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The Ufology Handbook:
The UFO "Cover Up":
A considerable number of UFO researchers believe that the official policy of most governments of deeming all UFOs to be explicable (and publicly issuing statements to this effect) is, in actuality, a smokescreen utilized to "cover up" the "truth" about UFOs. The nature of this "truth" is sometimes claimed to involve the "fact" that official agencies are aware that some reports are truly inexplicable, but conceal this knowledge due to their inability to stem the tide of unidentifiable incidents. Other researchers allege that at least some governments know the true origins of UFOs, acquiring this knowledge either through direct official contact with aliens or via crashed UFOs and "extraterrestrial" cadavers which incidentally came into their possession. A variation of this concept claims some governments are directly responsible for most UFO events (which, in actually, involve classified spying missions and secret technology, even - in the case of abductions - illegal mind control experiments). It is further alleged that Project Blue Book (and the limited UFO report monitoring efforts of other countries, such as the UK) were (and still remain) a "public relations front" to conceal more covert and elaborate projects relating to UFOs.
The most prominent critic of the Air Force's UFO policy during the 1950's and 1960's was the writer (and NICAP director) Donald Keyhoe. Both in his books and through NICAP he espoused his suspicion that the government were fully aware that UFOs were extraterrestrial devices. He suspected that covert forces within officialdom (which he termed the "Silence Group") were attempting to conceal the truth about UFOs by falsely "explaining away" all sightings and controlling information on inexplicable reports. This was due, alleged Keyhoe, to governmental concern over the detrimental effects which official acknowledgement of extraterrestrial visitation could have on society. Others since that time have promoted revised conceptions of the "UFO cover-up", which in general essence differs little from Keyhoe's original interpretation of it.
It is clear from the historical record that the USAF projects did enthusiastically indulge in a policy of debunking, by attempting to explain all UFO sightings by any means possible. Debunking in its most detrimental sense did (and does) occur when totally inappropriate and improbable explanations are proposed for "account" for a specific UFO incident. But it is also equally clear that - most of the time - the USAF approach was actually valid. This is reflected by the fact that the majority of reputable UFO societies active today use the same methods of case evaluation as the USAF, which uncover the same causes for IFO events cited by Project Blue Book; astronomical bodies, weather balloons, aircraft and so on. Furthermore, the majority of civilian groups even arrive at a percentage of unknowns comparable with the old USAF sighting statistics! The only way which UFO groups differ in their approach to the USAF is in their conviction that the "Unknowns" represent extraordinary aerial events.
Hence, it is just as likely that official attitudes towards UFO's may not be the consequence of a sinister, world-shaking cover-up, but just a mistaken official interpretation of the evidence! The USAF attitude of explaining all sightings may have resulted from a predominant conservative social and scientific attitude towards such (at that time) novel and extreme events. This view would have seemed all too justified by the considerable number of IFO incidents received by (for example) the USAF. It may have equally arisen from Cold War-era fears of sightings being utilized in psychological warfare by hostile powers. It may have come about as the consequence of both these factors combined. This alone could well have resulted in some anomalous events being incorrectly "evaluated" or "overlooked", hence condemning any "true" UFO report to conceptual oblivion.
Whatever the truth, it is clear that the American government did have regulations who intentions were to control the flow of UFO reports. For example, JANAP (Joint Army Navy Air force Publication) 146, issued in 1951, governed the reporting of any missile, submarine, aircraft or UFO. It made all those potentially covered by this regulation (both civil pilots and military personnel) liable to prosecution if they prematurely released such information to nonofficial sources. Another regulation issued in 1953 (AFR 200-2), required those involved with assessing UFO reports to reduce the number of "unidentified" reports to a minimum. It also forbade air-force personnel from talking to the media on UFO matters, stating that any queries relating to the subject were directed to Project Blue Book. Furthermore, it ruled that details of a sighting was not released until the Air Force was satisfied it was explicable. According to Edward Ruppelt AFR 200-5 was intended to encourage reporting of UFOs to Blue Book, as negative publicity about the subject were making witnesses reluctant to come forward.
In 1974 (long after the termination of Project Blue Book) changes to the Freedom of information act in the United States encouraged a court action by Ground Saucer Watch, aimed at obtaining any UFO-related information held by either the CIA or the NSA (National Security Agency). By the early 1980's (after some considerable effort on GSW's part) several thousand pages of data had been released. This information included translation of foreign articles, copies of letters to and from ufologists, details of foreign UFO reports and internal memo's mainly dealing with the Air Forces' UFO projects. Some of these documents are heavily censored (many lines of text being overwritten with black "masking" pen). Furthermore, a considerable number of documents remained withheld on alleged national security grounds. These documents remain highly controversy and are open to a variety of interpretations. Some claim they prove the existence of a long-term UFO conspiracy by both the CIA and the NSA, others that they simply indicate the subject was monitored at a low level by these agencies.
Officially, the English political establishment has always been highly sceptical of UFOs (basing this attitude upon the findings of the Blue Book and the Condon Report). In England the Official Secrets Act controls the flow of classified information within military and governmental channels. Official documentation about various subjects (including UFO's) are, at the earliest, released 30 years from their date of origin. For particularly sensitive documents this interval ranges from 70 up to 100 years. It is believed, from statements made by M.P's and civil servants, that some early UFO documents (such as those relating to the 1957 Lakenheath/Bentwaters incident) were destroyed as part of a file-clearing policy enacted after every 25 years. However, other documents from the same era have resurfaced. Why these (and later discovered) items "survived" is currently unclear.
