Ufology for the New Millennium


 

Introduction

The summer months of 1997 saw ufology in the public eye to a greater extent than any time than I can remember.  The fiftieth anniversaries of Kenneth Arnold’s “flying saucer” sighting, coupled with the fiftieth anniversary of the Roswell incident were events which attracted the attention of the mainstream media, and therefore presented ufology with a tremendous opportunity to put forward its case to a wider audience than usual.  There were numerous television programmes and features devoted to the subject, and a whole host of books were published at around the same time.  But despite all this exposure, was the cause of ufology actually advanced?  Indeed, are we at all clear what we mean by ufology, and what its aims should be?  And does the recent demise of some of the glossy ufological magazines mean that the bubble has burst, and that a saturated market is beginning to bite back?  In the course of this article I intend to give ufology a health check, and put forward some ideas for some initiatives which I believe may help us make some progress.  I also want to use this article to say a little about how I have been affected by my involvement in ufology, and in particular I intend to address some of the accusations and questions that crop up about my role.

I should first make it clear that I do not claim to sit in judgement on ufology.  I have no right to do so, not least because there are many people who have been involved for much longer than a relative newcomer such as myself, and who have been struggling to take forward our understanding of the UFO mystery long before I was even born.  But my background does give me a unique perspective on the topic, and one which I hope can be put to some constructive use.  As many readers will be aware, I am a civil servant in the Ministry of Defence, and came to ufology quite by chance, when in 1991 I was posted to Secretariat(Air Staff)2a.  I had not been quizzed in any way about my views on the subject before taking this job, but for the next three years my duties involved me in carrying out official research and investigation into UFO sightings, alien abductions and anything else weird and wonderful that came my way (crop circles, animal mutilations and the threat to the Earth from comets and asteroids are examples of some of the other topics I found myself drawn into).  I would not dare to claim that this background somehow makes me a better ufologist than anybody else, but the fact that I was carrying out official studies gave me unique access to assets and expertise simply not available to members of the public. 

Addressing the Conspiracy Theories

The fact that I work for the MOD has, of course, made me controversial, and I should like to address some of the accusations and questions that have been put to me over the past few years.  I have been accused of being part of an officially-sanctioned campaign to cover-up the truth about UFOs.  This I find bizarre, because although I do not believe in an MOD cover-up, I have made no secret of the fact that I believe some UFOs to be extraterrestrial in origin.  I have also been quite critical of the Department’s track record on UFOs, suggesting that there is a sort of “reverse cover-up” - in that one or two people are effectively bringing the whole research effort to a halt because they have their heads in the sand, with their own ignorance and prejudice about UFOs being reflected in the way in which the MOD now treats the subject.

Alternatively, I have been accused of being an innocent dupe, unaware that sinister forces were operating to a different agenda, behind my back.  This is also untrue.  I have made no secret of the fact that other sections in the MOD are involved in looking at UFO data, and I admitted as much in my first book, Open Skies, Closed Minds.  But this involvement is little more than the process of specialist advice being sought by Sec(AS)2a in its attempts to get to the bottom of specific UFO sightings.  An example would be bringing in a section specialising in air defence matters, to ask if a visual sighting could be correlated by radar.  Another example would be the way in which RAF Fylingdales might be asked about satellites or space debris.  There’s nothing sinister about such routine consultation, and I find it amusing that much of the controversy about secret departments has arisen as a result of documentation made available at the Public Records Office.  If we were really dealing with the sort of cover-up envisaged by some conspiracy theorists, you’d hardly be reading the details in freely available documents which have been identified as suitable for public release!  Another argument against my being an innocent puppet in this business is the fact that the one thing any covert UFO division would have needed was access to the raw data that came to me, and indeed access to the witnesses themselves.  Not once in three years was I told by a witness that after their contact with me they’d been contacted by shadowy and sinister Men in Black, or been asked to repeat their stories to someone else, or asked to send in any photographs they had.  Sec(AS)2a are the lead division so far as the MOD’s UFO investigations are concerned.  Others have been involved, but in a limited role that is subordinate to that of Sec(AS)2a and its predecessors.

