UFOs (UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS)
by John Spencer
At first glance, Unidentified Flying Objects, Flying Saucers and Spacecraft's piloted by men from other planets seem to be a relatively new phenomena.
However unusual light effects in the sky are not new, and the interpretation of these effects goes back to earliest recorded history. Indeed, the birth of Christ was supposed to have been honoured with the presence of three wise men, who following lights in the sky, found that their trail led them to the newly-born baby Jesus.
Certainly the interpretation of these phenomena to be people from other planets is new, and these beliefs stemmed from one incident in 1947 in the USA. The pilot of a light aircraft, Kenneth Arnold, was distracted by some flashing images whilst out searching for the wreckage of a crashed transporter plane. His report of the images was that there were a group of objects moving in a curious way, flipping up and down. Using a nearby DC-4 plane to gauge their size, he estimated them to be about two-thirds the size of the DC-4. He described them as 'Moving like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water'.
It was not long before the term 'flying saucer' was born; it must be pointed out that Arnold's description was how they flew, not how they looked. His description of their shape was more like a sort of rounded boomerang than a saucer. The concept of a flying saucer caught the media's attention, and then the term became part of the country's culture.
The way in which the original description became distorted has become a common theme with this subject. Many objective investigators have found it quite difficult to separate UFO witness accounts of what was seen from the probably objective reality. There is always a problem in getting an accurate report from a witness of any event, and UFO accounts suffer from exactly the same kinds of problems: witness expectation, difficulty of stating size, speed etc. Also investigator bias also seems to have a marked affect on the final interpretation of what actually happened.
What is an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO)?
A UFO, in the strict sense of the word, is simply that, an object in the sky which is unidentified as to origin, or a landed craft that is presumed to have flown. Nowadays, UFO tends to be used to describe the supposed spaceships used to transport aliens to the Earth.
There are many mundane, natural explanations for UFO sightings. The most common are:
- Lights reflected from aircraft, or simply aircraft themselves
- Lighter than air-balloons, such as weather balloons
- Unusual cloud formations
- Ball Lightning
Alternatives to the 'Men from Mars' theory
Work by Paul Devereux and others has shown that there is possibly a natural phenomena at work in some types of sightings. Research is still ongoing on the subject of 'Earth Lights'. The evidence for this theory began when Paul noticed a correlation in the UK between areas that contain large quantities of granite and quartz and UFO sightings. The clustering of UFO reports in these districts is quite striking.
The way that earth lights appear is in the form of a glowing ball which rises quite dramatically from the surface of the earth, and they speed away, sometimes jinking at high speed. They can appear on their own or in small groups. It is Paul's, and other's belief that the effect is caused by some kind of friction deep in the formations of quartz and granite. It has been speculated that this friction causes some kind of electrically-charged fireball. Mini versions of earth lights have been photographed in rock crushers that are processing granite. Will-o-the-Wisp, often reported prior to the turn of the century, could also be caused by this kind of phenomena.
The rest of this document deals with the alien spacecraft theory, and the issues surrounding it.
UFO report classifications
Reports of UFOs fall into several categories. They are:
- Sightings of strange objects, usually in the sky.
- Claims of crashed spacecraft
- Close encounters
- Encounters and abductions
Sightings of strange objects in the sky have been covered above. Certainly there is a wealth of photographic, cinematic and video material available, but in 99% of eyewitness sightings, and those backed by recorded evidence, there is a natural explanation for the phenomena.
The first, and probably the most controversial episode was in America. Barely a month after Arnold's 'saucer' sighting, a crash was reported. A ranch owner in New Mexico, William Brazel, reported to the local sheriff's office that a flying saucer had exploded and bits were scattered over his ranch.
He was shortly locked up by the military, and was told to keep quiet as it was a matter of National Security. A Major Marcel from the Roswell Army Air Base visited the ranch and is known to have collected some debris, subsequently loaded it onto an aircraft and flown away. Marcel, supposed to have been accompanying the material was separated from the aircraft on orders, and the aircraft went on its way to Wright-Patterson Air Base.