All the above makes it clear that official enquiries relating to UFO matters have been rated as "classified information" in some circumstances. It also indicates that claims and evidence which seemingly supports the reality of a "UFO cover-up" requires as much carefully assessment as the UFO reports themselves. Are the instances where the government has withheld information on UFOs attributable to some earth-shaking hidden knowledge about the subject? Alternatively, could it be due to more mundane reasons, ranging from unease about certain documents demonstrating official uncertainty as to the nature of UFOs, or fears that they may publicly reveal the infrastructure of military establishments, modes of communication and the capabilities of "sensitive" military technology? This is still very much an open question, although current evidence seems to suggest the latter possibility.
The Cover-up's Wilder Side; MJ-12 To "Area 51":
Before the mid-1980's, the majority of governmental cover-up allegations were relatively mild, involving the suppression of important cases and the misrepresentation of sightings. This changed drastically during the mid-1980's, when a series of astounding allegations were made which, if true, inferred that the American government's had considerable knowledge of the origin of UFOs. By the beginning of the 1990's these allegations had become highly influential aspects of popular ufology (and remain so today).
The most important of these relate to a supposed top secret American UFO study group called Majestic 12 (reputedly also known by the abbreviations "MJ 12" or "Majic-12"). Evidence of this alleged organization first surfaced in 1984, when a roll of a anonymously-submitted microfilm arrived at the residence of television producer Jamie Shandera. The group's name supposedly derives from its administration panel, which comprised of 12 high-ranking individuals with notable scientific, political and military backgrounds. It is said to have been founded in 1947, as a direct consequence of the so-called "Roswell incident". The "main" MJ-12 paper is a 5-page document dated the 18th November, 1952, and appears to be a "briefing" dossier issued to President-elect Eisenhower. This lists the members of this covert group and, additionally, gives information relating to the Roswell incident (and the UFO reports which proceeded it). It describes in some detail the discovery, recovery and analysis of a crashed extraterrestrial device from that region, which the "dossier" claims contained 4 dead aliens. The second "core" MJ-12 document is a letter dated September 24th, 1947, addressed to alleged MJ-12 member James V. Forrestal and purportedly issued by President Harry Truman, outlining the project's brief. Some UFO researchers feel the MJ-12 papers are conclusive proof for the reality of extraterrestrial UFO's and the cover-up, and vindicates the "crashed alien spacecraft" interpretation of the "Roswell incident". Others state that the documents show many indications of being fairly recent forgeries. A steady flow of fresh documents relating to Majestic-12 have continued to appear throughout the 1980's and 1990's.
Following the appearance of the Majestic-12 "documents", several individuals came forward with yet more "revelations" concerning the American governments' alleged cover-up of UFOs. A host of astounding allegations were made by a variety of documents, mainly the so-called "Beta Report", "The Lear Document" and the "Dulce Papers", all of which first appeared in the late 1980's. These documents alleged that living alien "hostages" were being held by the American military establishment, and (more astounding) the American government had officially sanctioned extraterrestrial "harvesting" of UFO abductees and livestock. Detailed claims of alien bases upon the earth and secret deals between aliens and various world governments became commonplace during this period. Although all these allegations were (to say the least) fantastic and poorly substantiated, they indirectly formed the basis of a revamped extra-terrestrial belief system that would dominate public discussion of the UFO phenomenon throughout the 1990s.
In recent years much attention has been being focused on the Nellis test range complex, a large area of highly-restricted (and heavily-secured) land in Southern Nevada, USA, used to develop various classified aircraft. Past examples of devices tested and perfected in this locale include the U2 spy plane, the SR-71 and the F-117A and B-2 stealth aircraft. Sites within this region (semi-officially termed "Area 51") include Groom Lake Air Force Base. Film taken from just outside this bases' parameter show lights moving in an anomalous manner (i.e performing turning manoeuvres which would render unconscious any human pilot contained within such a device). However, most Ufologists feel that (at least) the majority of this footage depict RPVs (remotely piloted vehicles) developed at Groom Lake, which (due to being teleoperated or robotically controlled) can perform manoeuvres impossible for a manned aircraft. The USAF refuses to make any detailed comments concerning their activities at Area 51. The mystery surrounding this region deepened with the allegations made by Bob Lazar, an individual who claimed to have worked as an outside technical contractor on an installation called "S-4" (reportedly located some 16 kilometres from Groom Lake AFB) during the late 1980's. Lazar and others were supposedly employed to "back-engineer" nine disc-shaped devices of alien origin, said to fly via "amplified gravity-wave" propulsion units and anti-matter power plants!
The Government (or someone) is watching...
A few UFO researchers allege they are (or have been) "monitored" by governmental agencies; citing possible instances of mail-tampering and 'phone-tapping as evidence to support their assertions. Documents have surfaced (the majority of which are probable forgeries) claiming certain Ufologists are government "plants", who's aim is to spread false information about this subject. However, it is a matter of record that several American UFO researchers have openly claimed to have acted in this capacity on behalf of certain intelligence agencies.
UFO witnesses have (from many countries) have claimed visits by one (usually more) individuals alleging to represent various government departments. Usually, such visitors appear to be what they claim. A few such claims refer to visitors who appear or behave outlandishly. They may act in an idiotic manner, ask strange questions, dress in out-of-date outfits and/or drive decades-old (but "showroom fresh") cars. They may give military credentials which, following later enquiries, turn out to be false. In some instances they confiscate - or attempt to confiscate - UFO photographs or other "evidence". They are also claimed to "advise" witnesses not to discuss their sighting, often issuing "B-Movie gangster"-type threats in the process. It is to this peculiar category of pseudo-official visitor that Ufologists gives the title Men In Black, or MIBs (named after their supposed preference for dark attire).