I have even been accused of being spokesperson for a conspiracy of indoctrination, responsible for drip-feeding information to the public, acclimatising people to an extraterrestrial reality, prior to some official announcement about alien contact.  If only I had a pound for every time I’d been told that “the big announcement” was just around the corner!  And as to the notion of an indoctrination programme, all I can say is that it’s actually a very old idea - the same accusations have been made about films such as Independence Day or Close Encounters of the Third Kind (It’s a very strange and contradictory campaign that indoctrinates people about such different scenarios of alien contact). 

All these separate and mutually contradictory theories are incorrect, but clearly there is nothing I can do to convince a small but vociferous minority whose minds are already made up on this matter, and who refuse to believe what I say simply because I work for the MOD.  The truth is that I am simply an ordinary person who was put into an extraordinary situation, where I tried to do my job to the best of my ability.  I believe that I achieved some success in my job, forging some constructive links between the Department and the UFO lobby, and arranging for the release of some information into the public domain.  But I made mistakes too, and kick myself for some of the lost opportunities that slipped away simply because three years is far too short a time to develop a comprehensive knowledge of the UFO phenomenon.  If I knew then what I know now, I believe I would have made significantly more progress towards an understanding of the mystery.  The MOD has the resources to make a comprehensive “Estimate of the Situation”, but seems currently to lack the will to do so.  I have certainly let it be known that I would be prepared to lead a small study group - along the lines of the United States Air Force’s old Project Blue Book - to see if we can make some progress on these issues.  This offer has not yet been taken up, but who knows?  It is a mistake to think of the MOD speaking with one voice on this, or being corporately sceptical.  The fact of the matter is that the Department is a collection of individuals, whose views on UFOs are pretty much the same as anybody else’s; there are sceptics, believers and agnostics in the Department - but many more believers than might be supposed!

Answering the Questions

Let me now briefly address some of the questions most frequently put to me, again in the hope that this will clarify the situation and resolve some of the debate about my own role.  Yes, of course I am bound by the Official Secrets Act, which I signed on my first day at the MOD, back in 1985.  I’ve been asked how I’ve been able to speak out so publicly, and in particular how I’ve been able to write two books which draw on my official work.  The answer is that the Official Secrets Act does not bar people from talking about their official experiences - if it did, none of the books on the Gulf War written by some of the military personnel most closely involved would ever have been published.  There is a procedure for dealing with such books, which involves submitting the manuscript to the Department in advance of publication, so that any classified information which may accidentally have been included can be removed.  This applied to the Gulf War books (by a curious turn of events, I was actually involved in clearing some of these books!) and it applied to mine.  Whilst it is true that one or two people tried to ban my books, there was nothing sinister about this.  It was an abortive attempt that - according to some very senior colleagues in the MOD - was motivated by nothing more than a combination of jealousy and ignorance about the proper procedure for clearing manuscripts.  Ultimately, despite a few battles, both my books were submitted and cleared in the normal way - end of story.

I should also address another question I am frequently asked, and that is the story behind my departure from Sec(AS)2a.  After three years in the job I was promoted from the rank of Executive Officer (equivalent in rank to an Army Captain) to the rank of Higher Executive Officer (equating to the rank of a Major).  Some have suggested that this was a move designed to get me out of the job, because I was “getting too close to the truth”.  Again, this is nonsense.  Although the promotion board will consider reports from immediate line management, the process is entirely separate from this management, and turns on nothing more sinister than the sort of thirty minute interview sat by countless thousands of hopeful middle-ranking executives in organisations all over the country.  The most telling argument against this theory is that there was no need to promote me if they wanted to get rid of me - three years was a fairly standard tour of duty at the time, and I was due to move in 1994.  So if I had failed my interview I would have been given a level transfer anyway!

