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.
Welcome to the latest round up of news and views on UFOs, alien abductions, crop circles, ghosts, the paranormal, the unexplained, the weird and the wonderful.
December 2010 sees the 30th anniversary of Britain's most famous and compelling UFO case, the Rendlesham Forest incident. In the early hours of 26 December 1980, military personnel at the twin bases saw strange lights in the forest. Thinking an aircraft might have crashed, they went out to investigate. What they found was a small triangular-shaped craft that had landed in a clearing in Rendlesham Forest. Nearby farm animals were going into a frenzy. One of the security police officers, Jim Penniston, got close enough to touch the side of the object. He and another of the airmen present, John Burroughs, attached sketches of the craft to their official USAF witness statements.
One of these sketches details strange symbols Penniston saw on the craft's hull, which he likened to Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Two nights later, the UFO returned. The Deputy Base Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt, was informed and together with a small group of men went out into the forest to investigate. As they progressed, radio communications were subjected to interference and powerful mobile generators (called light-alls) that Halt had brought to illuminate the forest began to cut out. Despite his initial plan to "debunk" the UFO sighting, Halt and his team then encountered the UFO, which at one point fired beams of light down at his party and at the Woodbridge facility. "Here I am, a senior official who routinely denies this sort of thing and diligently works to debunk them, and I'm involved in the middle of something I can't explain", he subsequently commented. Charles Halt documented his encounter by recording his observations on a hand-held cassette recorder. The 17 minutes of tape are widely available on the internet. Halt reported the various incidents to the Ministry of Defence in a memorandum dated 13th January 1981. Despite the innocuous title "Unexplained Lights", the document described the UFO as being "metallic in appearance and triangular in shape ... hovering or on legs". In what may have been either a typographical error or a slip of the memory, Halt gave incorrect dates for both sightings, recording each as having taken place a day later than was, in fact, the case. The MoD's investigation included an inconclusive search for radar evidence that might have corroborated what was seen, but the error in the dates meant the wrong tapes were checked. Of far more interest was an assessment of radiation readings that had been taken from the landing site with a Geiger counter. The readings had peaked in three holes in the ground which formed the shape of an equilateral triangle, which had been found at the spot where the craft landed. The Defence Intelligence Staff stated that the readings seemed "significantly higher than the average background". Their report suggested that the radiation level was around seven times what would have been expected for the area concerned. This was confirmed to me in 1994 by the Defence Radiological Protection Service, when I was running MoD's UFO project. This was part of a cold case review of the Rendlesham Forest incident that I carried out. My conclusions were that the original investigation had been fatally flawed by procedural errors, delay, confusion over jurisdiction and poor information-sharing between the MoD and the USAF. I reached no definitive conclusion on what took place and the case remains unexplained to this day. The MoD's case file on the Rendlesham Forest incident was released in 2001 under the Code of Practice for Access to Government Information (the forerunner of the Freedom of Information Act). This followed requests by a number of people, including the late Georgina Bruni, founder and former editor-in-chief of Hot Gossip. Georgina's book on the case, You Can't Tell The People, remains the definitive account of the Rendlesham Forest incident. The title derives from a conversation that Georgina had with former PM Baroness Thatcher about Rendlesham Forest and the UFO phenomenon more generally. "You can't tell the people" was Baroness Thatcher's blunt remark. She refused to elaborate.
The 30th anniversary of the event is being marked by a mini reunion, when Jim Penniston and John Burroughs will return to Woodbridge, give a talk and then lead attendees out into the forest to retrace the route they followed on that fateful night, 30 years ago. I will be speaking at this event too and accompanying Jim and John on their walk.
The History Channel (US) is now showing a second series of Ancient Aliens. Largely based around the work of Erich von Daniken, author of books such as Chariots of the Gods?, the series explores the controversial theory that extraterrestrials with superior knowledge of science and engineering landed on Earth thousands of years ago and shared their expertise with early civilizations. I was interviewed for Season 2, having previously been interviewed for Season 1. Check out http://www.history.com/shows/ancient-aliens for details of the series.
UFOs - Fringe or Mainstream?
The UFO phenomenon has often been perceived as a fringe subject, but in the past few months I've been involved in a number of events and TV shows which suggest that the subject is becoming increasingly mainstream. I've been featured in two separate BBC One Inside Out programmes on UFOs, as well as appearing on the new ITV breakfast show, Daybreak. But perhaps the most extraordinary coverage of the topic was a Blue Peter special, broadcast on 2nd November, entitled "Do Aliens Exist?". The iconic children's TV programme devoted the entire show to the subject and I was used as the in-studio (or rather, on location) expert. In addition to all this mainstream TV coverage, I addressed the Oxford Union on the subject and gave a talk at the Royal Albert Hall, as part of a series of events called "Close Encounters", themed around space and alien life.
Issue 3 of UFO Matrix, Britain's only newsstand magazine entirely devoted to UFOs, went on sale at the end of November. I'm one of the regular columnists and have written a major feature on the Rendlesham Forest incident, as part of a 'Rendlesham Special', to mark the 30th anniversary of the events. The magazine is now available in the UK, the US and a large number of other countries. Check out http://www.healingsofatlantis.com/ for details.