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The Ufology Handbook:
On initial consideration, it is difficult to accept that observations of elaborately-configured UFOs (such as the classical "domed disc") could be generated by "plasmas" or any other form of - albeit exotic - natural phenomenon. The possibility of any
prosaic solution seems further confounded when these same types of "UFO" are stated to possess apparent metallic surfaces and detailed surface features (such "portholes", "jet-pods" and "antenni").
What also of those supposed observations of "occupants", who have been reputedly observed within, entering and exiting such UFOs?
Combined, these factors can only jointly reinforce the conviction that these UFOs are anomalous constructs of some kind.
Observations of such "Exotic" UFOs are potentially one of the most profound elements of the UFO phenomenon; paradoxically, however, they can also be among the most subjective. Such events are often only involve single witnesses and have not in any instance to date (despite thousands of such prior claims) generated any incontrovertible proof. Thus, the possibility exists that "exotic" UFO reports may represent a purely subjective experience, akin to a hallucination. The fact we have many types of "flying saucer" is that we have as many types as the mind is able to conceive.
That said, there are some "exotic" events which do involve more than one witness and are associated with both physical "traces" and photographic "evidence". Indeed, some of the more noteworthy potentially authentic (and also equally controversial) UFO photographs depict "structured "UFOs. Thus, if it is deemed at least possible that some UFO's could be anomalous physical constructs, ufology is left with the problem of finding a source of origin for them. Their attributes suggest that if they are constructs they must be very advanced ones; based on a technology which exceeds that presently known to our civilization today.
The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (commonly known within Ufology as the ETH) proposes that these "exotic" UFO's are spacecraft originating from another solar system, manufactured by an extra-solar culture possessing technology many years ahead of our own. The ETH ascribes the amazing motion attributes of UFO's to modes of propulsion currently unknown to humanity. Other effects (from colour changes to the various claimed "close encounter" attributes) are deemed to be by-products of this propulsion system. The ETH views claimed observations of "UFO occupants" and "abduction" incidents as being literally true; the "occupants" are viewed as the "pilots" of these craft, and the "harvesting" of human genetic material - referred to in many abduction accounts - is deemed to be an important (if not the main) motivation for repeat extraterrestrial visits to earth.
As stated in the radical misperception chapter, the popular conception of UFOs as extraterrestrial devices became a notable cultural force in western society during the late 1940's; i.e. at the dawn of the space travel era and the atomic age. All these factors made belief in alien visitors seem more viable at this time than at any other period during our planet's long history. Today - both on a popular level and within the UFO research community - the conviction (or the refutation) of an extraterrestrial constituent to the UFO phenomenon dominates all aspects of the subject, at every conceivable level. In recent times, the ETH has become such a strong cultural force within popular western culture that belief in the existence of alien life is often based on UFO sightings, or (inversely) mass popular acceptance of UFO's is based on the latest scientific findings concerning possible extra-solar life. The conviction is so powerful that many critics of the ETH feel it has coloured many sighting accounts, and can even cite numerous instances where this may have occurred
The majority opinion of contemporary science accepts that life probably exists somewhere else in the cosmos, other than on Earth. The size and the age of the universe (around 9-12 billion years) and the tremendous number of G-type (i.e Sun-like) stars contained within it, gives massive scope for the formation of life. The fact that the various chemical elements essential for the formation of life "as we know it" are present throughout the universe (such carbon, oxygen and water) makes the prospect of extra-solar life almost certain. This view can only be further consolidated by the recent discovery of distant "proto solar-systems" and possible instances of extra-solar planets.
However, the gap between the presence of life in the cosmos and the existence of advanced alien societies able to construct UFO's is still a massive one. Firstly, an extra-solar lifeform must evolve sentience equal to that of mankind's, and then develop a technological civilization more advanced than our own. Both steps are littered with numerous caveats. Is human-like sentience a common consequence of evolution? Prehistoric Earth teamed with various lifeforms that existed for millions of years; none of which, however, were "gifted" with human-like levels of intellect. Is the development of an advanced technology-using culture always a consequence of sentient life? Mankind has been in the stone age for the majority of it's existence; our flirtation with technology having comprised the tiniest fraction of our species' history.
Finally, even if an extra-solar species possesses both intellect and an advanced technology, their culture must fail to succumb to the diverse potential hazards encountered by (probably) all technological civilizations; catastrophic ecological change, nuclear war, over-population and exhaustion of natural resources. Not only must they survive these hazards but triumph over them as well, by retaining their technology for a protracted period of time. They must also possess the inclination to explore space; can we be sure that "curiosity" is a galactic constant, or that extraterrestrial minds share the same priorities and dreams as humanity? Lastly, there is the results of our (admittedly limited) quest to locate Extra-Terrestrial civilizations. Although astronomy has found much circumstantial evidence to support the conviction that life does exist elsewhere in the universe, it has never (to date) stumbled on anything suggestive of intelligent - let alone technologically advanced - life. Every SETI (Search for ExTraterrestrial Intelligence) research effort conducted to date has found no evidence for radio-capable aliens and no astronomical observations have been made which convincingly demonstrates the existence of technological extraterrestrials.
However, the most major problem facing any prospective race of starfarers are the restraints placed upon interstellar travel by the laws of physics. Light emitted by our closest stellar neighbour - Alpha Centauri - takes around four years to reach Earth. Contemporary physics is certain that nothing can travel faster than light (at least in the "conventional" manner). Thus other objects considerably heavier than a photon - such as, surely, even the most highly advanced of spacecraft possible - would be limited to speeds considerably slower than this . To illustrate the reasons for this, let us suppose that a civilization somewhere in the galaxy develops a highly advanced propulsion system, capable of incredible speeds for prolonged periods of time. As this - hypothetical - vessel attempts to accelerate to a speed approaching that of light, physics predicts that it would gain inertial mass (resulting in the craft having to increase it's thrust by an exponential rate to compensate for this). Eventually, this situation would become untenable as the starship attempts to reach a velocity equalling 99% of light-speed; as the level of energy required to move a craft at this speed equals infinity (and is probably therefore unattainable!)
However, this in itself doesn't rule out interstellar travel, but only limits it to Slower-Than-Light (STL) velocities of around half the speed of light (or so). In this circumstance an average star voyage would take decades or hundreds or years to complete, depending on the starships' rate of speed. If it was possible to move at speed equal to 80%-90% of light speed - maybe by (somehow) reducing a vessel's mass to almost nothing - time dilation could be utilized for space travel. This effect results in time passing at a slower rate inside such a starship, in comparison with the universe outside. Although time dilation would allow astronauts to survive long stellar voyages (aging "only" a few tens of years in the process), time would pass at the normal rate on their world of origin. On their return these astronauts could well discover that hundreds of years had elapsed on their homeworld.