These so-called "Men In Black" made their first appearance during the early 1950's in a sensationalist book written by Albert K. Bender (who, incidentally, founded one of the first civilian UFO groups) called "Flying Saucers And The Three Men". Most ufologists dispute the (very) wild allegations made in this tome, but it set a precedent for such visitors. Views about the true nature of MIBs vary from them being direct representatives of aliens, government agents from a secret UFO governmental study group or merely eccentric UFO buffs passing themselves off as officials in order to get access to witnesses.
Recent Trends in Ufology.
The belief in a UFO cover-up (along with other, more extreme, aspects of the subject) has been markedly popularized (and doubtlessly reinforced) in recent years by several media conceptions and innovations. Equally, these same trends may have also contributed to its decline during the first decade of the 21st century.
In 1993 British television first broadcast a horror/Si-Fi series called the "X Files". Upon its initial showing many TV critics wrote the programme off as badly-acted "escapist" garbage. Even those involved in its production (such as its creator, Chris Carter) believed it would not even last a single series! But (against all expectations) the "X Files" became a global phenomenon, succeeding largely by reflecting the beliefs, concerns and ideals of contemporary culture. The "X Set in the present day, the "X Files" deals with the adventures of several FBI agents who's brief is to investigate unexplained phenomena. Many episodes featured stories based around UFO sightings, crashed flying saucers and alien abductions, loosely derived from actual claimed experiences. In regards to UFO's, the "X Files" underlying narrative is that UFO's are from outer space and covert forces within the government are involved in a secret "war" to suppress evidence capable of proving their existence, by any possible means. This programme is thought to have largely instigated the current 1990's obsession with the paranormal. The "X Files" further resulted in bring many previously obscure Ufological claims to the attention of a mass TV audience, thereby allowing them to permeate mainstream society. However, by the time the show ended in 2002 (after nine seasons) interest in Ufology had experienced a marked global decline.
Nonetheless, while it lasted, the popularity of the "X-Files" alerted TV producers to (the then notable) substantial interest in UFOs and the paranormal within the general viewing demographic. Prior to the 1990's UFO documentaries were few and far between, with nearly all that did appear adopting a highly sceptical approach towards the subject. But, in the wake of the "X-Files", UFO's began to covered on a much more regular basis. With VCR (and later DVD players) becoming a common item in most English households a wave of special interest videos dealing with UFO's began to appear; the number currently available now being quite considerable.
The scientific (and sceptical) community have, however, expressed concern over many of these "new wave" UFO "documentaries", due to their marked tendency of avoiding balanced discussions of the UFO phenomenon (with any negative evidence relating to a specific case being usually ignored or, at best, played down). The majority unquestionably advocate an extraterrestrial origin for those "UFO" events they deem to be "unexplained". Even more controversially, many utilize speculative dramatized "reconstructions" of notable UFO cases, which often give the viewer no reason to doubt they truly involved phenomena of a highly anomalous nature. As a result, many UFO sceptics condemn these programmes as being mere "paranormal propaganda", who's aim is not to inform, but to deliberately pander to the pseudo-mystical yearnings (and credulity) of the public.
At around the same time, various glossy newsstand magazines dealing with UFO's appeared on the market. Although there had been previous attempts at producing a publicly - available UFO magazine, few such efforts lasted more than a few issues, no more than one ever appeared in a specific moment of time and, in the main, their circulation tended to be quite limited. However, in the "X-Files era" a prolific number of competing UFO journals lined the magazine shelves, some remaining in circulation for several years or more. Like many contemporary TV and video UFO documentaries, the majority of these publications were notably uncritical and tended to be predisposed towards an extraterrestrial-based interpretation of the subject. All have since ceased newsstand publication, although magazines covering a wide swathe of paranormal topics still proliferate; although present emphasis tends to be on ghosts and conspiracy theories.
This marked popularization of UFO's coincided (or, perhaps, was aided by) the rise in usage of the Internet; a global computer-based communication medium which has had a major influence upon Ufology in recent years. Prior to its general availability, it was virtually impossible to circulate "fringe" ideas among a mass audience; the printing and distribution costs involved rendered this an impossibility. With the arrival of the Internet, the need to actually physically "print" ideas is now no longer required. The information (which can take any conceivable form; textual, visual, audio or a combination of all these) can now be downloaded onto a "website" (or directly to a "connected" computer), thereby making it swiftly available to the whole world. The fact that most Internet servers are also very liberal in what can be downloaded onto a Website (regardless of how loathsome or spurious that data is) has also greatly aided the mass dissemination of various Ufological and other "fringe" topics.
As a consequence, conspiracy theories once deemed so ridiculous as not to merit discussion (such as speculation that the moon landings were hoaxed by NASA) now receives mass public exposure via this medium, and, as a consequence, appears more often in other media (such as TV, magazines and books). It has provided an easy conduit for once fringe conspiracy theories to reach an audience of millions. These theories have become so prevalent in society that they attract a similar (if not greater) degree of interest as UFOs did during the late 1990's. Most of these claims represent virtually omnipotent governments who only experience negative events either because they directly plan them or due to the opposition of an equally powerful secret group (for which little evidence usually exists). Some of these claims infer various world governments are working for - or are directly controlled by - extraterrestrials; the most prolific of these claimants being the New Age writer David Ike. As consequence, we can only expect beliefs about UFOs and conspiracies type UFO beliefs to grow over the coming years.
The Internet has also had a notable effect in making information on UFOs directly available for virtually little cost, through discussion forums and internet-based mailing lists; often working in conjunction with other "web-able" digital technologies such as *.pdf data files and mpeg video excerpts. This trend has accelerated the decline of mass-membership UFO societies, once a notable part of the subject from the 1960's but who began to fade from existence by the late 1980's. Some of these bodies, such as the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA), have survived this trend by becoming limited membership societies composed of active researchers and investigators, who use websites as their main communication medium. This latter approach mostly avoids the need to physically print information, replacing it with a cheaper media format capable of the inexpensive reproduction of high quality copy such as colour images.
