Welcome to the November 2003 round-up of news and views on UFOs, alien abductions, crop circles, the unexplained, the weird and the wonderful.
A scientific study into the alien abduction phenomenon is to be undertaken by psychologists at Goldsmiths College, University of London.
Details of the study, including contact details for abductees wishing to take part, can be found at the following link:
A Very British UFO Hoax
On 7 October Channel 4 screened a documentary entitled A Very British UFO Hoax. The idea of the programme was that a production company hired a special effects company to design, build and fly and convincing looking UFO over Avebury in Wiltshire, with a view to seeing whether people would be fooled. I appeared on the programme. At the beginning I described the types of UFOs that are commonly seen, and talked about their shapes, speeds and manoeuvres. Later on in the programme I spoke about the reliability of witnesses. I was not involved in setting up the hoax. The production company, Chrysalis, had originally planned to make two documentaries. One was to be called The Believers, and was to be a fairly conventional UFO documentary, with the emphasis on witnesses, and the psychology of belief. The other was to have been called How to Build a Flying Saucer. Channel 4 were not willing to buy two separate programmes, so they got merged. My contribution, which was to have been used in the first documentary, was used in the second.
Alien Big Cats
In this context, alien does not mean extraterrestrial. Rather, it means alien to the environment in which they are seen. This is a reference to the increasing number of sightings of pumas, lynxes and other big cats in the UK. So are these sightings hoaxes, or misidentifications? Should we believe those who tell us we have nothing to fear? Probably not. I looked into this mystery while running the Ministry of Defence UFO project, as animal mutilations are often associated with UFO sightings. I consulted with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (now DEFRA) and concluded that there were mutilations occurring. But I believed that aliens were not responsible. Rather, big cats were roaming the countryside. The Surrey Puma and the Beast of Bodmin probably existed. I concluded that these were illegally held pets that had escaped from captivity, or had perhaps been deliberately released into the countryside by owners unable to look after them any more, or worried about legal issues. These animals could have bred with each other, or possibly with feral cats. Now, new and independent evidence has emerged supporting this view. The BBC obtained a hair from a big cat spotted in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, and sent it to an American laboratory for DNA analysis. The hair was matched to a panther or a black leopard. We need some urgent action on this issue, before a child is killed.
The new issue of UFO Magazine is out now.. This joint November and December issue contains over 100 pages, and is packed full of interesting articles and news stories about UFOs, alien abductions and crop circles. This is the first issue that has been published since the tragic and untimely death of the editor, Graham Birdsall. The family are working flat out to ensure that the magazine continues, as Graham would have wanted. Many other people are helping. Philip Mantle has been helping out in the offices, and researchers from all around the world have answered a call for new material. So, from me to all my readers, a special plea. Please go out and buy the magazine this month. Whether you are an occasional reader of the magazine, or someone who has never bought it before, but is interested in the subject, I would urge you to support the magazine at this difficult time by buying a copy. You will not be disappointed.
Thought control is no longer the stuff of science fiction. A recent study by scientists at Duke University in North Carolina has involved rhesus monkeys using brain implants to control a robotic arm. Electrodes were implanted into the brain, and electronic signals from the brain were used to manipulate the robotic arm. Such experiments on animals raise serious ethical issues, but the potential benefits for people who are paralysed mean that this work will continue. A similar experiment in Austria involved a paralysed student, Thomas Schwiger. He used his arm for the first time in years, as a result of an apparatus involving electrodes attached to his head, a computer, and electrodes connected to his arm muscles.
What were you doing at around 3.50pm on Friday 24 October? I was on Waterloo Bridge, watching a very sad sight. Three Concorde aircraft were flying over London, descending towards Heathrow for the final time. Yes, I know it was expensive. But our struggle to fly higher and faster, in something beautiful and not just functional, said something about the human spirit. What next? Perhaps the US Government should wind up NASA and cancel the space programme. Curiosity be damned. Let us stay forever on this small, blue planet, and let the accountants inherit the Earth. The motto of the Royal Air Force is Per Ardua ad Astra. Through Struggles to the Stars. Thanks to the British Airways, that struggle may just have become a little bit harder and longer.
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