If lifeforms throughout the universe are limited to slower than light speeds, it greatly limits the extent to which interstellar travel could be utilized. It probably renders any economic exploitation of interstellar travel largely invalid; an important factor to consider as commerce is the main reason for anyone to travel anywhere (what shareholder would - or could - wait three hundred years for a return-dividend on a cargo?) An alien space endeavour of this nature would resemble the "only (mostly) for science" based-efforts of the Russian and American space programmes. Although these in themselves generate a small income for the countries involved and result in many technical spin-offs, they are nonetheless heavily criticized for being non-productive and, as a consequence, are either grossly under-funded or axed!
Faced with such problems, ETH advocates suggest UFOs employ Faster Than Light (FTL) propulsion systems, in order to traverse interstellar space in comparatively short periods of time. One suggestion involves utilizing spacewarps, a hypothetical effect that would allow instantaneous travel between two selected points in the cosmos (by interconnecting them via a temporary distortion in the space-time continuum). Our current understanding of such processes allows for their theoretically possibility, but also shows that they would require monstrous levels of power to initiate, at least equal to that generated by a supernova explosion! This (in comparison) makes travel at 90% of light speed a realistic aspiration! This in itself raises another point; given the massive energies required, both STL and FTL starships would represent a considerable potential hazard to any worlds they encounter. A STL starship impacting a planetary surface while moving at any percentage of light-speed would inflict massive global destruction upon that world (due it's tremendous kinetic energy potential). A FTL "spacewarping" vessel would require even greater levels of power, literally making it a potential "death-star".
However, there is one possible solution to the problem of interstellar travel, which is consistent with our understanding of both physics and the UFO phenomenon. Could it be that some "Exotic" UFO's are self-aware extraterrestrial robotic devices? Such a highly advanced construct - being a machine - would be unimpeded by the limitations faced by biological organisms attempting to travel at speeds in the 6g+ range. Such a device would be capable of performing the sudden decelerations, accelerations and high-speed turns allegedly exhibited by some UFO's. Furthermore, the construct would also be effectively rendered immortal if it possessed self-repairing/self-replicating capabilities. This would allow it to traverse great distances (at STL speeds) and - on arrival - conduct extended surveys of it's destination world. Furthermore, the "Robot Probe" theory is also consistent with the length of time the phenomenon has been on-going without any instance of formal, "open" contact between humanity and the "UFO intelligence". The only compunction that such a device might conceivably possess is a requirement to transmit information of it's findings back to it's planet of origin. This could be done either via radio or laser-beam; either of which would relay that information much faster than the robotic device could physically return it. The probe would neither have an urge (or the need) to contact the "subjects" of this study or a psychological desire to return home; possessing only the directives programmed into it by it's makers.
The lack of any full scale contact between extra-terrestrials and humanity is often cited as one of the prime deficiencies of the ETH. However - as the above possibility infers - it is not in actuality the major negative factor it appears on initial consideration. Any ET race (biological and/or mechanical) which discovers our world would need to balance the benefits of open contact with the possibility that this action may destroy earth's unique culture and way of life. The fate of Australian aborigines and also of the Native Americans - both North and South - are graphic examples of the carnage which can result when two cultures of widely differing technical abilities and social organization encounter one other. It may also be that the earth itself could be as interesting (or more so) than it's inhabitants. If inhabitable worlds are rare, an extraterrestrial race may be keen to discover the reasons why our world is an exception to the general rule. They may be as equally interested in monitoring the climate-changes resulting from our increasing technical sophistication (such as the greenhouse effect, ozone layer depletion or other phenomenon we have yet to experience), in order to gain valuable insights into "their" own past.
The humanoid appearance of most alleged UFO occupants makes them difficult to accept as being genuinely extra-terrestrial in origin. Both their manlike form and the ease in which they appear to cope with our world (an environment that they themselves could not have possibly evolved in) infers they originate from a planet with an almost identical climate, gravity, chemistry, biology and atmosphere. Additionally, the large number of different UFO entities appears to suggest that there is not just one "twin earth" elsewhere in space, but (at the very least) several, if not more. The chances of a another world possessing near-identical conditions to earth occurring twice in our universe (let alone many times) is unlikely at best. The humanoid appearance of "UFO entities" shares many similarities with the cinematic B-movie/T.V tradition of "space-men"; human-like extraterrestrials entities possessing only (relatively) mild cosmetic differences in comparison to ourselves. Variants of the ETH (such as the concept of UFO's being self-aware robotic devices) requires Ufology to discard the vast majority of entity and abduction cases; the very claims which encouraged belief in the ETH to begin with! UFO entity encounters have now become such a major component of the UFO phenomena that many Ufologists would doubtlessly be loathe to dismiss them as being a valid anomalous componant of this subject.
Furthermore, the considerable length of time the UFO phenomenon has continued suggests a massively funded space programme on the part of the hypothetical alien culture(s) concerned. Compare the fifty plus years in which the concept of UFOs has existed, with Project Apollo, which lasted only for a mere half-decade and resulted in only six landings on the moon before it's cancellation (due to it's colossal expense and doubtful scientific merit). This problem, again, can be sidestepped by the concept of self-aware robotic "UFOs" capable of sustaining their own space exploration efforts indefinitely, given a reasonably abundant source of raw materials (such as an asteroid belt). However, the vast range of different UFO types (along with their alleged occupants) poses serious problems for any version of the ETH, being explicable only in terms of many visits by many different alien cultures. This could only be the case if the extra-terrestrial component to the phenomenon was highly active; a situation which seemingly contradicts the low quantity of physical evidence relating to "exotic" UFO events. Another option is to reject a sizable proportion of this "contradictory" data. This, unfortunately, would also equate to rejecting a sizable proportion of the UFO phenomenon. Given that no clear evidential datum exists to ascertain the validity of UFO events, how would we know exactly what to reject and what to accept?
There are also aspects of the UFO phenomenon which are difficult to account for in terms of a strict materialistic interpretation of the ETH. What, for example, of the links between UFO's and psychic phenomena? What also of the "Oz factor" - which, paradoxically for the ETH - is often reported in association with "Exotic" UFO encounters? Many of these aspects of ufology are so markedly a part of the UFO phenomenon that they cannot be simply ignored (in the same way entity claims cannot be discarded out of hand merely because elements of these experiences are inconsistent with an Extraterrestrial origin).
In summary, the ETH is a theory which has some good cosmological evidence - albeit indirect and circumstantial - to support it's viability. At it's most simplest level, it is a theory that can be valid without requiring major revisions in our current understanding of cosmology or physics, or which requires the existence of supernatural forces. On the other hand, this theories' actual evidential basis (the UFO reports themselves) seems, ironically, to be the ETH's weakest element! The lack of irrefutable physical evidence for any alien presence on Earth has always been this hypothesis'
Achilles heel. This problem both effects the "conventional" ETH (involving star
faring "organic" extraterrestrials) and it's revisionist interpretations (such as the "alien space-probe" theory). That stated, the potential of an Extraterrestrial
component to the UFO phenomenon can never be fully discounted, even if all current UFO events can be better explained in other ways. The possibility would always remain (even in that instance) for extraterrestrial visitors to be the cause of "UFO" incidents.
in the future.
