFO societies. This would suggest that a total of around 100,000-400,000 recorded British sightings exist, held by the various bodies involved in collating UFO data. Of these (as already stated) around 80-90% of these events are easily explicable in mundane terms.
UFO reports have been made by members of every profession, from politicians, scientists to road sweepers. Furthermore, men report approximately the same proportion of sighting as women. It is not uncommon for UFO and IFO observations to involve two people or more, who may sometimes be situated at different locations. IFO phenomena which manifest within the upper atmosphere (such as satellite re-entries) are often observed by hundreds of people at a time.
Observations of both IFOs and UFOs involve the same types of people. It should be noted that a fair proportion of IFO reports are made by so-called "trained" observers; individuals either versed in general observation techniques (such as policemen), or those possessing some familiarity with natural aerial phenomena (i.e. pilots and astronomers)! This is because even the most reliable witness can fail to recognise balloons and planes seen at misleading angles and/or under unusual viewing conditions!
The majority of UFO witnesses have only one sighting-experience during their lifetime, but a few have more. There are individuals (termed repeaters by Ufology) who report a greater number of UFO sightings than normal, often over an extended period of time. Close-encounter participants often have repeated close-encounter episodes, and also usually claim psychic abilities and/or "paranormal" experiences. Other "repeaters" report a constant stream of distant UFO observations. In this instance it often transpires that the witness concerned is often over-keen to accept IFO phenomena as being something more outlandish!
UFO experiences have occurred on every hour, day, week and month of the year. However, around 75% (i.e. 3 out of every 4) UFO and IFO sightings occur between the hours of 8.00pm-11.00pm, with sightings reaching a peak at 9.00pm. These times closely match those of when the majority of people are home from work. There is also a notable bias for sightings to occur during the summer and early autumn months (namely from June to October).
Sightings tend to occur more often in rural than in urban areas. This may be due to "light pollution"; the powerful combined "glare" of artificial lighting prevalent in densely-populated regions that swamps out all but the brightest lights in the sky.
Occasionally, a "cluster" of many UFO incidents may suddenly manifest within a small geographical region over a period of several weeks (or months). Ufologists call these periods of increased localised UFO activity flaps. Most active in ufology accept that the majority of "flaps" are caused by local newspapers, radio and TV stations giving publicity to a specific UFO incident, which encourages others to come forward with their reports.
Flaps tend to be fairly localised events, but sporadic national increases in the quantity of UFO reports (which Ufologists term waves) have also occurred. Past examples of notable "waves" include the United States (in 1952, 1957, 1966-1967 and 1973), France (in 1954), the UK (in 1967 and 1977-78), Italy (in 1978) and New Zealand (also in 1978). As with "flaps", the majority of "waves "appear to be media-driven and endure for (at most) a period of several months. There have also been periods when the number of reports have fallen dramatically, often on a global scale (such as during the early 1970s and the first half of the 1980s).
A few parts of the world are also seemingly the focus of prolonged higher-than-normal levels of UFO activity, often for years (even decades) at a time. The Pennine Hills in Northern England and the Hessdalen Valley in Norway are examples of two such places, termed Ufocals (or sometimes Windows) by some UFO researchers. It is suspected that local geological features (such as earth-faulting) are responsible for naturally generating the majority of aerial anomalies seen in such regions.
Other supposed ufocals, however, have a more dubious Ufological "history". From the mid-1960s to the late 1970s the outskirts of the town of Warminster, in Wiltshire, England was famed as a place of intense UFO activity. Unfortunately, the majority of sightings originated from non-locals; usually over-enthusiastic UFO buffs attracted to Warminster by books proclaiming it to be a UFO hot-spot. Given the town is adjacent to Salisbury Plain (home of the largest army testing-range in the United Kingdom), it is probable that many sightings were attributable to military activity, as well as satellites, astronomical bodies and aircraft.