What Lies Behind UFO Reports?
Despite more than half a century of sightings and speculation no clear consensus has yet emerged regarding the origin of UFO events. There is, however, a plethora of (often wildly) divergent opinion concerning their possible nature. Conventional scientific wisdom still dismisses all UFO events as misperceptions, hallucinations, hoaxes or optical illusions. Within the Ufological community there is a considerable lack of consensus regarding the origin of UFOs, with notable differences of interpretation existing even among researchers sharing the same ufological perspective! The only thing that Ufologists can all agree on is that some UFO events require extraordinary explanation schemas to satisfactorily account for them. Therefore, any attempt to objectively explain "True" UFO events must involve the examination of a wide variety of hypothetical possibilities.
For a given UFO hypothesis to be both truly viable and scientific, it has to be demonstrable, falsifiable, possess clearly defined parameters and satisfactorily account for the diverse reported attributes of "true" UFO phenomena. Furthermore for a theory of UFO origin to be acceptable to the scientific community, it should (as much as possible) be consistent with our current understanding of the natural world. It is quite apparent that many currently popular UFO theories fail on nearly all these counts. Many are effectively unprovable, possessing wide and ever-changing conceptual parameters and often depend on intensively enforced high-level conspiracies to account for a lack of supporting physical evidence. Others are based on novel reinterpretations of the "laws" of physics (or the existence of "occult" forces), their validity thereby requiring a "natural" order markedly differing from our current understanding of the universe. Finally, any good UFO theory should never lose sight of the fact that most sightings are explicable in normal, already well-understood terms. Furthermore, it must also give due consideration to the powerful psycho-social forces influencing the perception of both IFO's and "true UFO's" at every conceivable level.
The mark of any viable UFO theory is that it can account for the variously reported and distinctive elements of UFO behaviour. As a consequence it therefore has to explain;
A: The reported "total air capability" of UFO's; their claimed ability to move like aircraft and hover for extended periods like helicopters, whilst also exhibiting variable rates of speed ranging from nil to (estimated) velocities in excess of 1000kph.
B: Their ability to make very fast, tight angle turns, to stop instantly while travelling at very fast velocities and instantaneously accelerate to very fast apparent rates of speeds when at rest. Furthermore, it must account for all these actions in a way which does not result in the generation of a sonic boom.
C: The various shapes associated with UFOs (which range from balls of light to domed discs) and other appearance attributes intermittently associated with this phenomenon (colour-changes, changes of shape, noise and smell emissions, or the lack thereof, and so on).
D: The various "Close Encounter" effects, which range from alarmed reactions exhibited by animals, physiological and physical reactions on humans, detrimental effects on mechanical devices up to physical trace evidence.
E: The occasional psychical and "Oz-factor" manifestations claimed in association with certain "high strangeness" UFO events.
F: The "semi-material" nature of "true" UFO's; the phenomenon capable of both being photographed and of leaving physical traces but (especially in the cases of "Close Encounter" experiences) never being observed (or photographed) by great numbers of witnesses within (or over) densely populated areas.
G: Explain the presence and the connection between UFO's and alleged "UFO occupants".
With these attributes of the UFO phenomenon in mind, let us now look at, in turn, at the most prominent UFO hypothesis proposed to date.
1: The "Radical Misperception" Hypothesis:
The first question which Ufology must address relates to the most important aspect of this subject; the matter of whether "true" UFOs actually exist as distinct and unique phenomena. It is all too apparent that many sightings involve misperceptions of man-made objects and natural phenomena. A few, however, seemingly involve manifestations quite unlike that currently known to conventional science. From that fact alone, one could claim that "true UFO" incidents are of scientific note and merit. However, against this, little good physical evidence is available to support the existence of "inexplicable" UFOs.
Therefore (based on this dearth of physical proof) orthodox scientific thought holds firmly to the singularly stark premise that UFOs do not exist. The majority scientific opinion expounds the view that the mundane phenomenon responsible for IFO events are also responsible for "True UFO" sightings. This is the view also espoused by the majority of high-profile "UFO Sceptics".
The "mainline" scientific attitude regarding the diverse (and seemingly highly anomalous) UFO motion-attributes are that they result from the various deficiencies inherent within human perception. The fact that many reported UFO actions are (based on our current understanding) impossible is taken as further proof that "True UFO's" are not physically real. Other UFO attributes, such as colour and shape-changes, are stated to involve atmospheric effects similar to those which induce similar effects upon (for example) stars and mirages. Mechanical effects and also photographic and other "trace" evidence are accounted for in terms of either hoaxes or (often incidental) natural occurrences. Claims of UFO-originated biological reactions are regarded as yet more fabrication or effects induced by temporary hysteria, generated by the stress of a witness encountering what he or she believes to be a "UFO". Those who doubt the reality of UFO's make particular note of the fact that the majority of "Close Encounter" experiences hardly ever involve mass observations in highly populated areas. UFO occupant claims are explained as hoaxes or hallucinations, "abductions" narratives as resulting from "false" hypnotic memories. "Missing time" is thought to involve nothing more than simple time-estimation errors or (at most) a fruge state; a form of amnesia evoked by either trauma or naturally induced shifts in consciousness (akin to the so-called "highway hypnosis" effect), in which the person concerned is capable of performing highly complex actions such as safely and competently driving a car.