The problems inherent within the ETH has not gone unnoticed by some UFO researchers. However, those who accept that "Exotic" UFO reports have a physical causation (and discount the possibility that they have a natural explanation) obviously still require a viable source of origin for them. Thus, it has been proposed that some "Exotic" UFO's may originate from some alternate realm, separate but adjacent to our world. Obviously, to make this a theory worthy of consideration, the nature of this hypothetical "other realm" must be scientifically defined. Could this realm be another dimension, one additional to the other long accepted four of length, depth, width and time? Some modern cosmological theories do indeed allow for the existence of more than four dimensions; in fact many of the deficiencies of modern cosmological theories dealing with subatomic matter, light and gravity are resolved if their existence is allowed for! For example superstring theory predicts the presence of a further 6 dimensions. However (as a direct consequence of the "big bang") these "higher" dimensions cannot be currently perceived, having compacted into an area hundreds of billions times smaller than an atom (while the remaining four "familiar" dimensions have expanded)! It is therefore unlikely that the former could be the source of any "alien" technological culture!
However, another new cosmological concept does present us with another potential realm which other lifeforms could viably inhabit. The existence of alternative universes are a logical consequence of several cosmological theories. These theories conceive of a ultimate reality comprising of a myriad of universes, each sealed from the other within their own "bubble" of space-time, all residing within an empty, timeless void. The fact that conditions suitable for life arose in our universe at all is one good reason to consider the viability of a "multiverse". The fact that our universe has formed in such an ordered state (when even the most subtle subatomic difference could have kept it in lifeless disorder) suggests that billions of other (mostly "failed") universes may exist, in order for our own to have arisen as the result of chance random natural processess. As a result, the organization of matter in these other universes would greatly differ from that within our universe (mostly in ways contrary to the formation of an structured cosmos).
It has also been suggested that transitory connections termed wormholes could - via natural, random processes - form between any two of these (hypothetical) universes. A Wormhole is a hypothetical "fold" within the fabric of the space/time continuum, spanning two points in the universe (or in this instance two separate universes). This - theoretically - would allow instantaneous travel to and from the locations linked by it. The fact that humanity has never noticed the presence of wormholes is attributed to them being transient manifestations, billions of times smaller than a sub-atomic particle, which occur only every few billion years or so!! However, some have disputed whether wormholes are always this unstable, and even theoretically allow them to possess diameters wide enough for a physical object to pass through.
However, let us suppose that one of these theoretical alternate universes were inhabitable, and those who resided within it were somehow aware of our existence (or at least the possibility of it). Let us also suppose this culture was sufficiently advanced to construct an "artificial wormhole". To begin with, such a process would require a power-source of stellar proportions to sustain it. Furthermore, this culture would then have to devise a way to link this wormhole to another universe, and make it both wide enough (and keep it "open") sufficiently long enough to permit travel through it (a highly complex task, given that the majority cosmological view on innate wormhole instability is correct). Furthermore, they would also have to cope with the intense radiation believed to be generated by them. However, any device sent through such a "wormhole" would not itself require massive levels of power (the - probably massive - wormhole generator itself existing somewhere "off stage").
Presently, nothing overtly suggests that any UFO event is the result of such a hypothetical (and extremely speculative) scenario, although a few aspects of UFO behaviour are potentially consistent with this concept. There are, for example, reports of some UFO's which reportedly vanish (or appear) suddenly in a clear sky. Additionally, the "Oz factor" could possibly be a consequence of a wormhole-like phenomenon, given that it reputedly involves apparent distortions in the flow of time, among other (reputed) spatial and perceptional anomalies. However, neither of these two elements are sufficiently evidential in themselves to render such a wild theory viable. The existence of wormhole-traversing "UFOs" are as unsupported by convincing physical evidence as the "conventional" spacecraft-UFO's postulated by the ETH. It should always be remembered that wormholes and other universes are only hypothetical concepts, for which no conclusive physical evidence currently exists to vindicate them. Speculative cosmological theories such as these have often been rendered obsolete as our knowledge of the universe increases.
The basic premise of the Time Travel Hypothesis (TTH) is that "exotic" UFOs represent the time machines of a future human civilization. As previously noted in the preceding discussion of the ETH, UFO occupants seem to cope too well with our environment - and the majority too close to ourselves in their morphology - to be extraterrestrial. Thus, could both these factors suggest that at least some UFO occupants represent variant human races from our planet's distant future? Could the wide variety of UFO and entity types result from "time machines" of different future eras visiting our present? And, finally, could the sudden disappearances of "UFOs" and reputed chronological anomalies - such as "missing time" and the "Oz factor" - suggest that they result from the endeavours of a time-travel capable society?
The archetypical "Grey" UFO entity is slightly more believable when considered from this theoretical perspective. Various "projections" of mankind suggests that our species (in the very distant future) may eventually - as the result of living in a sedentary, intensive machine-using culture for thousands of years - evolve longer fingers, greater brain-mass and a physically underdeveloped body. Additionally, if the "greys" were a future variant of Homo Sapiens Sapiens, their body-chemistry would obviously be more compatible with that of humans than if they were extraterrestrials from a distant star system. This would render allegations of UFO occupants "harvesting" human reproductive matter a little more credible.
That stated, it should never be forgotten that (as with the existence of other universes) the concept of time travel is merely a theoretical concept, often more based in philosophy (and science fiction) than in physics. Orthodox science views backwards time travel as either a total impossibly, or at best a theoretical (if remote) possibility, barely existing on the extreme fringes of physics. In regards to UFO reports, the TTH shares many common elements (and the objections) of both the ETH and the AUH. As with both these other theories, the TTH requires the existence of physical craft (i.e. a "time machine"), which are incidentally perceived as "UFOs" by observers unaware of their true nature. This being so, the TTH suffers (as does the ETH) from a dearth of objective evidence to support it's validity. Time machines, after all, would probably not be governed by any special, exclusive principle which prohibits them from being seen or photographed by large numbers of observers!
Furthermore, the TTH suffers from a notable drawback which the ETH itself is free from; the very basis of it's viability (i.e the possibility of backwards time-travel) is probably forbidden by the laws of physics! The main objection which contemporary science has regarding time travel is that it violates causality (the law of cause and effect). The most minor of actions by a device and/or individual from the future could easily disturb the previously "unblemished" past (which itself, indirectly, originated that future time-travelling civilization!). This is not to mention the even more serious violations of causality cited in numerous science fiction tales; i.e. people going back in time to kill their great-grandfathers, major historical figures or even themselves (or, more benignly, to marry their great-grandmothers!)