The Personal Effect

Now that I have clarified these points, I want to say something about how involvement in ufology has affected me.  My three years in Sec(AS)2a were a personal turning point for me, and a profoundly life-changing experience.  I had no previous knowledge of ufology, and no particular belief in extraterrestrials, and yet found myself exposed to the most bizarre material imaginable.  While 90% of cases could be explained as misidentifications of conventional objects and phenomena, a hard core of cases seemed to defy all such explanation, and appeared to involve structured craft with a technology that exceeded that of even our best prototypes, both in terms of speed and manoeuvrability.  I made no secret of the fact that I believed some sightings had an extraterrestrial explanation.  Eventually I found myself increasingly unable to agree with the Ministry of Defence’s party line that UFOs were of “no defence significance”.  I had cases involving near misses between UFOs and civil airliners where the presence of the UFO was validated by radar.  I had cases where military jets were being overtaken by UFOs and where RAF bases were being directly overflown by them.  Clearly this was of extreme defence significance.  The details of my work at the MOD and of some of the bizarre cases I investigated were set out in Open Skies, Closed Minds, so I do not intend to cover much of this material here.

An Estimate of the Situation

I want now to turn away from my personal involvement, and put the spotlight on ufology itself.  As I consider ufology today I am not filled with optimism.  I see a disunited group of individuals and organisations, squabbling with each other, and unclear as to what their aims should be.  Despite some positive stories in the press, there are still a depressing number of instances where the media regards a UFO story as being fit for a quirky or humorous treatment, and a similarly depressing number of cultists and crackpots who manage to hijack ufology, making it that much more difficult for serious researchers and investigators to make any headway.  Occasionally I like to dip into some of the older UFO books on my bookshelves, and as I do so, I am struck by how little things have changed over the decades.  There is a hard core of solid information and good research, but the picture is muddied by a whole host of red herrings.  We seem to be going round in circles, and sometimes I think we are no further forward than we were thirty years ago.  What are the precise problems we face, and much more importantly, what can we do to rectify them?  The following headings attempt to address these questions, and where possible they incorporate lessons that I learnt during my official research and investigation.

Respecting Alternative Viewpoints

I have discussed aspects of ufology with various scientists, and whatever their views on the subject as a whole, they never cease to be amazed at the way in which ufologists are constantly making personal attacks on each other.  Scientists often disagree with each other, but while they make the most furious of attacks on each others’ data, these arguments hardly ever turn into the sort of personal vendettas that characterise ufology.  Can we not learn from this?

It seems to me that the first step here would be to recognise that ufology is a broad church.  We simply must get away from a sceptic versus believer mentality, and recognise that everybody with a serious interest in ufology deserves some respect.  Although I personally subscribe to the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH), I do not instantly condemn all those who, for example, believe that UFOs are lightforms caused by energies from within the Earth.  Neither, though I believe that some alien abduction accounts involve physical interaction with extraterrestrials, do I condemn those who hold equally sincere views that we are dealing with a purely psychological phenomenon.  In the world of science, people often achieve most when they enter into constructive debate with colleagues who hold different views.  Yet ufologists seem to gather in cliques, with the consequence that many UFO conferences involve a lot of preaching to the converted.  And where opposing viewpoints do come together, it usually involves a lot of bitterness and sarcastic point scoring.  There is little constructive debate.  We need to get away from these attitudes, and be more tolerant of those with whom we disagree.  One way to look at it is that you may well learn more from someone with an opposing view than someone who agrees with everything you say.

Another important point is that a little less egotism on the part of certain ufologists would greatly help ufology as a whole.  All of us are wrong from time to time, but learning to admit as much is important.  There is little point in blindly defending your own theory against critics.  Again, many scientific advances come from evolving one’s theories in the light of constructive criticism, and modifying them to take account of fresh data.  Much as he has been criticised and  accused by the UFO lobby, I cannot help but admire the stance taken by Kent Jeffrey.  Having organised the International Roswell Initiative, aimed at getting the US government to release all information on the case, he very publicly changed his mind on the whole Roswell incident, and now believes that the incident did not involve a UFO crash.  While I would dispute some of his reasoning, I have tremendous respect for his approach.  Would that everyone else was as honest.  In a fast-moving field of study such as ufology, ideas and beliefs should evolve and change in response to emerging facts.  We may, for example, have to reassess views on the so-called “Face on Mars” as a result of the latest NASA photographs.  And before people say NASA are covering up the truth, I should point out that NASA would love there to be evidence of intelligent life on Mars - or indeed anywhere else.  Think how much their budget would be increased, and think back to the way in which they were so keen to endorse the idea of life on Mars through their strong and publicly stated belief (which, incidentally, is still hotly disputed by much of the scientific community) that meteorite ALH 84001 contained fossilised remains of organic Martian molecules.  Ufologists need to be more flexible in their response to emerging data, more tolerant of dissenting views and more able to admit to mistakes.