According to various researchers, it has been apparently quite difficult to identify a) What exactly was removed from the ranch by Marcel and b) How much there was.
For those that believe in Government conspiracies, this is an ideal example of an episode to fan the flames of mystery. In fact, there is some evidence that the commanding officer of Marcel's Air Base, authorised the issuing of a press statement confirming that Marcel had, indeed removed wreckage of a 'flying disc'. The reporter for the local radio station, KSWS claims to have seen a near-complete saucer in the ranch's shed before the Army removed it. The reporter claims more; when the station attempted to send out this news to ABC wire service by teletype, a message simultaneously came in. It ordered the radio station not to transmit the message and stop communication immediately!
For those who are less inclined towards the Conspiracy Theory, the more mundane alternative is that there probably was a craft that crashed, but it either contained something top secret or was an experimental, therefore top secret craft in its own right. John Spencer in his book, Perspectives, points out that this was all happening at about the same time that intense research was taking place on atomic weapons, and therefore the cargo could have been both highly secret, and highly radioactive; hence all the attention.
For more reading on this case, two good books are The Roswell Incident by Charles Berlitz and William More, and Above Top Secret by Tim Good.
The first close encounter case was George Adamski, who published a book detailing his case. This was the first written account of contact with aliens, and it took place in late November 1952. For five years previously he had had a number of sightings of craft, but not of their contents, or pilots. He met his first alien in front of two witnesses who were curious about his claims to see the saucers. Whilst photographing the craft (and the witnesses were watching though binoculars) he met the alien: 5 feet in height, and humanoid, with an oriental appearance. Adamski used a combination of sign-language and 'telepathy' to communicate. The alien came from Venus and it turned out that he was worried about atomic radiation's being emitted from earth. Adamski was also told in a later conversation that the humanoid form was universal. Over the next few years he flew with them around the solar system, and met people from various planets.
It is pretty certain, that all, if not most of Adamski's story was not true. One element that occurs time and time again in UFO cases is fact that the aliens are concerned with the things that are also the daily worries of the witnesses - in this case the worries over atomic energy and the atomic bomb. It is also unlikely that there is any intelligent life on any other planet in the solar system, hence his meetings with others of our solar system was either false, or if he did meet beings, they were lying about their origins.
Adamski was also prone to exaggeration - he called himself a Professor, and did not deny the story of his involvement with the Mount Palomar Observatory (which of course lent his story credibility). In reality he served fast food in a cafe on Palomar's slopes.
The next contact was a year later in 1954. Truman Bethurum met aliens from a location on the dark side of the moon, called Clarion. This was of course before the space program sent probes and men to the moon. This time, they spoke perfect English.
Further witnesses came forward in the next few years. Daniel Fry met an alien called A-Lan in the same year; Orfeo Angelucci wrote about his escapades in 1955 - he also took a trip outside our gravity and discovered that Jesus was an extra-terrestrial. Back in 1954 Marian Keech met aliens from two different places, one was the previously-mentioned Clarion. She formed a cult which was told that there were some faults in the Earth's crust and a great flood would wipe out Salt Lake City on 21st December 1964, and that a spaceship would rescue them. The day came, no floods, and no spaceship.
There are several issues that arose from the early years of contacts, and they can only be seen with hindsight. The first is that none of the aliens met by each contactee seemed to know the other aliens. If the witness claims are to be believed, then the Earth was almost 'saucer central' for a wide variety of different races, all of whom preferred to drink in our own bars, rather than contact each other. The second issue, discussed above, is their concerns of the problems of the day. Nowadays, the alien's concern is with environmental matters.