Since the late 1990s UFO sighting claims have notably decreased. Of those sightings that do occur, a significant proportion involve observations of so-called "flying triangles"; forms comparable to UFOs in their form of motion but resembling dark-bodied delta shaped objects illuminated by body lights. Furthermore, while other forms of Close Encounter claims have diminished, abduction events are still alleged (albeit to a lesser degree than during the 1980's). The cause of this apparent change in the "UFO experience" still eludes researchers.
The vast majority of "UFO" reports relate to observations of distant point(s) of light or luminous round (or spherical) shaped forms. The majority of such basic reports can be easily explained in mundane terms. Less common are sightings of "Disc" shaped "UFOs", comparable to either a double or single-sided "convex lens", a "hat" or a "coin" in configuration. Cigar, Cone, Dome, Elliptical, Oval, Spherical, Teardrop, Triangular, and Tube shaped-UFOs have also been reported on many occasions. However, much rarer are observations of "UFOs" that reportedly possess barrel, boomerang, coil, crescent, cross, cube, dart, diamond, dumbbell, hexagon, lozenge, pyramid, or ring like forms. As previously stated, observation of triangular shaped "UFOs" have become notably commonplace over the last 15 years or so.
The majority of UFOs are reported to be noiseless, but a few are alleged to emit buzzing, cracking, humming, roaring, swishing, whirring or whining sounds. Even more uncommon are UFOs associated with an odour, although occasionally an acrid-like smell is reportedly noted on rare occasions (purportedly comparable to sulphur/ozone or burning hydrocarbons). Emissions of heat, trails, sparks, smoke or "vapour" are also occasionally reported.
In regards to colour, nocturnal UFOs are usually described as having a white, red, orange, yellow, pink, green, blue, or silver hue, or being a combination of two such colours (reddish-orange being especially common). Daylight UFOs are usually reported to be either (usually a highly- reflective or shiny) white, silver or aluminium colour.
Night-time "UFOs" are often reported to be "self-luminous" or "glowing". They have also been stated on numerous occasions to change colour, or to emit beams of light. There are also many sightings of nocturnal "UFOs" with darkened non-luminous "bodies", usually adorned with one or more "running-lights" of various sizes and brightness.
Most "UFOs" are reported to have smooth, featureless surfaces. However, (in a few instances) it is claimed that a UFOs "body" is partially (or completely) covered with "tiles", "panels", "pockmarks", or "bumps". A few others are claimed to possess a variety of external features, many which seem markedly artificial. These include "windows", "portholes", "doors", "engine pods", "fins", "wings" or "antenna". They can also reportedly possess even more prominent surface-forms resembling "towers", "tubes, "blocks" or "domes". A central rim or "ring" running around a UFOs diameter is also reportedly seen on a few rare occasions.
The presence of such surface-features suggests that some UFOs are advanced flying devices of some kind. However, it is also possible that such features are illusory, subjectively constructed from irregular, darkened or oddly-illuminated portions of a "UFO". Thus, this is insufficient in itself to disprove the notion that UFOs have a natural origin.
A UFO's apparent speed can reportedly range from stationary to faster than a rocket, and is often claimed to alter to, from and between these extremes several times (or more) during a sighting. Even when estimated to be travelling at considerable velocities, UFOs are rarely reported to produce a sonic boom. The more puzzling aspect of UFO flight behaviour is their alleged ability to perform instant very high-speed, 90* angle turns, instantaneous stops whilst moving at rapid speeds and instant, very high-speed accelerations while stationary (or hovering). Most puzzling of all are claims of UFOs that vanish suddenly in a (seemingly) clear sky.
In some instances a UFO may be reported to rotate, in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. More rarely, some UFOs allegedly exhibit a side-to-side motion similar to a "falling leaf", or a "wobbling" or "fluttering" motion may be supposedly evident.
Instances where a UFO reportedly induces short-term physical reactions are very uncommon. When they are reported, they range from sensations of prickly skin (i.e. "pins and needles"), heat, dizziness, "bristling" of body-hair, to sensations of weakness, numbness, pressure, tension and temporary paralysis. Such effects are harder to determine in the case of animals, but numerous incidents relate to pets, farmyard and wild beasts showing signs of agitation and alarm just prior to a UFO observation.