However, even if the consensus view of modern-day physics is wrong and the past can be visited by future civilizations, another serious objection to the TTH remains; the lack of any incontrovertible evidence of visits by time travellers within the annals of history. There are no accounts of the use of anachronistic technology (or of people possessing anachronistic knowledge) from the records of any past era. While there are some unusual historical artefacts (such as Stonehenge, the Pyramids, the Antikythera mechanism and the so-called "Baghdad battery"), they are not sufficiently unusual in themselves to require time travellers to account for their existence. However, it is possible to "explain away" the lack of evidence for time travellers, due to a fear on their part of changing the past to such a degree that they - and maybe also the future which originated them - suddenly "winks" out of existence!
Furthermore, even if backwards time travel is possible, this would not in itself automatically mean that some UFO events involve time machines. Some theoretical conceptions of time-travel suggest that a time machine could only visit alternate versions of the past; as the very act of visiting a past era (which was not originally visited by a time machine) "creates" another version of that past time, one which was visited by a time machine! As a result, any changes to that "alternative" past due to this visit would only effect the alternative version of the past, not the original one! Obviously, if time travel did work along such lines, it would be impossible for observers from this "unblemished" time-line to observe time machines under any conceivable circumstances.
Results garnered from sub-atomic physics experiments suggests that a time machine would disassemble itself back into it's constituent atoms the moment it reaches a time pre-dating it's construction. This, again, seems to rule out the TTH in regards to UFO's, as the capability to build time machines would be the product of a highly advanced future society. Hence, any time machine this civilization could construct would be unable to travel back to our era (as it clearly predates this hypothetical future age). However, it has been suggested that humanity might discover, sometime in the future, a time machine constructed hundreds, thousands, even millions of years previously by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization. Theoretically, such an artifact could be used to travel back to any period of earth's history not predating the time of it's construction. Although this intriguing possibility is consistent with our current "understanding" of "time-travel physics" it is little more than science fiction-level speculation, unsupported by any obvious aspect, element or attribute of the UFO phenomenon.
In summary, the TTH is an intriguing theory of UFO origin. While a few of the more exotic aspects of the UFO phenomenon could be potentially explicable through it, this hypothesis depends on (and evokes) so many convolutions of both logic and physics that it is rendered at best problematical. It will remain an unproven (but possible) concept until mankind has a clearer idea whether backwards time travel is either viable or impossible.
The term "paranormal" can be applied to several diverse types of purported anomalous experiences; ranging from telepathy, psychokensis and precognition up to alleged encounters with poltergeists, apparitions and other "supernatural entities". Paranormal phenomena have (at the very least) a definite peripheral connection with ufology, given the considerable number of "high strangeness" UFO events associated with various forms of "psychical" manifestations. The occurrence of such phenomenon raises the question both of why they occur within the context of a UFO experience, and whether they are the result of currently unrecognized natural processes, actual "psychical" manifestations (external or internal to the witness) or the product of a culture possessing a seemingly "magical" technology.
Many "materialistic" ufologists dismiss any connection between UFOs and the paranormal, as it is inconsistent with a strict "nuts and bolts" interpretation of the phenomenon (such as is envisioned by most versions of the ETH). However, this automatic rejection is contrary with a truly objective approach towards the UFO problem. If a witness reports an effect, it hence becomes a claimed aspect of the phenomena, and therefore must be considered in any objective attempt to account for UFOs. Rather than being a hindrance to a true understanding of "true" UFO incidents, an examination of the "psychic" aspects of the subject could well aid our understanding of them. This may eventually lead to three possible outcomes;
1: That the psychical elements of ufology are fairly minor and can be mostly ignored
2: The subject involves a combination of psychical and non-psychical elements
3: The majority of the more exotic UFO events are full-blooded "paranormal" manifestations.
The first step in such a process is an examination of the various forms of "supernatural" phenomena, in order to determine what common elements they share with "true" UFO events. Whatever the outcome of this process, it would both aid our understanding of why some UFO events involve psychical manifestations and also (as a consequence) our understanding of UFOs themselves.
Apparitions (commonly termed ghosts) are a long-standing form of anomalous experience, instances of which have been recorded over many hundreds of years, by virtually every culture on earth. The majority of these events involve the observation of a fully animate human-like form attired in archaic clothing and associated with a variety of outlandish attributes; it may be observed passing through walls or other solid obstructions, or to "glide" or "walk" a few feet above the ground. Many apparitions are also reported to literally disappear suddenly into thin air whilst in full view of it's observer. A specific apparition is often associated with (or said to haunt) a specific locale, where they may be repeatedly observed over an extended period of time. These apparitions are claimed to repeat the same actions each instance they are observed (i.e follow the same pathway or route through a dwelling, even to vanish on "reaching" a specific location).
The folkloric "explanation" for ghosts are that they are the unquiet spirits of the dead, "trapped" on earth for a variety of reasons (either as the result of a sudden, violent death or not having the correct funeral rites performed over it's body, and so on). However, some elements of apparitional experiences appear to hint at a more materialistic explanation than "restless souls". The fact that ghosts pass through walls, or appear to be partially hidden by (or float above) the ground they "traverse" can often be explained by changes to the "haunted" area occurring after the time period which seemed to have "originated" them (such as floors being raised or doors being walled up). Both this, along with the "fact" that a specific ghost is often observed repeating the same mundane actions, suggests apparitions are a form of "recording", based on a process that currently eludes human understanding.
Some psychical researchers have suggested this effect involves certain types of stone, perhaps in combination with other suitable forms of matter (such as bodies of water), who's composition is amenable to "storing" this "recording". It is further postulated that apparitions result when this "recording" is activated by specific environmental factors (such as a rare combination of weather conditions and/or various forms of geophysical activity). However, essential to this process is a person able to perceive this "recording". Both the creation and reception of this "recording" would be likely to utilize telepathy; the supposed psychic (or Psi) ability involving the "transmission" of thoughts, images and sensations from one person to another (sometimes at great distances), using a means divorced from all known forms of natural or artificial communication. Conventional "telepathic" experiences are often reported to occur when the "perceiver" is in a restive state, and most relate to crisis situations (such as accidents) involving a person known to the person experiencing the telepathic event. Other instances involve deliberate attempts at telepathic communication in parapsychology laboratories (again, involving individuals in a restive state, or an artificially-induced condition of sensory deprivation).
To many people, this solution is too unnecessarily complex, involving as it does a process of recording environmental stimuli currently rejected by science (not least because it has yet to be convincingly demonstrated or duplicated under laboratory conditions). The fact that it depends on telepathy, a Psi ability (like all other claimed psi abilities) who's existence is, again, rejected by science makes this so-called "stone-tape" theory for ghosts untenable in the minds of many people. Hence, the scientific community feels that apparitions have a more simpler explanation. To begin with, there are as many potential spurious causes for ghosts as there are for UFOs; false shapes being "read" into random patterns of shadow and light, patches of mist, swarms of insects, shirts on washing-lines, people in fancy dress and various classes of hallucinatory effects.
