Monday, 10 December 2012

Mirage Men by Mark Pilkington

A HPANWO book review.
Mirage Men by Mark Pilkington can be purchased at all good bookshops and also here: 

I first met Mark Pilkington at the ASSAP Seriously Strange conference last year, see: He was one of the speakers and was also publicizing his new book Mirage Men- a Journey in Disinformation, Paranoia and UFO's. I intended to buy a copy then and review it, but other duties got in the way; but better late than never! It's been a while since I've done a detailed book review and it's good to get back into that field.
See here for previous book reviews I've done:
My first thought was how much Pilkington resembled Carl Miller and Jamie Bartlett... That's a thought! Has anybody ever seen the three of them in the same place together!?... We have a new conspiracy theory here! But if they are all separate people we'll have to call them the 118-118 triplets. Because I saw his speech I got the general gist of the book's theme and decided that it should play a role in my new novel The Obscurati Chronicles, the draft of which can be read free online. In this scene the main character, Glyn, is given a copy by a government agent, see:

Mark Pilkington is a researcher, writer and publisher on many subjects, but he specializes in fringe beliefs and culture. His work has been published in the Fortean Times, Time Out and The Frankfurt School Journal... Sorry! I meant The Guardian. Mirage Men is his second book and comes out of Constable instead of his own imprint Strange Attractor Press, see link above. I feel rather envious of the author actually because the story is built around his visit to the International UFO Congress in Laughlin, Nevada USA; this is one conference I've wanted to attend more than any other. The book has the feel of a road trip story and throughout he is accompanied by his friend and colleague John Lundberg, and a few HPANWO-readers may be familiar with that name, see: . This book is all about what the author calls "UFOria", which is a homophone of "euphoria" and is his term for an enthusiastic interest in UFO's. People who suffer from UFOria are called by another witticism: "saucerers". Pilkington is a stylish and skilled writer and his prose is full of neat humour that echoes his journalistic career. He is well-travelled and although he is English he writes in a transatlantic language; he uses words like "freeway" and he calls Pearl Harbour "Pearl Harbor" and says "Colorado River" instead of River Colorado. Pilkington used to be a UFO-believer himself to the point where he describes himself as "obsessed". Since then he has become far more sceptical, and Skeptical, of the whole subject and Mirage Men is a last-ditch attempt to clear up the truth about the subject once and for all. 