More permanent effects associated with UFOs reportedly relate to protracted body-pains, numbness and headaches. More seriously, both animals and people have exhibited rashes, tanning, loss of body-hair and skin-burns following a reported UFO encounter. Pets (in several instances) have reportedly shown apparent wariness (even fear) of supposed UFO "landing sites".
Supposed UFO-induced temporary effects on mechanical devices include claimed heavy signal interference on radios and televisions, deflection of compass needles, dimming or extinguishing of lights and electrical power cutoffs. In most instances the effected device immediately returns to normal once the UFO leaves the sighting-vicinity. Cars are also affected in the same manner; their headlights and engines are reported to stop when a UFO is close, but kicks back again into life almost the instant it moves away. It is claimed that diesel-engined vehicles are not susceptible to this UFO "stalling" effect but this is by no means proven. These UFO-induced (usually) transient mechanical effects are sometimes labeled Electromagnetic (or EM) phenomena, even though there is no real evidence (to date) that electromagnetic processes are responsible for generating them!
Permanent mechanical effects are much rarer than transitory ones. Rarely, it is alleged that batteries are drained of their stored energy during a UFO incident. Sometimes, damage is supposedly inflicted on mechanical systems and electronic circuitry, or the external structure of a device reportedly suffers incidental "impact" damage.
On rare occasions UFOs are claimed to generally affect the region around them. Temporary environmental effects usually relate to alleged "strong-wind" like buffeting of trees, man-made features, grass, water or dust beneath or near a UFO. Permanent environmental effects mainly relates to damage inflicted directly on the ground, or upon it's surroundings in general. Common forms of "UFO ground-traces" include spaced indentations suggestive of "landing-pad" marks, as well as craters, furrows, holes, scooped-out areas of earth, even damaged tarmacadam surfaces. One notable alleged environmental effect is the so-called "UFO nest"; an (often) circular area of burnt, crushed or swirled and flattened grass or other flora, supposedly caused by a UFO coming into direct contact with the ground. Tree-limbs and other adjacent plant-matter have also reportedly shown signs of being burned, crushed, dehydrated and/or discoloured.
The "Oz factor" is a term (first coined by UFO researcher Jenny Randles) to describe a particular "aura of unreality" noted during some UFO incidents. Often this relates to an unusual absence of traffic, people and ambient sounds just prior to a sighting. Oz Factor events often also involve sensations of "inner peace", states of personal "disassociation", distorted perceptions of the environment and marked differences between witness-estimated and actually-elapsed time.
There are hundreds of claimed photographs of "UFOs" in existence. However, the majority are either hoaxes or show various types of IFOs (such as seagulls, aircraft and so on). Some are accidentally created by photographic effects such as lens-flares (transient blob-like images generated by sunlight reflecting on to a camera-lens at an angle). In regard to hoaxing, there are a variety of ways in which a "UFO" picture can be faked. A model "UFO" can be thrown up into the air (or a cut-out image of a "UFO" stuck on to a pane of glass) and photographed.
Convincing fake UFO pictures can also be made through using various double-exposure techniques (such as placing a photographic negative showing a model "UFO" over another depicting a sky-backdrop, then "exposing" this combined image onto photographic paper). In more recent times, computer imaging technology has also been utilised to hoax UFO pictures (the end result often being highly realistic!). Fortunately, the same technology can also be used to assess the likelihood of whether a given photograph is either authentic or a hoax. A few UFO photographs do remain unexplained, although the authenticity of all of these "genuine" pictures have been questioned at one time or another. In regards to evidential value, movie-film sequences of "UFOs" are more valuable as evidence than stills, and a set of still photographs is more valuable than a single picture.