However, whatever the causes of apparitions they retain considerable importance in regards to to the understanding of UFO's (if only because these events are useful in terms of comparison, being a separate type of anomalous experience). However, there are distinct indications of apparitional-like elements in some "close encounter" experiences, with "ghost-like" behaviour supposedly exhibited at times by both UFOs and their supposed entities. UFOs may suddenly disappear (or are seen to "float"). Some UFO entities are reported to move by "floating" (or gliding) a short distance from the ground, as well as having transparent forms. Furthermore, they have also been reportedly observed to appear and disappear suddenly, even to pass through solid objects. The "OZ factor" is related in some ways to the "aura of uncanniness" sometimes associated with apparitional experiences. There are as few (if any) mass observations of ghosts as there are few mass UFO close encounter events; apparitions often only being observed by a few select people out a larger group of potential witnesses.
There are also some notable differences to "conventional" apparitions. Ghosts do not (for example) travel at great speeds or exhibit sudden changes of colour! Furthermore, a given apparition is reportedly seen repeatedly at the same location; an attribute which they do not appear to share with UFO's. That said, notable "repeat" UFO activity occurs within limited geographical areas (i.e UFOCALS), and many close encounter witnesses report a long, ongoing "chain" of apparitional and psi events, as well as repeated UFO encounters. In such instances it could be stated that the UFOs experienced by such individuals (and also "repeater" witnesses) are effectively "haunting" the participent! Apparitions are also associated with some effects on physical devices, but neither to the same degree or extent as that reported in UFO "Close Encounter" events. Another very major way in which UFOs do differ from "apparitional" phenomenon is their "one-off" nature, unlike the majority of apparitions which (as previously stated) are repeatedly seen in the same limited locale over an extended period of time. This suggests that either the concept of UFO's as apparitions is a flawed one, or that "apparitional" UFO's "work" on different principles to "conventional" phantoms.
Therefore, in what ways could the various mechanisms potentially able to generate apparitional experiences be responsible for certain exotic UFO events? It is known that although the majority of apparitions relate to observation of human figures, there are also a few reports of phantom buses, ships and aircraft; hence allowing the apparition-generation process to "evoke" inanimate objects. However, all of these events involve "objects" which once had a definite existence in the material world (such as a Spitfire, a London bus, a clipper ship, etc). It is unheard of for people to observe apparitions of things which never existed on earth sometime during it's history (although there are few claims of "ghost dinosaurs" or other prehistoric lifeforms!). This is a further indication that if some UFO's are the result of apparition effects, they must involve markedly unconventional ones! The way and means in which apparitional phenomenon could be related to UFOs basically depends on the actual nature of apparitions themselves;
a1:- Given that exotic processes such as the "stone tape" effect do not occur, some UFO experiences may involve the same hallucinatory processes involved in apparitions, but "framed" within a different context (hence explaining both their differences and similarities). "Ghost" images of people "behave" like people and aircraft because this "behaviour" comes from a store of expectation (based on common experience of people and aircraft) held within the brain. Likewise, images of "spacecraft" behave in the manner "spacecraft" are believed to behave by popular culture (such as moving at fast rates of speed, hovering and so on). In this perspective, ghosts (and some UFO's) are a form of "waking dream" experience, triggered by physiological factors, and perhaps geophysical and/or meteorological ones as well. Even if some apparitions are the result of natural (albeit exotic) "recording" effects, it is likely some ghostly phenomena would still involve the above comparatively mundane psychological processes. Hence, this would allow (and account for) any similarity between these experiences and subjective UFO-type experiences utilizing the same neurological "wetware". Furthermore, this view would not require such UFO events to be explained in terms of telepathic-based phenomena.
a2:- Another possibility is that some apparitions are generated by an unusual natural phenomenon other than the "stone-tape" effect. If geophysical features such as earthfaults are capable of generate UFO-like phenomena, could they also be responsible for some "ghostly" experiences? This suggestion is made plausible by the "fact" that many apparitions are notably vague and basic in appearance (many accounts involving stereotypical misty, luminous "white ladies" or dark forms reputedly resembling "cowled monks"). Could repeat low-level earthlight manifestations occurring within a specific locale be interpreted by those unaware of it's true nature as spectral activity? In this context it should be noted that a considerable number of "ghost origin" legends (such as, for instance, the tale of evil squire Travellain who murdered a girl on Dartmoor in the 1700s, where her phantom wanders to this day...etc...etc...) often turn out to have a highly dubious historical basis. Could a re-occurring geophysical effect result in such stories being invented to account for the event? There are many instances within history of legends being composed to explain various meteorological, geological and biological phenomena.
The process which could result in an "earthlight" being perceived as a anthromopic figure may easily involve the natural tendency within the human perceptional system of subjectively "reading" ordered "forms" into suitably irregular natural manifestations. More exotically, exposure to electrical emissions from an earthlight could induce vivid hallucinatory experiences in any person encountering it (or, alternately, only within specific individuals). If this effect only occurs within a select number of UFO/apparition witnesses, repeat anomalous (but subjective) experiences involving only a small percentage of individuals may well result whenever a suitable geo-electrical "imbalance" occurs within the witnesses' locale (possibly involving other influences other than "earthlights"). This would effectively account for the high-strangeness UFO "repeater" participant who's experiences often appear (in the main) to be subjectively based. The concept of "ghosts as earthlights" would account for the tendency of apparitions to "haunt" specific areas, also their repeated, limited "path of motion" and sudden disappearances.
a3:- Some UFO's could involve "apparitional" like phenomenon originating from the future! Several possible instances of this have been recorded in the annals of parapsychology. Another form of paraphysical experience, precognition, involves apparent foreknowledge of events prior to their actual occurrence. The concept of experiencing knowledge and perceptions from a future time is thus far from an alien one in psychical research; in fact it is a long-standing and integral part of it. A timeslip is a form of anomalous experience similar to a conventional apparition event, but involves the participant's whole environment appearing as it might have looked in past eras. A particularly noteworthy aspect of "timeslips" is that some incidents describe effects and sensations similar to that reported during Oz-factor manifestations (which strongly suggests a common link between these two phenomenon). However, there are no (presently known) instances of people seeing futuristic landscapes during a UFO experience; which - despite occasional instances of Oz factor - remains contemporary in appearance. The possibility of some UFO's involving "future phantoms" need not involve telepathy, precognition or any other "paranormal" phenomenon, as it could just as easily arise from natural (but currently unrecognized!) transient distortions within the space-time continuum. It may result, for example, from a malfunctioning FTL drive system created by our ascendants (given that many proposed FTL concepts involve travel by way of "distortions" within the space-time fabric).
a4: Elements such as the Oz factor and "repeater" witnesses may involve exposure to telepathic (or telepathic-like) "transmissions" originated by extraterrestrial (or other) exotic lifeforms. Such a concept, of course, is only valid if telepathy exists and can be used as a reliable mode of communication! The fact that many close-encounter witnesses report only images pre-existing within western popular culture (i.e "humanoid" aliens, "flying saucers" and so on) may result from "conceptual reconstructions" of this "message" being "visualized" by the participants brain. This could be due either to differences between the thought processes of aliens and humans, or limitations inherent within the "telepathic" communication process itself. If this process has limitations it may be utilized despite of them, if it permitted faster-than-light communication (and is swifter than either radio waves, laser beams or neutrinos). The most notable element which appears to discount this theory (other that it requires both the existence of aliens and telepathy!) is the worthless aspect of these "communications"; which relay nothing more than empty visions and useless contactee platitudes. These messages appear to give no real (or notably anomalous) information, and are, hence, only convincing to those believing in such experiences to begin with! This, of course, may be accounted for by stating these experiences result only from incidental and accidental exposure to an anomalous "signal", transmitted for reasons other that direct communication with humans (such as a "remote viewing" based scan of the earth's surface)! As with all paranormal-based "explanation" schemas, the concept of "alien telepathy" is both difficult to either prove or disprove, making it's scientific veracity doubtful to say the least.