Pilkington begins by relating his own UFO close encounter in 1995 while he was touring Yosemite National Park. He saw a silvery metallic reflective sphere about eight feet across and it passed no less than fifty feet above his head while he was changing a wheel on his car, so this no brief flash of light glimpsed through the trees. What's more there were two other people in the car who witnessed the phenomenon too. At the end of the book he has another sighting of a spider-like object hanging in the sky; this might make the reader wonder how he reconciles these experiences with the rest of the story when he explains his theory; you see Pilkington believes that UFO's are actually an elaborate hoax perpetrated on the population by the Iluminati-occupied governments. This very Skeptical position may well have been instilled by his activities as a "planker", a human crop circle-maker. "Yes, they're all made by people. I'd have thought that was bleeding obvious!" he rants. John Lundberg is of course the leader of Circlemakers, Britain's, and therefore the world's, top planker team, see: While they were at Congress they had a good laugh at the crop circle speakers, saying "I made that" whenever the speaker mentioned a specific formation. I don't think it's "bleeding obvious" at all that these objects are all man-made. Of course I have to concede that some of them, probably the majority, are made by people like Lundberg and Pilkington, but not all of them are by far. (Interestingly a couple of months ago when this formation appeared, in my view the finest of the year: , a planker friend of mine contacted me on Facebook and said: "Ben, do you know who did that one? I've got no idea!") Nevertheless Pilkington and Lundberg were made welcome at Congress and soon came across a man who would become pivotal in their research, Richard Doty. Ever since the modern UFO era began in 1947, the subject has had what the author describes as "human fingerprints all over it". There's no doubt that the government have taken a keen interest in the subject, but out of the intricate "twisted pretzel" that the author compares it to, he thinks he has found a narrative. This is a very bold assertion; does the evidence match up to it? The tale is a complex one and includes such slippery figures as Fred Crisman, who Pilkington enters without introducing him. The frantic couple of weeks in the summer of 1947 which began the UFO age started with the Maury Island Incident in which a fishing boat was attacked by a squadron of doughnut-shaped objects. The objects showered the boat with globules of what resembled molten metal, injuring the people on board and killing their dog. Almost immediately strange people began showing up at the skipper's home. These sound to me like Men-in-Black. Pilkington assumes that these are government agents although I and John Keel, to whom the book is dedicated, have other ideas about that. Men-in-Black did not exist in popular culture at that time although this trope can be found all over the world going back throughout history. In the South African Zulu culture they're called "The Beasts of the Terrible Blanket" and appear differently to match the time period and culture they appear in, but according to Keel they are a universal natural archetype. One must also ask the question: if UFO's are simply a trick by government intelligence agencies then how come they already had a contingency plan in place before the era started? The MiB arrived at Maury Island the very next day after the encounter. The author gives us a speculative analysis of Byzantine complexity involving possible Soviet aircraft or agents, the cover-up of a radioactive leak, an attempt to defraud a science-fiction writer. In the end there is no way to know what really happened at Maury Island, but that doesn't stop Pilkington wondering aloud; perhaps he hopes that if he guesses enough times he'll hit the mark anyway by chance. This is something he does on many occasions throughout the book. What he avoids religiously is what I consider a more parsimonious and logical explanation: The boat was actually attacked by extraterrestrial artefacts of some kind; this was followed by the classic aftershocks of MiB encounters. The government responded so quickly because they did have a contingency plan in place which they set up after previous UFO incidents. Yes, the UFO era did not begin in 1947; this was simply when the subject reached the threshold mass that allowed it to break out into popular culture, but the government already knew about the extraterrestrial presence many many years before, see: Of course there's no way to prove this, but then again Pilkington has no way to prove what he asserts either. The world of government intelligence operations is a virtually perfect universal smokescreen. What I don't quite understand is how the author sees his own speculative chronicle as making more sense than any other. As with Roswell; Pilkington claims that the original story was released deliberately; he can't imagine that the original Flying Disk press release could have been released accidentally. He claims that the 509th press officer, Walter Haut, was acting on orders from his own Commanding Officer, Blanchard, to fool the public into thinking a crashed UFO had been salvaged when in fact it hadn't. But mistakes can happen, especially in that rather chaotic fortnight following the Kenneth Arnold sighting, the event which coined the phrase "Flying Saucer". Since then the US Government has changed its story about what really happened at Roswell in July 1947 so many times that if it were a witness in court the judge would send it down for contempt. First it was a weather balloon... no a V2 rocket... no a parachute test.... no a spy balloon... no dead monkeys; what will the next incarnation of the cover-story be? (See: According to the author the Roswell story went silent for thirty years and exploded out of obscurity only when Stanton Friedman discovered Jesse Marcel in 1977, which is when the modern Roswell era began. (This I dispute, but that's a long story. An article in Dot Connector magazine shows that there was a presence for Roswell in the intervening years). What I find curious is that the author sees his own narrative as being more sensible than anybody else's when it is based on what, by his own admission, is a world of paranoia and disinformation; in fact this is the subtitle of the book. I expect that if questioned on this subject he will play the Skeptic Joker: Occam's Razor. This is a problem-solving method which directs you to always consider the most likely explanation first. So, for example, if your radio stops working the most likely cause is that the batteries have simply gone flat; so change the batteries first before opening it up and fiddling with its wires. But Occam's Razor only works within a sphere of understanding that already exists; we already know how a radio works, that's why we can apply Occam's Razor to it. In the case of both UFO's themselves and government intelligence operations (probably even more so the latter!) we have no clue in hell what is going on within them, so how can we assert any kind of narrative related to them as being more simple than any other? The author is man enough to admit that some UFO's could be real; there are many others who are not. Indeed, as I said, he relates two very significant sightings of his own in the story, so then why is he so certain that any interest the government shows in the subject is simply disinformation?