There have been numerous reported instances of UFOs appearing on Radar screens. Unfortunately, various natural atmospheric effects can produce false Radar traces capable of seemingly anomalous motions; thus such incidents are not the definite proof they first appear to be! The most convincing Radar cases are those where a "UFO" is seen in the same vicinity (and at the same time) as an unusual Radar "contact" is detected. However, it is often easy to explain such "UFOs" naturally, and it is often surprisingly difficult to prove that an unusual Radar trace is actually related to an observed "UFO"! There are also instances where a UFO should have appeared on a Radar screen, but didn't!
There have been several allegations (mainly from the United States) of crashed UFOs being recovered (along with the bodies of its crew-members) by governmental agencies. The so-called Roswell Incident, which occurred in 1947, is the best known example of such an event (termed a Retrieval by some Ufologists). Although the best of these claims are supported by fairly substantial quantities of eyewitness testimony, no fragments from such craft have been produced which has withstood detailed scientific examination. Furthermore, It is often claimed that governmental organisations have ruthlessly suppressed evidence relating to UFO crashes. However, the degree of control necessary to conceal all convincing proof of such events is probably not possible in reality.
When UFOs first appeared in the late 1940s, there were few claimed observations of any "entities" associated with them. However, in 1953, a book called "Flying Saucers Have Landed", featured the account of George Adamski who allegedly encountered a tall, blond-haired man from Venus during November 1951 in the Californian desert.
Throughout the 1950s, other individuals (termed contactees) claimed similar meetings with entities supposedly from various planets and satellites of our solar system (Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, even an alleged body called Clarion; an earth-like world said to be permanently hidden behind the sun, and hence invisible to observers on our planet).
In almost every instance the entities resembled attractive human beings, supposedly concerned with improving the spiritual development of mankind. Today, these claims have been rendered totally absurd by the findings of various space probes. The inhospitable conditions discovered on the planets of our solar system (such as Venus and Mars) effectively rule out the possibility of any advanced, human-like life existing upon them! It should also not be forgotten that these claims were rejected by the majority of UFO investigators active during the heyday of the contactees.
However, there were other claimed UFO-entity sightings made by people unconnected with the contactee "fad". The beings described in such instances were markedly different from those reported by Adamski and his ilk. Some early cases (such as Flatwoods, USA (1952) and Kelly Hopkinsville, USA (1955) referred to "monstrous" beings, others to "little men" clad in "diving suits". Usually, these events involved little (if any) alleged communication between the witnesses and the beings observed.
Betty & Barney Hill (two witnesses to a "UFO" observed in September 1961 at New Hampshire, USA) became aware they were unable to recall anything of what transpired during the two hours that immediately followed their sighting. Attempts to determine what actually did happen in this seemingly "blank" interval resulted in one of the first uses of hypnosis in a "Ufological" context. This brought forth from both the Hill's supposed "recovered memories" of them being escorted aboard a UFO and subjected to a medical examination by "telepathic", grey-skinned beings. These elements were to appear in numerous other similar incidents in the future. By the 1970s, entity reports had become a largely accepted part of the UFO phenomenon, even taken seriously by figures such as Dr. J. Allen Hynek (who defined them in his famous UFO classification system as "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind" (CE IIIs).
During this era the majority of CE IIIs were consciously recalled events, often involving fleeting observations of evasive entities with a (very) wide variety of physical appearances. Nonetheless, by the late 1960s, the use of hypnosis in UFO sightings involving alleged instances of so-called missing time had become fairly routine. By the mid-1970s the term "Abduction" had entered common usage (relating mainly to instances where regression hypnosis appeared to "recover" memories of medical examinations conducted by supposed "UFO entities").
By the 1980's the "traditional" CE III had become a rarity. In 1987 the book "Communion" was published, which recounted the protracted entity experiences of the author Whitley Strieber. This work (and also a film based on Strieber's experiences made several years later) gave widespread public prominence to this aspect of Ufology. From the ground swell of interest created by Strieber the work of Budd Hopkins (and other American abduction researchers) grew in prominence. By the 1990s (and into the first decade of the 21st century) abduction claims, usually "retrieved" via hypnosis, had become the predominant form of claimed UFO entity encounter.