Recognising Diversity

One of the greatest problems that I think ufology faces is a tendency to look for neat solutions to complex situations.  One of the ways in which this manifests is the undue prominence given to certain descriptions of UFOs and aliens, to the exclusion of all else.  If you believe some ufologists, our skies are currently brimming with little else but large, triangular shaped UFOs.  Clearly there are many such objects being reported (I have investigated numerous such cases myself) but the truth of the matter is that a bewildering array of sizes and shapes of UFOs still being seen in our skies.  The same is true of extraterrestrials.  Pick up some magazines and you would think that the Greys were the only alien being reported by close encounter witnesses.  Nothing could be further from the truth, and while I was researching my book on abductions, The Uninvited, I came across many cases which did not fit into what is now regarded as being a standard pattern.  Indeed, one of my key findings was that the “contactee” experience, which many ufologists believe stopped at the end of the Fifties, is still going on, with many people reporting more benevolent contact experiences.  I think we need to recognise that the UFO and close encounter phenomena are multi-faceted, and should resist the idea - however attractive it may be in the short term - that there is one neat solution to these mysteries.  This is unlikely to be the case, and if and when we do get to the bottom of things, we are likely to find that there are a number of different things going on.

Widening the Net

Related to the above concern is the worry that we are giving undue prominence to material from within the UK and the USA.  UFOs are being seen all around the world, and close encounters (both contactee and abductee type experiences) are similarly global.  And yet, time and time again, a quick glance at many of the ufological magazines would suggest that little goes on outside Britain and America.  The language barrier is a huge problem here, and yet there is a lot of overseas material available if you look for it.  Timothy Good does an excellent job in highlighting material from all around the world in books such as Beyond Top Secret and Alien Base.  Gordon Creighton has featured much overseas material in his journal Flying Saucer Review, while everybody at UFO Magazine have done similar good work, and have taken this a step further by bringing a number of speakers to the UK from such countries as Israel, Mexico and Brazil.  This is important, not just because we need to break away from regurgitation of the same old information by the same old speakers, but because there do seem to be differences in the types of experiences reported in different countries.  It is therefore of vital importance to see whether the phenomenon itself varies, or whether a constant phenomenon is being interpreted in differing ways, according to the cultural background of the witness.

The Internet also plays an important role in allowing researchers to access more exotic information from outside the normal British and American sources.  I shall be saying more about the Internet later.

Dealing With Hoaxes

The proliferation of cheap cameras and camcorders means that we are seeing increasing numbers of films and photographs showing UFOs.  Unfortunately, the proliferation of PC-compatible photographic image packages has meant that it is now increasingly easy to produce fakes so convincing (as an example, incorporating a shadow of the “object” into the image) that even an expert would find it difficult to spot the deception.  All I can recommend here is that ufologists adopt a cautious attitude to all photos and videos.  In a rush for an exclusive many a ufologist has been caught out by prematurely endorsing material that has subsequently proved to be fake.  So think before speaking out, and try to develop contacts with special effects companies, or companies specialising in image enhancement and analysis.

We must also remember that an image itself can tell us very little, so speak to the person who claims to have taken the picture, and see if their story checks out.  Go through the normal series of checks that you would carry out during an investigation.  See if you can locate independent witnesses, perhaps though a letter or article in the local paper.  Above all, remember that you can never consider the image in isolation from the witness.

On a final point, we should try to understand the mentality of hoaxers, rather than simply condemning them out of hand.  If we can appreciate the way in which these people operate, we are likely to be better able to spot hoaxed material in the future.  To illustrate this point I had a recent discussion with Rob Irvine, who was talking about crop circles in language which was that of a conceptual artist.  As frustrating as it may be for some, we need to work with such people instead of vilifying them.

Developing Specialist Knowledge and Contacts

A little bit of specialist knowledge will go a long way.  As an example, a ufologist confronted by a wave of sightings involving numerous fast moving UFOs at high altitude might pause for thought if the event occurred on 12 August.  A little astronomical knowledge would mean that the ufologist would know that this is the night of one of the most spectacular of the annual meteor showers visible from Earth - the Perseids.  Most ufologists will have encountered cases where Venus has been mistaken for something more exotic, and knowing the location of this most brilliant of planets at any given time can quickly help to clear up misidentifications, saving much nugatory work.