Those sceptical of UFO reality often feel that the key to comprehending UFO's lies within the influential social conceptions and beliefs which permeates ufology at every conceivable level. The first "modern" UFO events occurred at a time when "Cold War" fears were at their highest, when the onslaught of scientific progress, the crumbling of established religions and the detrimental consequences of the (then) recently concluded Second World War also began to notably effect society. But the emergent rocket technology (primarily spawned by WW2) gave hope of new saviours - extra terrestrial visitors - who would "plug" the spiritual "gap" left by previous belief-systems, which then seemed baseless and discredited by wartime vileness such as the holocaust. Sceptics further propose that circumstantial evidence suggests that when these old fears passed away the popular conception of UFOs altered to fit new social and spiritual needs (such as the cultural dominance of the concept of "flying triangle" UFOs and "alien abductions", both of which were consolidated during the late 1980's). Cultural and technological factors have always determined the nature of the "divine"; angels and devils being prevalent during the medieval era, advanced extraterrestrials in today's space-age culture. With a planet-spanning media transmitting the concept of UFO to a global audience, virtually everyone knows of the attributes which UFOs (and their occupants) are reputed to possess. These expectations and beliefs subsequently colour observations of any "UFO" sighted by those aware of this conceptual stereotype.
As surprising at it may seem, most advocates of UFO reality agree with a substantial portion of the sceptical argument! It is a fact of ufology that the "populist" view of the subject comprises mainly of apocryphal events and wishful thinking. However, UFO advocates adamantly reject the total dismissal of "True UFO" reality for what they deem to be (in their view) several very sound reasons. To begin with, UFO proponents feel that the nature of some sightings are so spectacular as to be very difficult (if not impossible) to "debunk" in terms of exaggerated observations of mundane phenomena. While it is true that sceptical solutions can be proposed for all such cases, these involve so many (at times wild) assumptions that it seems just as probable that some novel phenomena was actually responsible!
Furthermore, what of sighting-events where it is discovered that no natural phenomena was present which is realistically able to account for the experience? Why are the attributes of "true UFOs" in such cases totally different to the well-understood attributes of the various IFO phenomena? If UFO motion-attributes are (as orthodox thinking propounds) the result of optical illusions why are they so consistently described? If UFO's are total bunk, why are the diverse Close Encounter effects also consistently described; a concordance present in all such manifestations ranging from "UFO-induced" reactions on humans and animals right up to the so-called "Oz Factor". Finally, can orthodox science say with total certainty that no UFO report involves any novel effect or phenomena, especially when our understanding of the physical laws of reality are still notably incomplete? Is it surely "bad" science not to be open to the possibility that some UFO events could involve non-standard effects, devices or phenomena! A total dependence on a "radical misperception" solution for "True UFOs" (merely as an expression of partisan loyalty towards current orthodox scientific thinking) may easily result in events of major scientific importance being "overlooked". Indeed, most UFO advocates doubtlessly feel this has happened countless times already!
2: The "Unusual Natural Phenomena" Hypothesis:
While it appears that some "True UFO" events appear not to involve conventional natural phenomena, does this automatically mean that wildly extraordinary explanation schemas are required to account for them? Are there indications of the existence of any rare natural phenomena possessing the appearance, attributes and characteristics of UFO's?
To begin with, there are a diversity of natural high-energy effects and processes currently known to science. Furthermore, there are many manifestations of the natural world which still eludes the comprehensive understanding of contemporary physics. An example of one such phenomena is Ball lightning, an energy manifestation known of by science for many hundreds of years. The majority of ball lightning events refer to a yellow, red or whitish-blue coloured spheroid around 30 cms or less in size, with a duration of usually no more than 5 seconds. It may either slowly float past an observer, or rapidly traverse along a highly erratic trajectory. Its demise is sometimes marked by a loud bang and a back-blast of warm air (and the ejection of "sparks" or "streamers" of light in various directions), other times by it suddenly fading inoffensively into oblivion. As its name suggests, this phenomenon is nearly always seen in association with thunderstorms. Nobody to date has any clear idea how ball lightning is generated, but numerous theoretical models have been proposed. Most of these hypothesis involve various dynamic energy processes that generate luminosity by altering the electrical potential of the surrounding air (usually via ionization).
Therefore, could some UFO's be a form of ball lightning, or a closely phenomenon? There is much compelling evidence to suggest that high-energy processes are implicated in at least some "True UFO" manifestations. This is apparent to such a degree that many Ufologists already accept that some UFO's are so naturally generated, classifying such events as UAPs (Unidentified Atmospheric Phenomena). Although our knowledge of plasma physics is incomplete, what we do know suggests that such a hypothetical "plasma" could possess a wide variety of possible attributes. Fast, dynamic motions would be expected, and rapid stops and starts and tight turns could be quite viably exhibited by this phenomena, due to its highly energetic, semi-solid and lighter-than-air composition. The various UFO shapes could result from its formative characteristics. Spheroid-based forms would be the expected norm; in this regards it is interesting to note that the majority of common UFO shapes (such as "discs", "cones" and "cigars") can be derived from either an elongated or contracted spheroid! Furthermore, various natural phenomena (from lenticular clouds to galaxies) can evidence rudimentary discoid forms. Unusual cloud and wind vortex phenomena (such as tornados, funnel clouds and "barrel" clouds) are capable of producing tubular, conical and elliptical shapes. Protean (i.e. shape-changing) behaviour would also be possible (this phenomenon being a semi-solid energy manifestation). The colours of such a "plasma" would derive from its present energy-potential (as is the case with lasers and stars). Colour changes could reflect changes in the plasma's energy potential; air (for example) fluoresces a bluish-white when highly energized, reddish-brown when subjected to much lower levels of energy. Both these colours are similar to those attributed the majority of unexplained UFO's. Humming & buzzing sounds are commonly produced by conventional whirlwinds & tornadoes (and also by artificial electrical generation processes).