The first Abduction case was with Betty and Barney Hill on the evening of September 19th 1961. A wind storm was brewing in their home in America's New Hampshire, and the Hill's were on holiday. Not having funds to stay on an extended holiday if the hurricane was going to hit the area, they decided to drive home through the night. After stopping at a restaurant they resumed their journey at 10.30pm on US Interstate 3 highway. Barney mentioned on leaving that he expected that they would be home by about 2.30 or 3am, a journey of some five hours. As they drove past the village of Lancaster, Betty noticed a bright light to the left of, and slightly below, the moon. A second light then joined the first and seemed to be getting bigger. She showed the sight to Barney, who slowed down to watch. He thought that it was a 'satellite gone off course'.
Their dog, Delsey was restless, and they decided to stop to allow the dog out to go to the toilet. They ware still observing the lights, and eventually went back to the car and drove on slowly, convinced that the lights were circling them, or at least pacing them. Viewing the lights though binoculars, Betty saw an enormous craft with a double row of windows. Stopping the car in the middle of the road Barney took the binoculars, viewed the lights for himself, and 'gripped with fear' walked towards the lights. Barney walked to within 50 feet of the lights, which seemed to be a large object which had lowered down to about tree height. He believed he could see over a dozen people looking at him. Convinced he was about to be captured, he ran back to the car and shouting that he was about to be captured, drove of at high speed. Betty tried to locate the lights, or the craft but could see nothing. She then slipped into drowsiness, reporting hearing some bleeping noises at about the same time. They eventually arrived home in full daylight. They seemed to have lost two hours during the drive.
10 days after the sighting, Betty began to have dreams of the car being stopped by the craft and of being taken into it, and subjected to medical inspection. The inference from the dreams was that she was recalling real events.
This was the first account of alien abduction. Since then the later accounts have generally had similar aspects: missing time, and medical examination. There have been more extreme examples, including forced rape, impregnation, implantation of gizmos into the brain and so on.
There are some issues to deal with. The accounts of the lost time did not start appearing until investigators pointed out the fast that they had arrived home late. Barney had not realised this. Betty had also read a book from cover to cover without stopping UFO conspiracy theories a few
days after the event. The question is, was all this information, being fed back to her subconsciously, resulting in a self-selecting testimony? We do know that further revelations from Betty came from the use of hypnotic regression. Regression, in the hands of an expert, is at best unreliable. In the hands of a therapist who is leading the witness, and who has strong views on the matter in question, will result in unreliable testimony.
What Really Happened?
We will never really know, and in 99% of abduction cases we never will. There is plenty of evidence to support the assertion that observation by UFO witnesses is generally unreliable, and we have to be extremely cautious about admitting information gleaned from hypnotic regression. John Spencer's book Perspectives contains a good summary of the abduction evidence and discusses some of the possible explanations of what really happened.
CLOSER INTO CLOSE ENCOUNTERS
The most famous categorisation of UFO's is to divide the sightings into distant and close encounters, further subdivisions as follows:
Distant encounters: #
- Night lights
- Daylight discs
- Radar detected anomalies
There have been several attempts to categorise UFO's in more detail, particularly the Vallee classification which is highly complex; for my own part I believe that only one subdivision is needed into the following
- Close encounters of the first kind: Close proximity to a UFO
- Close encounters of the second kind: Traces left by the presence of a UFO
- Close encounters of the third kind: Interaction with the perceived pilots of a flying saucer
- Close encounters of the fourth kind: Alien abduction
- Those things which are seen
- Those things which are experienced
There is clearly a significant difference between something seen passing by in the sky which is of momentary interest and no personal involvement and finding yourself walking about within the walls of a flying saucer!
It may well be that these are two completely different UFO phenomena not related to each other. Certainly the characteristics of sightings indicate some objective real object being seen and possibly misperceived, whereas the reports of experiences indicated a possibly subjective event happening for the most part in an alternate state of consciousness. Perhaps the most telling difference is that the average number of witnesses to a sighting is 2.2 whereas the average number to an experience is only slightly over 1 (i.e. mostly sole experiences with one or two cases of second or third witness claims).