The stereotypical CE III usually involves a single witness (but occasionally two or more people) who claim to accidentally observe an unusual entity near (or within) a UFO whilst going about their everyday business. These beings are variously described as either simply observing its surroundings, operating "machinery" or taking samples from its environment. It is common for little substantial contact to occur between both parties (although communication is alleged in some instances). The entities may either move normally or "float" some distance from the ground. CE III events are usually reported to occur within areas of low population, often around the evening/early morning hours, and are normally claimed to have a duration of around 10 minutes.
The entities supposedly observed during such events are usually human-like in form, and can be divided into four (very basic) classes;
The so-called "Nordic" is a particular class of humanoid entity;
described as being tall and pale-skinned, with a high forehead, long blond hair and attractive (sometimes androgynous) facial features. They closely resemble the entity purportedly seen by George Adamski in 1951, but sightings of this entity-type have also been claimed by several "non-contactees".
"Giants" are UFO entities reputed to be 7ft or more in height. They are mostly humanoid in form, but have a tendency towards possessing markedly outlandish body-features (such as glowing, single, or trinary eye arrangements, or abnormally proportioned body-members).
The previous three very general "classes" of claimed UFO humanoids are reportedly dressed in a wide variety of "clothing" (skin-tight "cover-all", or "jumpsuit" like attire being especially common). Alternately, entities may be reportedly clad in something resembling a "diving-outfit", a "Michelin-man" costume or a "spacesuit". The head is either exposed or encased by a "goldfish-bowl" or "motorcyclist"-type "helmet". A considerable proportion of UFO entities are stated to either "glow" or to be luminated by lights "attached" to its "clothing".
Since the 1980's traditional entity encounter claims have increasingly become displaced by claims of UFO abductions. Within Ufology the term "abduction" is popularly given to a form of close encounter experience possessing a number of generally commonplace elements. The majority of "abduction" claims result from one or more individuals (sometimes termed "experiencers") noticing an apparent episode of so-called "missing time"; a mysterious "gap" in an individual's recollection of events (covering an interval ranging from 10 minutes up to an hour or more). This may (or may not) have been preceded by a consciously recalled "UFO" sighting. In an attempt to discover what happened during this interval, some individuals undergo a procedure called regression hypnosis. This involves a qualified hypnotherapist placing the subject into state of deep, sleepy relaxation (via the use of repetitive but gentle suggestion). The hope is that hypnosis will break down any "barriers" hindering the "remembrance" of the time in question.
When the participant is placed under a hypnotic trance, the period of missing time is often "resolved" into an alarming encounter with strange entities. These are usually of the so-called "grey" type, but other UFO entity-types may be supposedly involved - or encountered - during the course of this "experience". The "encounter" often begins with the participant being "escorted" into a "UFO" by its occupants, usually against his or her will (the person concerned often claiming to "float" as if weightless). He or she is then taken to a room, where something akin to a medical examination purportedly takes place. The extent of communication between a participant and the entities supposedly "responsible" for the abduction varies considerably. Often, the "witness" recalls (when regressed) that the entities enacted a procedure to make him or her forget the encounter. The "experience" then ends with the witness reportedly being "returned" to his or her initial location (or a short distance elsewhere).
"Abduction" accounts are often very surreal in their content; the "abducting" entities often make cryptic statements, act in a very outlandish manner or the recalled "memories" of the encounter may inexplicably "jump" to other, unconnected events.
Despite there current popularity, "abduction" claims have been subjected to extensive criticism. Why is this? Despite common belief to the contrary, regression hypnosis can neither infallibly recover authentic "lost" memories or acts as a "truth serum". For example, an experiment conducted in 1977 by Dr's. William McCall and Alvin Lawson created (via the use of mild leading questioning) detailed - but false - "abduction" narratives in some hypnotised subjects. Furthermore, the fact that an altered state of consciousness (known to generate spurious details in some instances) is relied upon to "recover" details of most abductions throws their reality status open to considerable doubt).