Plasma's could also theoretically manifest many of the recorded "Close Encounter" effects. Exposure to heavy doses of ultra-violet or microwave radiation may produce a number of the physical symptoms reported by witnesses involved in diverse high strangeness events (i.e. feelings of warmth, nausea, dermal tanning and burns). Others, such as radio and T.V interference (and possibly others like ground traces and "car-stopping") could equally well result from close proximity to a natural plasma manifestation. Plasma's would also be better observed in areas of low lumination (i.e regions of low population), therefore resulting in more observations in rural districts.
"UFO" entity observations and Oz-Factor effects are a special case. Although it would initially appear that plasma's are an untenable cause for such incidents, some researchers have suggested that electromagnetic energy theoretically generatable by such phenomena could effect the human brain in specific ways, inducing "visionary" experiences. Furthermore, if close encounter events only result from close exposure to plasma-forms, it could explain the dearth of mass-witness close encounter experiences. The fact there is often a history of previous psychic experiences claimed by many "high strangeness" event witnesses could suggest that such people are particularly sensitive to the hypothetical "brain-scrambling" emissions "broadcasted" by these (equally hypothetical!) plasma-forms. Could such "emissions" also induce black-outs, transitory trance-states and effect the bodies' ability to make reasonable estimates of elapsed time; resulting in episodes of "missing time"? In this case the "time lapse" would be all that objectively exists; any subsequent "abduction" narrative the result of a collectively created fantasy generated by a hypnotherapist and the "witness".
Despite these compelling links, there is no inconvertible evidence that such exotic plasma effects exist. The greatest problem is explaining how such phenomena can come into being, and then continue to exist for up to several minutes (or more). All the artificial plasma phenomena created to date are either formed under special conditions (such as within an artificial vacuum) or endure only for a few seconds. It is clear that any such plasma phenomenon would either involve an singular incredible burst of electrical energy, or a mechanism which continuously re-energizes it.
Recently several potential modes and basis for plasma-form generation have been proposed. One recent suggestion is that "plasma" manifestations involve the natural liberations of so-called Vacuum or zero-point energy (the massive energy potential inherent within quantum-scale fluctuations continuous occurring within "empty" space). Another mechanism involves the Plasma-Vortex Effect; a hypothetical plasma manifestation related to tornadoes. It involves a swiftly rotating mass who's rate of spin is sufficiently rapid to induce cascade ionization (i.e a sustained series of ion collisions), causing the ions within this form to contract, generating a "pinching" in the magnetic field around them. This may result in the formation of a low pressure "cavity"; an natural semi-vacuum environment where the air's electrical resistance would be much lower than normal (in which any trapped air would likely fluoresce). It is proposed that this plasma vortex may (depending on its rate of spin and ion content) assume either a conical, cigar, spheroid or discoid form. It is speculated that a continuous input of air would be "piped" through the plasma vortex's conducting funnel, replenishing consumed ions with new ones. This would result in a plasma phenomenon with a much longer duration than "conventional" ball lightning.
The main drawback of the Plasma Vortex hypothesis is that was largely inspired by crop circle events; the vast majority of which, however, have subsequently turned out to be hoaxes. Fortunately, this ill-favoured association by no means destroys the viability of this hypothesis. The theories underlying physics remains sound, and there are many allegations of so-called "saucer nests" being formed by "UFO's"; a sizable number of which pre-date the modern crop circles phenomena by a decade or more. It is therefore suspected that many UFO sightings associated with "saucer nests" may pertain to observations of plasma vortexes (or another similar natural phenomenon).
A number of statistical studies have discovered that a considerable amount of UFO "activity" appears to cluster around geological fault-lines. Many of these reports describe mysterious lights which appear to follow the course of a fault-line, seemingly originates from the ground or disappear at very low altitude. These various colorations suggest the existence of Earthlights; a luminous, free-floating manifestation created by geophysical processes. Increasing this concept's viability is the presence of earth-faulting in areas host to high levels of protracted UFO activity; a correlation which occurs in "Ufocals" as diverse as Hessdalen in Norway and the Pennine Hill region of Yorkshire, England. Additionally, there is also good circumstantial evidence of extreme long-term activity, with repeated "UFO" events occurring in places rich in local folklore, often with place-names containing "devil", "goblin" or "dragon" elements (suggesting these regions were known for many hundreds of years as "places of mystery").
It has been long accepted by the scientific community that faulting can produce luminous emissions. Numerous, well-recorded observations of Earthquake Lights have been made prior, during or after many major earthquakes occurring throughout the world. Although it is clearly evident that earthfaults can generate various types of light phenomena during earthquakes, it is still uncertain how they could do so as the result of more modest tectonic activity. This a distinct problem for the concept of earthlights, with the "UFO" events potentially explicable by this effect often not being associated in any way with any obvious geological activity. However, in these instances, much more subtle geophysical processes could be involved; for example miniature (often undetectable) earthquakes, a slow, gradual, build-up of minor earth-stressess, solar and lunar induced fault-stressing or a combination of all these factors.
There is also considerable debate as to what actually empowers earthlight manifestations. The presence of quartz-bearing rock in various earthfaults have been noted; this is of some importance as it has been long known that quartz can produce transitory luminous emissions when placed under a breaking strain, via the piezoelectric effect. However, even many advocates of earthlight believe that this factor alone is insufficient to account for their instigation, feeing an interplay of various energy processes are probably involved. As a result other possible modes of generation, such as Triboluminescence (lumination induced through friction) or trapped sub-atomic particles, have also been suggested. It is further speculated that underground water or mineral veins are involved in the transmission of this geophysical energy from the ground (eventually) up to the lower atmosphere.