UFO into IFO
Another important characteristic difference between sightings and experiences is that there is a degree of objective research available into sightings. Some 90 - 95% of all sightings are satisfactorily explained, mostly even to the satisfaction of the witnesses themselves. The majority of sightings are misperceived aircraft, astronomical bodies, light effects, etc. The standpoint of the research into this branch of UFO research must always be that there is a simple and rational explanation that must be sought for.
It is my personal belief that most of the other 5 - 10% of unexplained sightings could also be, at least in the most part, explained if information relating to, say, light aircraft movements and so on, was discovered. There might be a small residue of still unexplained phenomena and I would first propose that these represent a strange, and as yet not understood, natural (perhaps meteorological) phenomenon.
A controversial claim: but it is my contention that there is nothing in sightings reports which demands an extraterrestrial explanation.
The strangest sightings
Probably the most thought-provoking sightings took place in the early 1980s in the Norwegian valley called Hessdalen where many strange lights were seen inside the valleys by a large number of witnesses over a protracted period of time. These lights were even reported as being interactive, i.e. people would flash torches and lasers towards them and they would seemingly respond. They have been subject to much speculation from inevitable alien intelligence to natural earth energies such as Paul Devereux speculated in his theory of 'earthlights'.
A large battery of equipment including video and radar was employed over a several year period.
Undoubtedly they represent genuine UFOs in that they have not been fully explained and they are something that represents more than simple misperception.
But even distant sightings are serious
In 1948, around six months after the Kenneth Arnold sighting, Captain Thomas Mantell was in one of a flight of aircraft over Fort Knox, Kentucky. He saw a distant light in the sky and climbed up to inspect it, the other planes, at varying heights, turned back but Mantell went on until such time as his plane fell out of the sky and he was killed becoming ufology's first martyr. There has been a lot of speculation as to what caused Mantell's death. Inevitably it has been speculated that he was shot out of the sky by some sort of ray gun from a flying saucer and there is one report that he got close to the object and reported it as being a large metallic shaped umbrella-like object. However, it is highly likely that at least part of the explanation is that he was well beyond the effective range of his oxygen equipment and would have blacked out from lack of oxygen. He may even have hallucinated.
What is important in the Mantell crash is that an experienced pilot seems to have been driven by excitement caused by media hype on the subject to have lost his otherwise better judgement. It is some indication of the fever pitch that UFOs reached in the early years in America as evidenced by their news media of the time.
In 1978 pilot Frederick Valentich was in radio contact with the ground while flying across the Bass Straits in Australia. He reported a green light manoeuvring above, below and around his aircraft. Suddenly his radio transmissions ceased and he was never heard of again. Just prior to his radio cutting out he was reporting electrical disturbances in the plane and the engine beginning to cough and splutter.
It is quite possible that he encountered some kind of unknown atmospheric effect, possibly natural, but even so the fact that such an effect exists and can kill people and is not yet understood is reason enough to continue research into UFO sightings.
But the close encounters can be dangerous too
In Scotland Robert Taylor encountered what he believed to be a landed object in a clearing which sent out 'mine-like' devices which attached themselves to his legs and caused him to black out. Following the encounter he suffered some paralysis of his voice and some disorientation.
In 1980 near Huffman Air Force base, Texas, Betty Cash, Vicky Landrum and Colby Landrum suffered radiation effects following an encounter on a road with a lighted object being transported by a number of apparently military helicopters. The US government denied that the object was 'one of theirs' begging the question 'whose was it?' Betty Cash became bankrupted by her legal fight against the government and her medical bills and is still trying to sue the American government for the harm done to her.
In Imjarvi, Finland two skiers encountered what they perceived to be a flying saucer and a small green entity (yes, one of the few actual green ones!). Following the encounter they had severe medical effects for some two years.
Again the fact that such experiences can have such physical effects on people is reason enough to continue the research in a serious vein.