Similarly, a little basic psychological knowledge can be of great assistance to those ufologists who investigate abductions.  I find it incredible that there are still those who have no knowledge of the vivid hallucinations that can sometimes be seen in the borderline state between being awake and asleep.  These visual hallucinations are known as hypnagogic and hypnopompic imagery, and when coupled with sleep paralysis (which inhibits bodily movement during dreaming) might give rise to a belief that an abduction had taken place.  A 1996 article in the British Journal of Psychiatry reported that in a survey involving over 5000 people, around thirty-seven percent reported some regular experience of hypnagogic hallucinations.  And examining this figure more closely it was found that the second most commonly reported hallucination was that of a presence in the bedroom.  

Other specialist knowledge that it will be useful to develop is increased knowledge of information technology, and in particular, use of the Internet.  Although there is a lot of nonsense on the Internet, there is much good information, and knowing how to search for specific facts will save researchers much time.  It is also a valuable tool for exchanging ideas and encouraging the sort of liaison that I have argued for earlier in this article.

It is important to develop a network of contacts who can help you with research or investigation of a specific case.  These contacts might include a local police officer who could let you know about any unusual activity that might tie in with a UFO sighting, or a Community Relations Officer at an RAF base, who might be able to tell you whether a UFO sighting was backed up on radar, or whether there was any aircraft activity in the area at the time.  Remember that such people have busy, demanding jobs.  Do not overload a contact with requests and generally make a nuisance of yourself, but use them selectively.  If you approach someone who won’t help, politely accept this and try again.

Finally, whatever your views on a cover-up, please don’t assume that anybody in any position of authority is involved in some sinister conspiracy.  Speaking personally, I can assure readers that there are numerous “believers” in the MOD and the RAF (I’ve spoken to many RAF pilots who have seen UFOs themselves, and files at the Public Record Office reveal a number of such cases) so don’t assume otherwise.

Using the Parliamentary System

In the last eighteen months or so there have been over thirty written Parliamentary Questions on UFOs tabled in either the House of Commons or Lords.  In some cases these questions have covered the general policy on UFOs, whilst others have dealt with specific cases such as the Rendlesham Forest incident.  It does seem as if some MPs and Peers are becoming increasingly aware of the potential defence and national security issues raised by the UFO phenomenon, and increasingly dissatisfied with bland and unsubstantiated platitudes about UFOs being of “no defence significance”.  Again, this is a situation which serious ufologists can exploit.

In general, your first approach should be to your own MP, especially if you are asking about a local sighting in your MP’s constituency.  You cannot force an MP to take an issue further, but if they do help, one of two things may happen.  They may write to the MOD, forwarding any correspondence you may have had with your MP.  This is known as a Parliamentary Enquiry, and the MP will get a letter back from one of the Ministers at the MOD.  This letter will almost certainly have been drafted by officials in Sec(AS)2a, so if the Enquiry asks general questions, you are likely to receive little more than the standard reply that UFOs are of “no defence significance”.  So try to ask specific questions.  Alternatively, your MP may table what is known as a Parliamentary Question (these tend to be short, very specific questions), and when the reply has been received, both question and answer will be printed up in the parliamentary Hansard - the written record of parliamentary proceedings.  In this way it will have visibility amongst MPs, civil servants and defence correspondents on national newspapers.  Interesting PQs are often picked up by the press, and this can be an excellent way to increase the profile of a UFO incident.

Use common sense in any dealings with MPs.  They are busy people, and are unlikely to wish to see their names associated with anything quirky, so you are more likely to interest an MP in incidents such as near misses between a civil aircraft and a UFO where the incident has been confirmed by the Civil Aviation Authority, sightings involving military witnesses or sighting correlated by radar.