In the 1990's Pilkington was the chairman of NUFOS, the Norfolk UFO Society, and he provides rather lurid descriptions of his fellow members; in fact he only took over as chairman when the previous chair had a drug-induced nervous breakdown. The most common type of UFO sighted at the time was the black triangle. These, he states, are experimental stealth aircraft. This is definitely true in some cases. For example the "North Sea Delta" was certainly. This is because it was being refuelled at the time by a positively identified US Air Force KC-135 tanker. There was a whole array of sightings in and around Belgium in that decade and these have also been blamed on new stealth aircraft. What the government supposedly did in this case is actually encourage UFO reports about these objects in order to launder the tests of their own experimental aircraft, and this is a theory Pilkington comes back to many times in Mirage Men. In some cases that might be true; for instance the famous photograph above of one of the Belgian events does resemble a stealth aircraft; it is shot from a distinct if thin side angle and I can see what looks like the F117's, or one of its adaptation's, classic angular fuselage on top. But this doesn't even approach an explanation for the entire black triangle phenomenon. Here's an interview I did myself with a witness to such an event: A man-made aircraft can appear unusual in shape or sound, but it will behave in a recognizable way because it flies by aerofoil action. Therefore it will be driven forward by an engine that makes noise to achieve lift; which means it can't hover, it can't hang there silently at odd angles and it can't zip around without inertia. As you can see, Colin Saunders saw the object up so close that he was later able to build a model of it; he's an aviation engineer and so would know immediately if he was in the presence of a stealth aircraft, even if it was a classified experimental model. The reason governments encourage the UFO explanation for sightings is the one Smith gave Glyn in The Obscurati Chronicles, see link above. I'll quote the passage from the novel in full:
He laughed again. “You see, Glyn, governments often create false scenarioes based around superstitious myths in order to confuse and distract curious onlookers from the real nature of their activities. In the old days this would be to engineer fake vampire attacks or write stories about an angel at the Battle of Mons; today the central folklore of the modern age is that we’re being visited by intelligent creatures from another planet. So we feed the believers exactly what they want in abundance, so that they never see what’s really going on.”
“I don’t understand.” stuttered Glyn.
Smith sighed patiently. “Suppose you had built an experimental fighter aircraft and wanted to test it secretly. You knew that however careful you were, for instance only flying it over very remote locations, you knew that it was inevitable that somebody would eventually see it; what would you do? Now imagine somebody did see it and went home and mistakenly reported that they’d seen a spacecraft from an alien world. What would you think?”
“I suppose that would be… a good thing.” Glyn felt he had conceded a point of some kind, although he didn’t know what.
Smith leaned forward in encouragement. “It would be an excellent thing! It would be disaster for your secrecy protocols if he’d gone home and said: ‘I just saw an unknown warplane on a test flight!’, but if he says: ‘I just saw a spacecraft flown by aliens’ then your secrecy protocols are safe and sound. Everybody who investigates will be looking for entirely the wrong thing. It’s perfect! Now, once you realize that, why not go a step further and plant fake evidence relating to UFO phenomena inside the believing communities to strengthen the protective myth? This is what we do regularly and we’ve done it in Belswill this week.” He shrugged happily. “We placed a mock-up of a flying saucer at the scene of the Belswill operation so that any curious peeping Tom’s who succeeded in breaking through the cordon and finding what they were looking for would end up looking at something false, a piece of stagecraft. People like you, Glyn.” He pointed.
For Pilkington this is the key explanation for both Roswell and all other examples of government involvement in UFO's. To be honest there could be some truth behind that, at least in a few cases. If the photo above is a Stealth fighter then somebody has attached 4 bright lights to its underbelly, not really very stealthy. But they might have done this deliberately to make the aircraft look otherworldly on purpose. This is a neat little idea and whoever thought of it must be having a good chuckle with their mates over how they've been duping wide-eyed "civilians", but it is one that could backfire in any number of different ways. One very important case that Pilkington does not address in the book is that of Bob Lazar, but if I can apply his model to it: Bob Lazar must be either lying or else relating false information fed to him; and the intelligence services are encouraging him to do so because as long as people are staring slack-jawed at Area 51 expecting to see "sport-model" UFO's and alien reproduction vehicles they won't see the test flights of Aurora or any of the US Air Force's other experimental next generation spy planes and fighter jets. But it's a risky gambit to draw people's attention towards a place with the ultimate aim of turning their attention away, and the hoaxers must be very confident of their abilities to fool them. It would only take one or two people among the millions of "credulous UFOria-sufferers" to work out what was going on for all those well-arranged cards to fall to the table. Today Area 51 is a popular tourist destination and Nevada's Governor has even renamed the nearby road "The Extraterrestrial Highway". You can catch a tour bus at Las Vegas that will take you to the Groom Lake Road and you can have your photo taken beside the warning signs at the base's boundary. Included on the tour is a trip up to Rachel for a beer at the Little A'le'Inn where you can by all the merchandise available in the Roswell tourist shops. Towards the end of the book Pilkington wonders who in government is "keeping the UFO flame burning"; what tricks are our national leaders going to use next involving the "UFO myth"? As far as I can see, after the debacle of their Area 51 scam I'd assume they'd drop the entire UFO scenario in the "trash can", to use the author's terminology, and try out something entirely different. So why do the saucers keep flying?