Earthlights and plasma vortexes, although scientifically viable, have a number of conceptual hurdles to cross before their existence is generally accepted. In the case of plasma vortexes it has still to be demonstrated that this effect occurs within nature, even if its hypothetical attributes closely matches those of some "true" UFOs. Earthlights, however, face fewer such problems. The basis of the concept is supported by the occurrence of earthquake lights, and are based on processes known to exist within nature. However, some problems remain in explaining the (hypothetical) presence of earthlights under conditions of very low seismic stress. However, even in this situation energy processes exist which could give rise to them.
Some critics of the earthlight hypothesis have questioned the correlation between faulting and increased levels of UFO activity, stating that the data samples used to "prove" this link are poorly screened (and hence would contain large quantities of IFO events). However, this in itself does not invalid the possibility of such a link, for if faulting does generate unusual lighting manifestations, clusters of "anomalous" events around earthfaults would still naturally occur in unfiltered samples of UFO reports. Furthermore, a lack of filtering rules out any subjective bias effecting that particular data sample. It should also be noted that an apparent correlation with earthfaults is actually more startling within a data sample containing a wide range of possible phenomena! Thus, it was probably necessary for unfiltered samples to been used the initial stages of ascertaining the viability of such a connection. But is now apparent that more refined studies (using samples totally comprising of "true UFO" events) will be required to determine whether this connection holds up under more rigorous statistical conditions.
The "Electro-staging" Hypothesis.
Emissions from radio and TV transmitters, power-lines, electrical sub-stations and even certain home appliances all contribute in creating an extensive (and ever-present) background "smog" of electromagnetic energy. The electro-staging hypothesis proposes that many forms of UFO experiences are directly generated by exposure to this energy "pollution". This theory predicts that the majority of high-strangeness events occur within radio "hot-spots"; often a location directly between two radio masts where a "space wave" (an unintended earthing effect associated with a radio signal) reflects off from the ground and "arcs" back to the receiving transmitter. Geophysical features (such as valleys, quarries, fault-lines and large areas of water) are stated to enhance the intensity of such "hot-spots". These artificial energies may generate visible plasma manifestations (termed "electroforms" by the electro-staging hypothesis) or other, more major, effects.
The electro-staging hypothesis explains the detrimental health effects experienced by some high-strangeness UFO witnesses as being attributable to a condition termed Electro-Hypersensitivity. This is an allergic reaction said to afflict individuals residing within a electromagnetic hot-spots for prolonged periods of time. People suffering from this condition exhibit distinct physical aliments and symptoms, and other indirect effects such as anomalous malfunctioning of electrical equipment within the effected area. The electro-staging hypothesis explains rashes and swelling said to effect certain close-encounter witnesses not as the result of exposure to intense ultra-violet or microwave radiation, but to an allergic reaction to the encountered "electroform". Entity events are thought to be hallucinations induced by exposure to electrical emissions effecting specific parts of the brain. "Missing time" is explained as either arising from a Drop Attack (a fainting fit induced by exposure to electromagnetic energy), automatic behaviour (an active trance state, in which those effected are capable of fairly complex actions) or desynchronization (a direct effect on the brain's time-estimation ability).
The electro-staging hypothesis is particularly noteworthy for its ability to theoretically produce a definitive (and finite) series of biological and environmental reactions (and also, more importantly, explanations for these reactions). It is a theory which is capable of refutation or vindication through detailed scientific examination of its proposals. At present, this theory has yet to fully validated by a large-scale examination of UFO events, but it holds out the promise of a solution to many types of reported UFO experiences.
The difficulty of identifying viable mechanisms for plasma-form generation has resulted in some researchers suggesting alternative natural origins for "True" UFO reports. One such hypothesis proposes that many (if not all) notable UFO sightings are instigated by anomalous mirages of first-magnitude stars and naked-eye planets (but also potentially of other suitable natural phenomena or man-made objects, such as aircraft, lighthouses, runway lights and so on). Mirages are among the oldest unconventional "conventional" phenomenon cited as an explanation for seemingly anomalous UFO events, being initially proposed by astronomer Dr. Donald Menzel back in the mid-1950's. His mirage-based solutions for various classic UFO events were always highly conjectural, depending on numerous assumptions and hazily-applied atmospheric and optical physics.
It was only with Steuart Campbell's work "UFOs; A mystery Solved" (first printed in 1994) that definitive atmospheric mechanisms were firmly proposed for a mirage-based explanation for UFOs, along with a cohesive explanation schema able to potentially account for the great range of reported UFO characteristics through such a theory. Campbell's Astronomical Mirage Hypothesis (AMH) proposes that certain mirages can manifest a variety of rudimentary shapes, akin to those commonly attributed to UFO's (i.e. spheroids and lenticular forms); the exact shape manifested depending on the degree of "merger" between the two resulting images of the refracted object. This form of mirage could hypothetically manifest as a dynamically-moving phenomenon, visible several degrees or so from the horizon. The existence of such extreme variations of conventional mirages remains controversial (current scientific thinking only accepting mirages with a elevation of a mere half a degree, of objects located directly on an observers horizon). The theory has however reopened an old debate about the actual boundaries of mirage phenomena, which will probably result in at least a few classic UFO incidents being re-evaluated.
Good aspects of the astronomical mirage hypothesis is that it possesses definite parameters and causative elements and only involves fairly minor (and reasonably plausible) extensions of the current laws of optical and atmospheric physics. Furthermore, a mirage-image is potentially capable of apparent (albeit illusory) "motions" and "speeds" impossible for any physical object. It also accounts for the nocturnal increase in the number of UFO reports and why the majority of events occur in rural areas (i.e. in areas of low light-pollution). Whilst it is able to explain "low" and "medium" definition UFO events to some degree, a hypothetical solution to UFOs totally based on mirages obviously has a hard time accounting for UFO-originated effects on humans, animals and mechanical devices, not to mention psychic aspects, entity experiences, abductions and the "Oz-factor". And what of incidents - high and low strangeness alike - where the perceived phenomenon was definitely seen in very close proximity to an observer? The only way such aspects of UFO behaviour can be explained by a mirage-based solution to UFO's is to utilize the same concepts suggested by advocates of the radical misperception hypothesis (i.e. hoaxes, hallucination and hysterical reactions).