It is unfortunate that the possibly of a link between some UFO experiences and paranormal events is an area neglected by both Parapsychological and Ufological research (doubtlessly due to the rigid paradigms and conceptions dominating both subjects). As with all psychical-based theories, examination of this possibility is hampered by a lack of understanding of the processes responsible for apparitions. Orthodox science remains unconvinced of their reality, dismissing apparitions as being hallucinatory in nature. However (as previously stated) even if this is true it does not excuse Ufology from not examining common links between apparitions and UFOs, as closely-related neurological processes could well be involved in both classes of experience.
It has been suggested by a variety of commentators that the totality of human minds upon this planet may (on a subconscious level) form a large interlinked awareness, possessing shared values and ideals, along with a common "store" of symbolic representations of these concepts. This so-called collective unconsciousness may comprise solely of the minds of humanity, or of the totality of all living organisms upon this planet. This "greater mind" is often deemed to exist both everywhere and nowhere, being composed (much like a "parallel" computer system) of a mass of smaller "units" of varying complexity; ranging from ants to humanity. The existence of a collective unconsciousness may also account for the existence of telepathy (as it would make an ideal communication medium to interrelate these diverse elements together as one unity).
If this "collective mind" does indeed exist, some UFO events might involve manifestations of this "unity of consciousness", either representing attempts to alter our level of consciousness or the enactment of some form of "psychodrama". Either of these possibilities could well be related to the sudden "devaluation" of past archetypical concepts and major changes in the human perspective resulting from (comparatively) recent scientific discoveries. This "group-mind" may be using the new "dream" symbols of our contemporary scientific age (i.e. flying saucers and space-aliens) and "update" it's old ones in order to express the new fears and hopes of mankind; the dread of nuclear war, climate change and species-extinction on one hand, and the dream of "easy" interstellar flight and "magical" technology on the other. This might be an attempt to expanding the consciousness of mankind, allowing the "group mind" to further increase it's level of awareness. This mental unity might instigate "UFO" experiences through subjective process or via a visible intermediary (such as a Ball Of Light-type phenomenon). By aiding mankind, this group-consciousness would both expand it's own awareness and ensure it's own survival, by orientating mankind towards a way of thinking involving both ecological concerns and the possibility of interstellar spaceflight.
The greatest weakness of this astounding theory is the lack of firm evidence for the existence of such an "overmind". Whilst it is true that all life on earth is interconnected to a degree (via geophysical, ecological and climactic factors), there is no firm evidence proving that the consciousness of all terrestrial life is equally closely interlinked. With the "evidence" for the existence of a mental unity deriving from anomalous subjective experiences (and this concept being heavily dependant on the existence of scientifically doubted "phenomena" such as telepathy) it is a very difficult - if not impossible - proposition to validate or disprove. Furthermore, if telepathy does not exist it is hard to see how else this "overmind" could function as a coordinated unity, with no obvious (mundane) means of "interconnection" being known to biology.
One oft-unmentioned aspect of this subject are the apparent links between UFOs and fairy lore. To begin with, the various supposed "elfkin" races are - at least superficially - identifiable with the main classes of "UFO occupants. "Goblins" and "Pixies" are comparable with the "Greys", as the Elves (or "Alfair") of Norse mythology are comparable with the "Nordics" of ufolore. Equally, the hideous, misshapen giants of numerous fairytales are akin to the hideous, misshapen "giants" appearing in some UFO entity-encounter claims. "Fairly changeling" myths, of "fair folk" stealing mortal children and substituting them with ugly, wizened "poppets", share basic similarity with the "hybrid breeding" accounts of UFO mythology. Tales of fairies kidnapping humans appear - at least on superficial examination - to share many common (if basic) elements with UFO abduction narratives.
The association of elves with "fairly rings" - places where the little people were supposedly seen to "dance" - have parallels with UFO's that reportedly leave circular ground traces in their wake. As with UFO's (and UFO entities), the "fairies" of many cultures could reportedly appear and disappear at will, and manifested in a wide variety of forms. Some societies accounted for the latter aspect by attributing shape-changing abilities to elfkind. Fairies also possessed the supposed ability to fly through the air (either bodily or in aerial "sailing ships"), and to smite people with paralysis; further aspects they also share in common with UFO's and their reputed occupants. Accounts of people who reportedly entered the "fairy realm" often state that little time appeared to pass while they resided there; however, on their return, these visitors to "elfland" would discover that many years had elapsed in the world of mortals! The time-abnormalities associated with these tales are comparable with those associated with instances of "Oz-factor" and/or "missing time" - although the chronological differences noted in the former are considerably greater than that reported in the latter!
From this evidence, one could conclude these tales of fairy encounters were (at least) inspired by encounters with an actual class of anomalous entity. The realm of the "fair-folk" - a land within our world (but also seemingly outside of it), where "magic" and "supernatural" beings exist - could be compared to an alternative universe where different physical laws apply!
Connecting mythical beings with the modern theoretical concept of alternative universes could also account for other types of anomalous entities. Semi-mythical creatures such as North America's "Bigfoot" and (the more recent) Southern American "Chupacaparabas" are improbable when considered to be normal inhabitants of this world. However, could they originate from another universe, deposited onto ours by a "wormhole" of some kind? Many of the more extreme types of anomalous entities are reportedly associated with powerful repugnant odours, or even - in some instances - are alleged to drip "ichor". Could this be the result of cellular decay (i.e. akin to a rapid form of skin necrosis), resulting from an "incompatibility" between the composition of the entities universe and our own? Could something similar also account for tales of "fairy gifts"; which vanish or crumble to dust shortly after being received by mortals? Stretching this reasoning to it's extreme, this could also explain the lack of physical artefacts relating to UFO's. This does not, of course, account for the dearth of convincing pictures and physical trace evidence, which such "UFOs" would still be quite capable of generating whilst in possession of a viable physical form!