The first abductions
Following the Betty and Barney Hill abduction in 1961 there have been many hundreds of similar reports from all around the world. Such similarities beg the obvious questions:
1) Are they similar because they are objectively real and reported accurately?
2) Are they similar because there is some contamination of data between the witnesses?
To answer the first question is highly complex but over ten years of research leads me to believe that these experiences are not only objectively real. I do believe they happen external to the witness, i.e. that they are not just a product of the witnesses' imagination but I believe that they are interpreted by the witness according to their personal belief system. As such there is therefore a genuine external component and a fairly large internal personal component. Examination of these claims shows that they largely happen in altered states of consciousness (which may be brought about by the encounter or may be the reason for the experience). There are also sufficient differences overtime to suggest a progression. For example the aliens in the Betty and Barney Hill case seem to be similar enough to 'modern' aliens, i.e. bald, large dome heads, slightly strange eyes, reduced other facial features but there is a clear difference between the almost human-like version of that Betty and Barney Hill reported and the insect-like alien form reported by, say, Whitley Strieber. For example Betty and Barney Hill's aliens had pupils to their eyes which has disappeared in all modern reports. It is unlikely that this 'evolution' relates to the aliens themselves and is far more likely to indicate the progress of mythology and urban legend overlaid on the real subject.I stress continually that I do believe there is a real objective subject hidden under the cotton wool of belief mythology, wishful thinking, fear, etc.
As to whether there is contamination of data it is my belief that the Betty and Barney Hill stereotypical abduction has become so well known to researchers that although witnesses come from different backgrounds and are clearly unknown to each other, the backgrounds of UFO researchers are largely homogeneous, i.e. white middle-class, usually male individuals, who are carrying around the stereotype abduction in their heads and interpreting the witness reports against that model and almost inevitably modifying the interpretation to fit the model.
When we examine reports from non-technological societies or non-western cultures we find that similar reports are being made (i.e. the objective reality), but the interpretations are different (i.e. the cultural overlay). For example in Africa when Clifford Muchena reported silver-suited figures and a red ball of light he interpreted them as the spirits of his ancestors . There is no reason to assume that his interpretation from his culture is any more right or wrong than the interpretation of aliens in a Western technological 'Star Trek' culture. When the first reports of aliens and close encounters came from Russia the aliens were not the dwarfs reported across Europe and America but giants. It is significant that giants form the basis of most Russian Mythology and folklore.
UFO phenomena comes in a very wide variety and detailed analysis of claims shows that there is almost always a personal component unique to each report. For example in Kelly Hopkinsville in 1955 two families together in a farmhouse reported a bizarre form of entity never before or again seen; goblin-like floating silver with glowing yellow eyes, huge ears and claw-like hands reaching down to the ground. In Papua, New Guinea in 1959 Father Gill at the Christian mission there reported what seems to be the only report of a cabriolet flying saucer, i.e. an open top deck where the aliens stood on top waving at the people below. There are reports from South America of extraordinary sexual encounters and bizarre aliens including a one eyed, red-skinned creature.
The most photographed sighting of all time appears to have been the Gulf Breeze sightings of the late 1980's, early 1990's. Witness Ed Walters took over fifty photographs, took video footage, stereo photographs, three dimensional photographs, etc. Of UFOs over a small area of northern Florida. It was the first big controversial case in recent times with many American researchers taking polarised views as to Walters' credibility.However, as one of the photographs showed, the encounters owed as much to haunting as they did to alien visitation. In one case a UFO seems to have waited for the opportune moment to dangle down behind Walters disappearing immediately when another witness pointed a camera towards it.
I spent five days in Gulf Breeze including an extended personal interview one on one with Ed Walters and found him to be contrary to many claims by others - a highly credible witness but I also believe that the photographs he produced were not credible.