Pilkington also talks briefly about the Hungarian Crown Jewels. These famous, beautiful and priceless works of art were smuggled out of Hungary by the Americans near the end of World War II to prevent them falling into the hands of the either the Nazis or the Soviets. They were stored in a bank vault at the Federal Reserve until 1978 when they were returned to their homeland, accompanied by a very public delegation, where they can be viewed today. According to the book, the Americans smuggled them out of the country by pretending they were parts of a crashed UFO, although I can find no statement to support that in the published online literature; I might write to the Hungarian Embassy to find out. This is a strange thing to argue, not only because of its lack of documented evidence but because it took place in 1945, two years before Roswell, not to mention the disadvantages I've outlined above with this method.

At the end of the chapter about his tenure at NUFOS the author has a bit of a tirade against the saucerers: (Some of these quotes are paraphrased) "I get tired of hearing the endless crowing about how 'the truth is out there'... these people are just emotionally, spiritually and financially invested in the UFO myth!" Also in other parts of the book he talks about the "party faithful" and "kooks". This provides an important revelation: Mirage Men is not an educational book. I make this same point in my review of Ben Goldacre's Bad Science, see: . You cannot persuade people by insulting them. This penny has even dropped amongst the Skeptic inner circle; see this lecture by Phil Plait: Therefore I'd say that Mirage Men is aimed primarily at other UFO Skeptics for their mutual enjoyment. Pilkington also exhibits some misunderstanding of politics when it comes to the governments' relationship to UFO's. He says: "Where are all these ET technologies and who could possibly benefit from keeping them a secret? Madonna and Stephen Spielberg don't know in which case what possible benefit could they be to others if these people aren't using them?" He also says when discussing the Free Energy issue with Richard Doty: "I wasn't convinced there was a cover-up. Any Free Energy source would have to come with a bill because somebody has to pay for the infrastructure." Naivete City! I discuss this issue in its full details here: , but in summary I can only compare that to approaching the skipper of a sailing boat and asking him to fix an anemometer to his vessel attached to a meter so he can be charged for the wind he uses. The reasons to anticipate a cover-up of any potential Free Energy source are very obvious indeed.