Preparing for the Freedom of Information Act

Shortly after the current government came to power, its legislative programme was set out in the Queen’s Speech, delivered to both Houses of Parliament - Commons and Lords - on 14 May 1997.  This speech confirmed that a White Paper would be published on proposals for a Freedom of Information Bill, thus honouring a manifesto commitment of the Labour Party.  The UK’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will be a particularly complex piece of legislation, and unlike most Bills, will need to be drawn up in consultation with every branch of Government.  Departments such as the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be particularly involved in this consultation, but contrary to some ill-informed rumours I have heard, they will not be exempt from the Act.  It is true that there will be some exemptions, but what this means is that certain information will not have to be released if it can be shown that its release will be harmful to the interests of the UK.  Examples of such information in the MOD would include technical details about military weapons systems, and information relating to doctrine and tactics.

The introduction of the FOIA presents ufology with a huge opportunity, and yet to my knowledge there are only a handful of researchers who have given the matter much thought.  There are, at present, some twenty five UFO-related files available for viewing at the Public Record Office in Kew.  While there is much fascinating material in these files, most of it relates to events which occurred thirty years ago.  Once the FOIA has been passed, the so-called Thirty Years Rule will not apply, and ufologists will be able to request more recent material.

The details of exactly how requests should be submitted will be published nearer the time, but in general, specific questions will need to be asked.  A typical request would probably read as follows:

“I am writing to you under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act to request that you forward me any documentation originated by the Ministry of Defence or the Royal Air Force relating to the sighting of a UFO on 31 March 1993 by personnel based at RAF Cosford and RAF Shawbury.”  

In general, the more information you are able to supply, the better.  So following on from the above example (which relates to a real case), if you are after a particular document that you know exists, say so:

“I am especially interested in seeing the official report of this sighting submitted to Sec(AS)2a by the guard patrol who witnessed the craft flying over RAF Cosford.”

If your request is denied, you should be told why, and if you disagree with this decision there will be an appeals procedure.

My advice to ufologists is to get alongside some of the American researchers who have successfully exploited the US FOIA, and see what advice they have on how best to play the system.  Watch the media for news of our own Act, and once it’s in place, test the system.  Don’t expect miracles, and be patient with government officials who will be just as unused to a FOIA as you.  And one final point, following on from the earlier warning about hoaxing.  If somebody claims that a document has been obtained under the FOIA, do not assume this is true.  If you have doubts, you can always check with the originating Department.

New Research

As one flicks through some of the articles in the various ufological publications one cannot help but notice the number of features that simply rake over a lot of old ground.  Now, there is nothing wrong with a punchy analysis of a famous UFO case, coupled with some new ideas on its interpretation, and many of those new to ufology may well be hearing of the case for the first time.  But it seems to me that there are a number of contemporary issues crying out for analysis, and a number of specific questions that would be worthy of detailed study.

An area that has attracted proportionally more of my attention lately has been the issue of alien abductions.  One of the problems with the theory that this involves physical removal of individuals from their cars or beds, is the shortage of witnessed abductions.  There are really only one or two such incidents - most notably the case of Linda Cortile, described in considerable detail in Budd Hopkins’ excellent book Witnessed.  But when one examines the accounts of countless abductees one finds descriptions of events that ought to have attracted numerous witnesses.  These accounts tell of large, luminous UFOs hovering at low altitude over roads or houses for some length of time, and of abductees being drawn up beams of light into a craft.  Given the fact that there are thousands of UFO reports received each year, often dealing with small lights at high altitude, seen for only a few seconds, surely the considerably more impressive events described by abductees should be seen by an independent witness far more often?  It seems to me that we are missing something here, and this might be an interesting area for study.  I touched upon this in my last book, The Uninvited, and controversially suggested that we might need to consider some strategies that raise a number of moral issues.  Surveillance of abductees has been tried, and researchers such as David Jacobs have tried setting up video cameras in abductees’ bedrooms.  The problem is that on a number of occasions the abductees themselves have turned these cameras off, unaware of why they did so.  On other occasions the equipment appears to have malfunctioned, and it is after such occasions that an experience is claimed to have occurred.  One way around this might be to consider - within the law - covert surveillance of an abductees’ home, without their knowledge.

Another question on which I have seen no research is whether there are a higher proportion of any particular blood groups among UFO witnesses - especially close encounter witnesses.  Researchers such as the late Ken Phillips recognised the importance of the witnesses themselves, and concentrated on what became known as witness-led investigation.  His Anamnesis Project sought to find out whether there were any common factors in the lives or backgrounds of abductees that might account for their experiences.  I am convinced that this is an idea that we need to get back to, and an examination of blood groups is just one idea.