3: The "Unconventional Technology" Hypothesis:
The world's various military establishments are in the forefront of development of new technological innovations, in a continual quest to gain significant tactical advantages in future conflicts. This tactical advantage depends as much on secrecy than on hardware. Cutting-edge military technology often utilizes processes which are both expensive and have only strict military applications (i.e the infiltration and elimination of hostile forces). The end result of this situation may be "UFO" observations initiated by a variety of unconventional military devices.
The most minor extent of such technology relates to the usage of non-standard aircraft lighting or camouflage configurations. This ranges from the unconventional running-light patterns occasionally employed by the Americans during the Vietnam war, to the (often) exotic body-lumination sometimes utilized by air refuelling tankers.
The military establishment are constantly striving to discover new processes of flight, in order to achieve improvements in speed, size, manoeuvrability and reduction in infra-red and radar signature. Many of these "concept" aircraft utilize lifting-body, flying-wing or discoid configurations. Ancient examples of such technology include the AVRO disc and the "Flying Flapjack", with the SR-71, F117-A and the B-2 being more contemporary instances. Aircraft of this nature can only be rendered even more exotic when coupled with other innovative technology, ranging from sound baffling to visual "invisibility" systems utilizing miniature liquid crystal display units or laser "holography".
Remotely Piloted Vehicles (R.P.V's) are unmanned teleguided drone aircraft, usually only slightly more larger than a model aircraft, mainly deployed for aerial reconnaissance missions. The majority of R.P.V's use conventional aircraft bodies, but rocket, tub or disc shapes are also occasionally utilized. Being small and remotely-piloted, an R.P.V can perform high-g turn manoeuvres not practical in manned aircraft (due to the stresses these severe, rapid turns place upon the human body). An RPV enacting such radical motions would look anomalous to an observer unaware of its actual nature.
The final extreme of covert technology are mind-altering devices (which are sometimes grouped under the wider heading of Less-Than-Lethal (LTL) weaponry). These aim to neutralize the combat effectiveness of individuals by disrupting any number of neurological processes (such as perception and consciousness). They are reportedly based on a variety of technological processes; mind-altering stroboscopic lights, microwave beams and highly concentrated ultrasound emissions. Other processes which are not electrically-based (such as exotic hallucinogenic or mood-altering gases) also exist and can be utilized to achieve the same ends. The nature, extent and capability of these weaponry systems are currently little known, as the details relating to their research and development are (for obvious reasons) shrouded in considerable secrecy.
There have been several decade-old rumours relating to the supposed deployment of unconventional technology on the battlefield, as well as the testing of highly sophisticated "secret weapons". For example, both the so-called "Angels of Mons" of WW1 and the Foo Fighters of WW2 have been alleged (without any real evidence) to have resulted from German psychological warfare technology. Furthermore, there were several rumours concerning the experimental use of car-stalling (or death-dealing) "rays" by both the Germans and the British during WW2. None of these claims have ever been verified to date. There have been few (if any) documented concrete examples of any major deployment of mind-altering hardware, let alone any instances where it was successfully used.
Finally, there are "ultra-modern" devices and technologies, aviation hardware employing notably exotic propulsion concepts and body-configurations. At its ultimate level this equates to a man-made flying machine with all the attributes of a classic "flying saucer". It has been proposed by some UFO researchers that recent new-concept aircraft (such as the B-2) employ technology based on crashed extraterrestrial spacecraft retrieved by governmental agencies. Even before this suggestion was made there was already a substantial mythology in existence pertaining to supposed man-made UFO's. The most extreme of these concepts advocate powerful covert groups (ranging from descendants of Nazi scientists hiding in Antarctica to Atlantean survivors with access to incredible technologies residing beneath the earth. Others have suggested the existence of a secret world order who have deliberately nurtured a belief in alien visitors, in order to influence the world for their own (somewhat obscure) ends.
It is fairly obvious that unconventional aircraft, no matter how special, are unable to account for the majority of "exotic" UFO reports. Although secret military devices can be very unusual in appearance and RPV's are notably more manoeuvrability than conventional aircraft, neither posses any of the other attributes associated with "true" UFOs. Furthermore, there is no evidence that any government has access to large numbers of unconventional aircraft which it uses solely to make repeated low altitude over flights over foreign countries! The high expenditure alone required to develop and build a new-concept aircraft makes this prohibitive, even on a extremely generous "black" military budget.
Whilst it is true that some UFO effects can be explained in terms of novel technical processes known (to at least a rudimentary level) by contemporary science, they require extreme (and unlikely) conspiracy theories to explain how and why they are deployed in the manner suggested by UFO sighting claims (i.e. repeatedly "used" against private citizens and their property in public areas). These "solutions" become even more untenable when considering exotic aspects of the phenomenon such as UFO occupants, psychic aspects or "Oz-factor" manifestations. In the real world, most unconventional hardware would be usually confined to military exercise zones and proving grounds, although aircraft (especially remotely controlled hardware such as RPV's) may well, more through accident than by design, leave the confines of such areas.
Most Ufologists currently accept that unconventional military technology is a minority cause for "True" UFO events, but those few events that can be so potentially explained do keep open the possibility that other incidents less obviously explicable in these terms also have such a cause. The proportion of sightings that covert technology may account for depends on how advanced secret military technology truly is and how often such hardware is deployed. In reality, all cases originated by military technology are in essence merely high class "IFO's", elevated to a higher apparent "status" only by the virtue of the secrecy surrounding them.
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