A number of conditions and mental effects have been proposed to account for abductions. A medical condition called Temporal Lobe Epilepsy has the potential to explain at least some borderline "abduction" cases. There also appears to be a link with "sleep paralysis" and Hypnogogic/ Hypnopompic experiences (naturally occurring hallucinations that happen just prior to sleeping or waking, respectively). The extent to which these concepts can explain "abduction" events is currently uncertain
Of all the questions relating to UFOs, the most important is (without doubt) "what are they"? The exact answer to this question is still uncertain, but listed below are the most likely possibilities, along with a brief description of the strong and weak points of each theory.
Theory 1: All UFO reports are (in actuality) mistaken observations of natural objects, hallucinatory experiences or hoaxes.
Points For: This view is
consistent with the high level of known mistaken (IFO) sightings, and requires
no major alterations to our current understanding of the physical world.
Furthermore, 60+ years of UFO research have uncovered numerous examples where
seemingly impressive UFO sightings have been found to have mundane causes
following more detailed (and often protracted) examination.
Points Against: For this to be true for all sightings, the reported anomalous attributes of "inexplicable" UFOs often have to be severely downplayed, ignored or dismissed to account for them in natural terms. Furthermore, if UFOs do not actually exist , why do unexplained reports (made independently of each other) exhibit similar (if not identical) anomalous behaviour and appearance attributes? This view also makes the dangerous assumption that science both understands and is aware of everything that occurs in our atmosphere.
Theory 2: UFOs are secret military devices
Points For: Such devices
are known to exist (ranging from remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) to various
"classified" aircraft concepts such as the SR-71 and the B2 "stealth" bomber).
Notably exotic "UFO" sightings could involve experimental man-made devices
utilising novel propulsion and airframe concepts.
Points Against: A very likely solution for some reports, but probably not all. Experimental devices are usually flown only over "proving" grounds and are not built in great numbers. Through the appearance of such devices is often unusual, none are capable of the wide range of behaviour exhibited by UFOs. Furthermore, their general flight-performance is often poorer than conventional aircraft! If the technology exists to build UFO-like "aircraft", why hasn't it entered common use (after all, UFOs (in their modern form) have been around for more than 50 years)? And what of "UFO" sightings that predate the invention of any manmade flying machines (i.e. accounts from Classical and Medieval times)
Theory 3: UFOs are unusual natural phenomena
Points For: There is much
circumstantial evidence suggesting that earth faults can generate airborne
glowing forms ("earthlights"), which exist for only short periods of time. The
likely existence of ball lightning (a spherical-shaped mass of floating,
electrically charged matter generated by thunderstorms) suggests other
atmospheric processes capable of creating unusual aerial lights. It would
explain why some UFOs are seemingly physical and capable of producing effects on
people and the environment, but leave no overtly "artificial" traces (such as
Points Against: It is probable that a considerable number of "UFOs" are generated by poorly understood natural processes. However, the link between such phenomena and UFOs is far from conclusively proven. It also difficult to account for observations of "exotic" UFOs (i.e. those which appear to be "structured" devices) via such concepts.
Theory 4: UFO events are generated by complex subjective processes
Points For: It has been proposed that some UFO experiences may result from a "self-healing" process, induced by a person's mind trying to resolve internal conflicts caused by problems in his or her life. Hence, it is thought that some "UFOs" events could be subjective in nature, involving symbolic representations of this ongoing healing/coping process (circles and spheres, for example, being long-standing presentational archetypal images of the "inner person" or "soul"). According to this theory such "UFO" experiences originate from the "witnesses'" subconscious mind, which are somehow (spontaneously) "grafted" onto his or her perception of the everyday, waking world.
Points Against: Such theories cannot explain either multiple-witness UFO sightings or UFOs associated with some form of physical trace evidence. A likely possibility in some instances, although the processes underlying such subjective experiences remain obscure.
Theory 5: UFOs are exotic aerial life-forms
Points For: It has been proposed
that some UFOs are exotic life-forms, existing naturally within our atmosphere.