I suggest that this is a possible case where a person has had genuine experiences but has been forced by the strictures of our own social pressures to produce a degree of physical evidence which is simply not available in these experiences. He has therefore been forced to create certain evidence to support genuine claims. The fault if this is true, is therefore in our society rather than a UFO witness's. Part of close encounter research is to find new ways to verify claims rather than insisting on old outdated and inappropriate tests and researches.
A toy to play with
One avenue of productive research into close encounters is to stop asking the question, 'do they happen' and instead to ask, 'what are the effects?'We know that we can correlate cause and effect in that people claiming close encounters also have substantial changes in their life styles. Typically they turn towards the ecology, vegetarianism, artistic expression and a great deal of right brain activity. It would appear that close encounters switch on the intuitive and artistic and creative part of the brain. Whether this is a deliberate intervention of aliens, a side effect of a natural energy or a purely psychological effect of a personal perception is in one sense largely irrelevant. The point is that close encounters can be shown and made to be beneficial to witnesses if the approach to the subject is correct and that must be at least one goal of close encounter research. It is the reason why I coined the expression 'witness driven investigation' which centres the work on the witness rather than the investigator.
I have used the expression 'a toy to play with ' in that there is a similarity between giving children toys which seem to develop their play skills while in fact developing higher intuitive skills such as social interaction, trust, sharing and so on; and UFO encounters which seem to represent something physical while in fact having deeply psychological effects on witnesses. People are making UFOs their toy to play with to develop their minds.
It is this area into which future research and experimentation will largely be directed and particularly by experimental based researchers such as myself.
UFOs may be more complicated than we think!
In 1978 Elsie Oakensen underwent an abduction experience in Northamptonshire. Due to difficulties in the lives of the investigators no further detailed research was undertaken for many years; Elsie was left to come to terms with the experience on her own.Over a decade later Elsie has demonstrated abilities as a healer and in dowsing; she believes these to be connected to her experience.I feel that this development arose because Elsie 'led' the 'research' herself (in that she alone could work on the meaning of the case); I feel that if she had been subjected to the 'high-pressure' interrogative techniques of researchers determined to 'discover' the details of her case then these deeper meanings might have been missed. It is important also that a number of years were able to pass; development takes time and it seems as if these abductions may be only triggers, or early 'notices' of long term events that that time must be given.
In my book 'Perspectives', published in 1989, I said "If the reader finds my approach to cases, and particularly my willingness to leave questions open-ended and let cases drift for a considerable time, irritating, then while I regret this I make no apologies for it. I simply do not believe the intensive investigation - almost interrogation - approaches of many investigators to be appropriate. we are dealing with people who have had experiences they don't understand and the approach must be different." That was written after Elsie's abduction had happened but before she had discovered these spiritual qualities that she connects to the case; Elsie's development over a very long period of time is a proof that my approach has value.
The most important fact not to be overlooked is that UFO abductions are only a modern version of something that has been around for a long time. The literature of earlier centuries has been full of abduction stories; in the Celtic writings such abductions were the actions of 'fairie-folk' who took children, and often adults, into the 'fairy rings'. There they would suffer missing time experiences similar to modern UFO abductees.
The early stories of Brittany and the Celtic countries report the domain of elves, gnomes and others, many of whom exhibit similar appearances and activities to modern UFO aliens. I believe that the various entity reports throughout history are all linked; certainly they are similar and were often made by respected, serious people. The reports have been described by the people of the time in terms they could understand, and it is only recently that science-fiction has promoted the idea of extra-terrestrials. Perhaps we see these entities; fairies, gnomes, elves, perhaps even ghosts, in these terms because of our culture. Where 'UFO' reports are found in less technological cultures - in Africa for example - they are interpreted as ghost or spirit phenomenon. The true meaning of these experiences may be misunderstood by one or other culture; most likely no-one has yet found the right way to understand these experiences. Certainly, any explanation of UFO abductions, indeed of UFOs, has to answer the questions raised by these early experiences. No solution which ignores these questions can be complete.
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