Another idea for a very focused investigation into a specific ufological mystery would be a look at so-called doorway amnesia.  This is the mystery of why, given the detailed way in which abductees are often able to describe aspects of their experiences, so few recall the actual moment of entry into a UFO.  Again, David Jacobs has touched on this in his book Secret Life.  Jenny Randles also commented upon it during a presentation she gave at Abduction Study Conference held at MIT in 1992, when she described an experiment designed to compare imaginary abduction experiences with real ones.  Twenty people who had never had any UFO experience were asked to imagine an encounter.  Eighteen out of the twenty described some form of entry into the craft, and only two said that they suddenly found themselves there.  Again, worthy of further research, I would suggest.

National Representation

I believe it would be impossible and counter-productive to try and unite all the different UFO groups and independent researchers, many of whom would have absolutely no wish to join such an organisation anyway.  Having said this, there is much duplication of effort in ufology, and very little co-ordination.  The impression is given that ufology is a disorganised collection of groups and individuals, constantly bickering amongst themselves, and never able to present a united front.

It seems to me that what we need is a national institute of ufology.  Such a body would be a loose collection of representatives from various existing groups, and would be aimed solely at promoting ufology.  This might be achieved through the organisation of conferences, the commissioning of specific research projects, and the subsequent publication and distribution of papers detailing the results.  It might also aim to draw up summary sheets of information on various ufological topics, which could be made available upon demand to other ufologists, the media or children doing school projects.  Such an organisation would have no authority over any groups or individuals, but by providing a forum where such people could come together, would hopefully provide a fertile environment for new ideas, and generally promote better practice within ufology - perhaps by following up some of the ideas in this article.

Conclusions

This article has covered a lot of ground, and I hope I have provided people with some food for thought.  I am sure that I am not the only person with ideas about how ufology can put right some of the things that have gone wrong, and make progress towards a better understanding of that which we study.  While I hope it has been of interest to everybody, I hope that it has been of particular interest to those involved in some way in ufology, because we face some tough times.  As the Millennium approaches, we may well see a proliferation of cults, many of whom may latch upon ufology, which has always been of interest to a number of cults - some harmless, but some less so.  I remember only too well the fiasco that surrounded the approach of Comet Hale-Bopp, when a number of ufologists who really should have known better jumped on the bandwagon and started to endorse some of the wilder stories about giant spacecraft travelling with the comet.  Tragically, the Heaven’s Gate cult were thinking along similar lines, and thirty nine cult members took their lives last March in the belief that they would be reincarnated onto the spacecraft they believed was travelling behind the Hale-Bopp comet.  Inevitably, ufology came in for some heavy criticism in the aftermath of the tragedy.  We must do everything within our power to dissociate mainstream ufology from cults and other dubious fringe activities.

As we move into the twenty first century ufology needs to move on too.  We need to leave behind some of the divisions and pettiness that has dogged us for the last fifty years, and get away from an endless raking over of historic material.  I believe we need to adapt if we are to survive and remain relevant.  This means having a long, hard look at everything we do, and making some changes.  I care passionately about ufology, and some of the people involved in this field are among the most dedicated and professional people that I have encountered.  Often it is the people working away at local level who are doing the best work, away from the glare of publicity.  Above all, we must attract new faces to ufology, so that this fascinating subject can be enriched by fresh, new ideas.  This means sharing information with those who ask, and offering a helping hand, rather than jealously guarding cases as if they were some sort of personal property.  It means taking the time to help the various people who write and ask for help with school projects or college dissertations.  But above all it means trying to conduct our business in a professional way so that people will want to get involved.  If we do this, perhaps by following up some of the ideas I have put forward here, we will have something that people will want to be a part of.  Ufology requires hard work and a professional approach, but offers in return the chance to be a part of the quest for perhaps the greatest and most important mystery of all time.  Ultimately, ufology is what we make it, so there will be no great mystery about the nature of ufology in the twenty first century.  It will evolve as a result of what we do now, from choices that all of us make.  Choose well.

 


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