These "creatures", it is claimed, are normally "invisible" to us, but are
rendered observable to our senses on rare occasions (giving rise to reports of
"UFOs"). Instances of UFOs seemingly exhibiting actions suggestive of
"intelligence" (particularly those described as being "non-material" and/or only
several cms in size) are deemed to be consistent with this possibility by some
Points Against: As well as a lack of concrete scientific proof for such life-forms, the majority of UFO reports do not readily lend themselves to this interpretation. It is very difficult to ascertain whether an alleged "purposeful" action reportedly exhibited by a "UFO" is actually the result of "intelligence" (the determination of which is based solely on a witness's subjective judgment). Hence, such claims cannot be uncritically accepted as "evidence" for this theory. Sightings of very small or "non-material" UFOs are more likely to involve observations of unusual natural phenomena.
Theory 6: UFOs are extraterrestrial spacecraft
Points For: This theory is
consistent with the alleged nature of some unexplained sightings (i.e. those
involving UFOs that appear to be very technically advanced, structured devices).
Furthermore, the possibility of extraterrestrial life is (indirectly) supported
by considerable scientific evidence.
Points Against: After 50+ years, there is still no convincing physical evidence for the existence of these hypothetical "alien" spacecraft, or any evidence (yet!) of any technically advanced civilisation in the universe other than our own. Indeed, the lack of such proof is this theory's greatest flaw! Finally, there is also considerable doubt whether routine and regular voyages between the stars are either possible or practicable (which would have to be the case if UFOs were alien spacecraft!).
Theory 7: UFO reports result from observations of future human technology projected into the past (our "present"):
Points For: This theory
postulates that in the (probably distant) future humanity will be capable of
devising a means to travel to the past, which subsequently generate "UFO"
reports whenever such devices or effects are subsequently observed. This theory
neither requires the existence of technically advanced aliens or commonplace
interstellar space travel.
Points Against: Unfortunately, the lack of physical evidence for these hypothetical "parachronic" devices is as much a negative factor for the "UFOs-as-time-machines" theory as it is for the "UFOs-as-alien-spacecraft" concept! Where is the evidence for these visitors from the future, either in history or in today's world? While very difficult, interstellar space flight is at least theoretically possible. Backwards time-travel, on the other hand, seems to be ruled out by the current laws of physics - albeit possible (but still probably impractical) according to "wormhole" theory .
Theory 8:UFOs originate from an
"alternative" universe which can become temporarily
"connected " to our own under certain rare circumstances
Points For: The existence of such
"alternative" universes are deemed theoretically possible by current scientific
thinking. The notably transient nature of many UFO events (in particularly UFOs
that appear and disappear very suddenly, sometimes seemingly out of thin air) is
also consistent with this theory.
Points Against: There is no real evidence that such alternative universes actually exist (and are not merely just a theoretical concept!) If some "UFOs" did come from alternate universes, they would have to represent a radically different order of reality not to fall foul of the "lack of physical" evidence problem seriously affecting other "UFOs are advanced devices from elsewhere" -type theories!
Theory 9: UFO sightings are generated by "psychic" phenomena
Points For: This covers a wide
range of possibilities. For instance, some UFOs could be immaterial echoes from
the future (according to this view, "ghosts" are similar echoes, but from the
past!). Other events may involve psychic "manifestations" from "otherworldly"
sources, which the witness perceives as a "UFO" incident. Such concepts are also
consistent with the lack of evidence for "physical" UFOs.
Points Against: The existence of psychic phenomena is deemed unlikely by contemporary science, due to a lack of irrefutable supporting evidence. However, it should be stated that occurrences that seem "paranormal" could be merely uncommon manifestations of the physical universe (and would not therefore require the existence of the "supernatural" to be valid). There is, however, the risk that labelling So what actually are UFOs?
So, then what is the truth about UFOs?