However, an even more convincing case can be made for a psycho-social origin for fairy lore entities. The links between UFO's and fairy lore could be accounted for by the fact that UFO's are an updated variety of the "otherworldly encounter"; both being instigated by lucid subjective mental phenomena sharing common attributes. The "changeling" myth is likely to have been a pre-scientific explanation for malformed and/or handicapped babies (which were deemed in those times to be "poppets"). The changeling myth could equally be inspired by rare genetic traits such as Williams syndrome, which results in individuals with classical "elfin" facial features and a mind-set notably different from those unaffected by this condition. The marks commonly termed "fairy rings" are, in actuality, the result of a common form of fungus. However, it is possible some may have been generated by a "plasma-vortex" like phenomenon (which would have consolidated the belief in an otherworldly origin for all "fairy rings" in the minds of historical peoples). Likewise, it is now known that a "stroke" results from a blood clot damaging nerve-functions, and is not the consequence of a magical elven curse! The impact of all these various natural phenomena on a pre-scientific people must have been profound; to their minds they could only have been the work of the "fairies". Indeed, the old superstition of referring to them as the "fair-folk" was not done out of love, but fear; these creatures often being viewed as cruel and fickle. This is doubtless a reflection of the hard subsistence-level world inhabited by pre-industrial cultures, who's often malevolent, uncontrollable nature seemingly confirmed the reality of every nightmarish folklore entity conceivable! Despite this, we do have actual claimed observations of the "little people" occurring even in today's world. In this context it should be noted that many forms of clinical (and drug-based) hallucinations involve observations of small anthromopthic figures.
The biggest problem when considering the influence of elflore is the great uncertainty over it's "reality" status. Were these accounts simply just stories and constructed myths, or do they represent (at least in part) genuine anomalous experiences? Given that the latter is true, do we evoke the possibility of parallel universes to account for them, or opt for more down-to-earth explanations? Whatever the case, the answer to this conundrum has a considerable bearing upon certain aspects of the UFO phenomenon (given their shared common elements).
The term "Paranormal" covers a wide range of anomalous human experiences; thus any attempt to explain some UFOs in these terms has to cover a diversity of possibilities. The biggest negative factor hampering any paranormally-based "solution" is that orthodox science rejects the Psi abilities and manifestations forming the very bedrock upon which these conceptions are based. However, that in itself does not invalidate efforts to assess the ufological reverence of the paranormal. Even if the processes underlying such happenings are in actuality quite mundane, they could still give invaluable insights into certain classes of "UFO" events. That stated, it should be noted that some mundane "explanations" cited for certain paranormal phenomena do appear to fall short of being totally conclusive. Thus, there is a possibility that certain paranormal experiences do involve processes which are truly anomalous in the context of current scientific understanding. Thus such possibilities remain - for the present at least - as possible explanation schemas for UFO incidents (regardless of their apparent improbability!)
Another problem is that paranormal-based UFO hypothesis - or even the mere occurrence of paranormal events in certain UFO experiences - appears to contradict the popular conception of UFOs being extraterrestrial devices. As a result of this, such concepts and experiences tend to be shunned (even denied) by a considerable number of UFO researchers. This in itself raises another question; how paranormal is the paranormal? What if (for example) telepathy was one day proved to be a genuine human ability, quantifiable by the laws of physics? Or if the mechanisms for apparitions were discovered, and found to be explicable in "materialist" terms? If this did occur they would, as a result, effectively cease to be "paranormal", and join the plethora of other natural phenomena known and accepted (if not fully understood) by conventional science. Hence, there is considerable danger in ruling out possibilities merely because they seem to be "nonsense", or contradict popular conceptions of the UFO problem. It is all too evident that little work has been conducted to determine how much of the UFO phenomenon may potentially involve "paranormal" manifestations. This is due, in the main, to the (intense) emphasis UFO research places upon the ETH, to the extent that other, equally important, avenues of research are neglected. This imbalance in UFO research requires redress, as the hints of a link between certain paranormal phenomenon and UFO's cry out for intensive scrutiny.
A small quantity of sightings relate to seemingly intelligent "behaviour" exhibited by UFO's either too small or too (seemingly) immaterial to carry a sentient, living entity. As a consequence, it has been suggested that such "UFOs" are, in actuality, highly exotic lifeforms originating either from the upper atmosphere, the sun, outer space or another universe! It is further claimed that mankind's lack of knowledge of these creatures is due to them being (normally) invisible to the human perceptional system. In support of this notion, strange, irregular images appearing on infra-red film are cited as evidence for their continual (if otherwise unnoticed) presence of these "beings". "UFO" sightings - according to this theory - occur on the very rare instances when these normally unseeable entities are (somehow) rendered visible to ourselves.
A more extreme version of the "living organism" hypothesis proposes that some UFOs are ultraterrestrial lifeforms, "sentient energy" originating from "another order of reality", either an alternative universe or even the electromagnetic spectrum itself! According to this conception of UFOs, UFOCALS are the "windows" by which this "sentient energy" gains access to our realm. These "energy-forms" are supposedly capable of assuming various shapes; ranging from a ball of light, a structured domed disc right upto a "UFO entity". This accounts for the reason why the same level of "intelligent control" is exhibited by both "mundane" and "exotic" True UFOs! It also "explains" the lack of physical proof for UFOs, as the phenomenon is here seen as the immaterial consequence of an exotic electromagnetic energy process! Advocates of this theory state that this "lifeform" (variously thought to be either a collection of separate entities or a single "overmind") actively encourages belief in extraterrestrial visitors, in an attempt to "control" mankind through these ideals (for purposes known only to itself)...
The two main points against this wild concept are that this theory is very hard (probably impossible) to scientifically validate, and that the form of "sentient energy" these "UFO's" supposedly comprise of is not - and probably could never be - scientifically defined! The precepts of this theory hinges on conspiracy and paranoia in equal measure, with every strange instance, coincidence and rumour adding speculative fuel to this nightmarish conception. As with all theories based on conspiracy and paranoia it is next to impossible to disprove. Any data which apparrently contradicts this theory could be deemed - by it's supporters - to be manufactured by the ultraterrestrials (who created this negative evidence to "cover their tracks")!
The concept of "living UFOs" is predominantly supported by displays of what is variously deemed either "controlled" or "intelligent" behaviour" by some UFOs. However, most witnesses would likely interpret any motion displayed by a UFO as "purposeful", due to popular belief in their "extraterrestrial spacecraft" origin. Thus, given that the determination of this supposed "intelligent" behaviour is largely a subjective process, the distinct possibility exists that these actions could be accounted for in other, less outlandish ways. The actions of such "UFO's" could, just as likely (if not more likely) be generated by geophysical/electromagnetic influences present within the sighting environment. Or, less exotically, the UFO's motions were nothing really special at all, just random motions which human perception interpreted as "controlled" or "guided".
Lastly, some elements (and varieties) of the "Living Organism" theory seem more concerned with explaining it's own shortcomings than accounting for the diverse attributes and aspects of the UFO problem. As yet, there is little evidence within the annals of Ufology to support such theories, at least which cannot itself be more easily explained in other ways.
As this study has shown, it is all too apparent that the majority of "raw" sightings are explicable in terms of conventional IFO stimuli. However, it is also equally clear that every study of UFOs (no matter how sceptical) nearly always results in a small residue of incidents that cannot be easily accounted for in terms of proasic phenomena.