So then, what is the truth about UFOs? It is evident that many reports are clearly explicable in mundane terms. On the other hand, a few sightings are (seemingly) harder to account for in this manner. It is likely that the majority of "unexplained" UFO events involve unusual forms of natural phenomena (such as "earthlights"). Others may be generated by complex subjective processes or man-made devices. However, what of those sightings that seemingly relate to observations of highly advanced devices (or to less material, but equally anomalous, occurrences)? It is all too apparent that our understanding of the UFO phenomena remains both fragmentary and imperfect. It is thus evident that much research still needs to conducted in this (and other) areas of ufology before a full understanding of this problem will be reached!
Even among these are works which contain many inaccuracies, but these are listed nonetheless as they are the most notable titles dealing with a specific aspect of ufology.
A= Abductions C=Case Study G= General Ufology E=Entities H=Historical S=Sceptical T= Theoretical
Bryan, C.D.B. (1995) Close Encounters Of The Fourth Kind. A.
Budden, A. (1998) Electric UFOs
Campbell, S. (1994) The UFO Mystery Solved. ST.
Clarke, D. & Roberts, A. (1990) Phantoms Of The Sky. . G.
Clarke, D. & Roberts, A. (2002) Out Of The Shadows. H.
Clarke, D. & Roberts, A. (2007) Flying Saucerers H.
Clarke, J (1996) High Strangeness UFOs from 1960's through 1979.
Condon, Dr. E. U. (ed) (1969) Scientific Study Of UFOs. G.; now available at: http://www.ncas.org/condon/index.html
Chalker, B. (2005) Hair Of The Alien. C.
Devereux, P. (1982) Earthlights. . T.
Devereux, P. (1996) Earthlight Revelations. . T.
Evans, H. (1983) The Evidence For UFOs. . G.
Fort, C. (1919) The Book Of The Damned. H.
Fuller, J. (1965) The Interrupted Journey. C.
Good, T. (1987) Above Top Secret. G.
Hall, R. (2000) The UFO Evidence . HC.
Hendry, A (1980) The UFO Handbook. G.
Hopkins, B. (1981) Missing Time. A.
Hynek, J. A. (1972) The UFO Experience; A Scientific Inquiry. G.
Hynek, J. A. (1977) The Hynek UFO Report. H.
Jacobs, M. (1975) The UFO Controversy In America. H.
Jung, Dr. C. (1958) Flying Saucers. T.
Keel, J. (1970) UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse. 1970 T.
Klass, P. J (1968) UFOs; Identified. T.
Klass, P. J (1974) UFOs: Explained. S.
Mack, J. E. (1994) Abduction. A.
Menzel, Dr. D. H (1954) The World Of Flying Saucers. S .
Randle, K., & Schmitt, D. (1991) UFO Crash At Roswell. C.
Randles J & Warrington, P. (1979) UFOs: a British Viewpoint. . G.
Randles, J. (1981) UFO Study. G.
Randles, J. (1983) UFO Reality. G.
Randles, J. (1995) UFO Retrievals. C.
Randles, J. , Clarke. D. and Roberts, A (2000) The UFOs That Never Were C
Ruppelt, E.J (1956) The Report On Unidentified Flying Objects. H.
Sheaffer, R (1981) The UFO Verdict. S.
Spencer, J, & Evans, H. (ed) (1987) UFOs; 1947-1987 G.
Stacey, K. & Evans, H .(ed) (1997) UFOs: 1947-1997 . G.
Story, R (ed) (1980) The Encyclopaedia Of UFOs. G.
Story, R. (ed) (2001) The Mammoth Book of UFOS GCH.
Strieber, W. (1987) Communion. A.
Vallee, J. & J (1966) Challenge To Science. . G.
Vallee, J. (1970) Passport To Magonia. T.Presently, the best summary of the Condign project is given in: Clark, D. and Anthony, G. (2006) The British MoD Study IUR: 30:4 The full text of the project can be found at: http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/FreedomOfInformation/PublicationScheme/SearchPublicationScheme/UnidentifiedAerialPhenomenauapInTheUkAirDefenceRegion.htm
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