It is to this residue of "True UFOs" that Ufology must obviously concern itself with. Unfortunately, it is when attempting to determine the nature of "True" UFOs that Ufology encounters some of its greatest conceptual difficulties. A considerable number of these "unexplained" cases are explicable in terms of a high-energy plasma phenomenon, with these UFOs possessing (reported) attributes consistent with such an origin. However, although evidence for the physical reality for such a phenomenon exists (and there being many potential sources of "plasma-UFO" generation being available), the concept of "exotic-natural UFOs" has yet to be conclusively vindicated.
Other events relate to "True UFO's" that appear to be structured and artificial in nature; but the majority of such events suffer from a lack of supporting proof to fully validate their evidential existence. Although some evidence suggests that such "exotic" UFO's may physically exist, it is scant and often open to prosaic interpretation. The small number of these cases (and the low quantity of this physical evidence; given their claimed anomalous nature is accepted) suggests these "Exotics" comprise a very small percentage of the "True UFO" phenomenon.
As the above discussion of the various UFO theories expounded to date show all too well, there are many potential sources which could initiate "true" UFO events, "mundanes" and "exotics" alike. Some hypothesis appear to be more viable than others, but the best have at least a few aspects which make them worthy of further examination and consideration. Many of these theories - especially the more exotic ones - possesses "drawback" factors, which cause them to be as conceptually flawed as the next. However, this situation could well change with the advancement of human knowledge, which may either resolve these conceptual problems, remove a theory from consideration or even uncover some new possibilities! However, the above examination of the various UFO hypothesis indicates another problem facing Ufology now (and in the future). It is this; although many theories can explain some (or many) aspects of UFO's, they cannot (in isolation) account for them all.
This in itself leads to the most important question pertaining to the UFO phenomenon; does it involve a "core" phenomenon that has only one source of origin, or an intermingling of phenomena with widely differing origins? It should always be borne in mind that the only thing one "true" UFO has in common with the next is that it is a "true" UFO. This is merely a label of convenience, only an admission of our gross ignorance. The fact that these reports cannot be easily explained says nothing about their source of origin in itself. It does not guarantee that the phenomenon seen in one sighting is the same as that observed in another. IFO reports are a prime example of this; although all IFOs relate to explained "UFO" occurrences, there are estimated to be around 150 distinct causes for them (and around half a dozen commonly-recurring types).
Therefore it is likely that there is no UFO phenomenon, but a UFO phenomena, composed of diverse stimuli, with an escalating degree of strangeness. IFO's comprise the first level of "UFO phenomena", with exotic plasma and mirage effects comprising the next. Following them, perhaps, are those UFO events with extreme exotic origins; such as extraterrestrial devices, paranormal effects and anything else not ultimately forbidden by the laws of reality.
This is, however, only a conception. Only continued research can address the question as to where this "escalation of strangeness" terminates; does it end with IFOs, plasma-forms or alien visitors (and maybe even beyond)?
However, there is a strong inclination within Ufology to believe in a "True UFO" phenomenon with a singular origin (which is often unquestionably deemed to be extraterrestrial). This perspective can take several forms. The first accepts concepts such as earthlights but effectively relegates them to the status of IFOs. The second (more hardline attitude) rejects the possibility of earthlights and other similar novel natural causes, and is equally hostile towards the possibility of "paranormal" or other similarly exotic origins for "True UFOs". Furthermore, a deep suspicion is exhibited towards any attempt to account for all but the most obvious IFO reports in rational terms; with any such efforts attempted by more "liberal" Ufologists being vehemently dismissed as "debunkist propaganda" or "psycho-social claptrap". Equally, there are researchers who take the opposite approach. They are more open to the view that true UFO's may not just involve alien visitors; some can even conceive of a UFO phenomena which is totally based on novel forms of unusual natural phenomena (such as earthlights).
It is clear that dogma and blind belief remains one of the greatest obstacles to our true understanding of the UFO enigma. Only when the chains of these outdated conceptual shibboleths are cast aside can a true comprehension of the UFO phenomenon be attained. Ufology is finally reaching a stage where a reasonable understanding of its subject matter could be realistically acquired. The nature of the UFO phenomenon is now much clearer than it was in 1947, which many potential sources of origin having been identified. However, much work is still required to determine the true extent and parameters of the UFO. This will be achieved both through the documentation of new reports and closer examination of those UFO incidents already on record.
As with most scientific research, a fuller understanding of UFOs will not happen as the result of a single breakthrough, or through astounding "official" revelations. The UFO phenomenon appears too diverse in nature to be effectivelly cut down with a single conceptual blow; although a sudden breakthrough could occur in relation to one particular source of "True UFO" events. The quest for further and full understanding of the UFO problem will not prove to be an easy one, and remains the greatest challenge facing ufology, both today and into the foreseeable future.
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Research Investigation Book Reviews Ufological History
Bryan, C.D.B. (1995) Close Encounters Of The Fourth Kind. A.
Budden, A. (1998) Electric UFOs
Campbell, S. (1994) The UFO Mystery Solved. ST.
Clarke, D. & Roberts, A. (1990) Phantoms Of The Sky. . G.
Clarke, D. & Roberts, A. (2002) Out Of The Shadows. H.
Clarke, D. & Roberts, A. (2007) Flying Saucerers H.
Clarke, J (1996) High Strangeness UFOs from 1960's through 1979.
Condon, Dr. E. U. (ed) (1969) Scientific Study Of UFOs. G.; now available at: http://www.ncas.org/condon/index.html
Chalker, B. (2005) Hair Of The Alien. C.
Devereux, P. (1982) Earthlights. . T.
Devereux, P. (1996) Earthlight Revelations. . T.
Evans, H. (1983) The Evidence For UFOs. . G.
Fort, C. (1919) The Book Of The Damned. H.
Fuller, J. (1965) The Interrupted Journey. C.
Good, T. (1987) Above Top Secret. G.
Hall, R. (2000) The UFO Evidence . HC.
Hendry, A (1980) The UFO Handbook. G.
Hopkins, B. (1981) Missing Time. A.
Hynek, J. A. (1972) The UFO Experience; A Scientific Inquiry. G.
Hynek, J. A. (1977) The Hynek UFO Report. H.
Jacobs, M. (1975) The UFO Controversy In America. H.
Jung, Dr. C. (1958) Flying Saucers. T.
Keel, J. (1970) UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse. 1970 T.
Klass, P. J (1968) UFOs; Identified. T.
Klass, P. J (1974) UFOs: Explained. S.
Mack, J. E. (1994) Abduction. A.
Menzel, Dr. D. H (1954) The World Of Flying Saucers. S .
Randle, K., & Schmitt, D. (1991) UFO Crash At Roswell. C.
Randles J & Warrington, P. (1979) UFOs: a British Viewpoint. . G.
Randles, J. (1981) UFO Study. G.