Pilkington and Lundberg eventually arrive at the International UFO Congress at Laughlin, Nevada. This is the biggest event of its kind in the world and one of the oldest still going today, see: .  As I said, this is the conference I would most like to attend; most of my friends have been at least once and I feel left out. Pilkington gives the place a rather garish overview, but that hasn't dampened my ardour at all. His description is reminiscent of a freak show and reminds me of Louis Theroux or Jon Ronson, with even a dash of Nick Broomfield. He wanders round the huge merchandise hall describing the shelves of books, DVD's and ancient VHS tapes; the blow-up aliens and cuddly greys and Airfix flying saucers. The point he makes is that there is a huge industry built around UFOria and some people make a lot of money off it. That's true in fact, and the author feels annoyed by this. He sees it as a massive con, a crooked mob of charlatans preying on weak-minded believers, or as one of Pilkington's mentors, Andy Roberts, said as a parody of the title of Nick Pope's book: "Open Minds- Empty Wallets". I have two criticisms of this attitude: The first is more specifically aimed at people who object to a UFO location, like Roswell, setting up tourist souvenir shops etc; Pilkington does describe Roswell in similar terms in another part of the book. In that case these people should go to Stratford-upon-Avon and tell the local folk there to get rid of all their Shakespeare stuff! Close the theatres! Close the hotels! Get rid of all those tacky Hamlet skull souvenirs! "They are heartless, lying charlatans sponging off the Shakespeare industry like that!" What is wrong with a town or city exploiting its history for its own prosperity? In the case of Congress it of course doesn't apply to a location, unless you count planet Earth as a location, but it remains a fact that there are people out there who think UFO's are real, want to go to a place and meet others with the same interest, and buy products related to their interest. I am one of them! If I was at Congress you can bet I'd buy something from that hall; I'd buy it in full knowledge and take full responsibility for the outcome. Nobody is stealing the money out of our pockets, Mark! We're grown men and women and we've decided what we want to spend our money on as mature adults; OK!? My second objection is down to me putting myself through an experience that few other saucerers do: I've attended a Skeptic conference; and you know what? It was exactly the same! It has a main arena for the lectures, side rooms for workshops and a massive stall loaded with merchandise, see: . If I wanted to I could write an equally eloquent and scathing indictment about the DVD's books and T-shirts etc laid out for all the wide-eyed Skeppers to take home, in exchange for hard cash that it. The Skeptic Movement is a huge multi-million dollar industry that matches the UFO one perfectly, even in scale nowadays. In fact the most recent TAM in Las Vegas, just a few miles from Laughlin, was extremely high-budget and attracted as many visitors as Congress averages, see this repertoire!: There are also other events like QEDcon, see: Skepticism is big business! But I don't object to that at all, because if I did I'd be a hypocrite. The author might not have known about these Skeptic events, if he's reading this review then he does now. If he then doesn't retract his criticism of Congress then he will become a hypocrite!

It has to be said that the author is provably correct about some of the things he talks about in Mirage Men. There has indeed been involvement of the intelligence agencies in the UFO community. Pilkington sites documents and memoes from the CIA and White House which proves the US Government wanted to observe and infiltrate UFO organizations. They succeeded in spectacular fashion in the 1980's with what has become known as the Bennewitz Affair. Paul Bennewitz was a New Mexican businessman who became obsessed to the point of madness by UFO's; his demise is a tragic story, made all the more poignant by the fact that he was under the thumb of an entire spy ring operating within the UFO milieu called "Aviary". The true extent of Aviary's activities was only made known for the first time with the explosive public confession at a UFO conference of none other than William Moore. For the generation of UFOlogists before my own Bill Moore was a household name. He had co-authored the book The Roswell Incident with Charles Berlitz; this book inspired Sidney Sheldon to write The Doomsday Conspiracy, the novel in which I first discovered the subject. One day Moore was approached by a group of dark-suited anonymous figures who met him at a restaurant. They claimed to be a splinter faction of the US Intelligence services who were lobbying the government for Disclosure. They promised to provide Moore with incontrovertible proof of a UFO presence on Earth in return for insider information on prominent UFOlogists; he also had to promote false stories in his own UFOlogical work. Moore accepted and became shill. It's not my intention to judge Moore's decision, just to comment on its effects. What I will suffice to say is that Moore was foolish to trust these men because, whatever the rights and wrongs involved, they never kept their side of the bargain and never produced any such proof at all. Moore's disinformation campaign centred around Paul Bennewitz. Poor Bennewitz was already in deep trouble because the National Security Agency had been sending him faked messages from ET craft. The instigator of this whole sordid business was a man called Richard Doty, and it's quite likely that Doty was one of the mysterious men Moore met in that restaurant. During the course of Mirage Men Pilkington and Lundberg got to know Richard Doty quite well and he gave them a lot of information which went into the story. Doty was an intelligence officer in the US Air Force, but was also a well-known UFOlogist. It is from him that the stories about Majestic 12 and the Dulce Base originate; today these are largely. but not completely, discredited. Of course it was Bennewitz who published them, but Doty was Bennewitz' handler and so it's fair to assume that these stories were at least approved by Doty. The Bennewitz Affair is interesting to study when we take into account what I heard at the recent BUFORA Conference about how MI5 agents showed up at the group's early meetings in the 1960's, see: . Another method the governments use to fool people is to produce false radar images. This is a tried and tested form of radar jamming that has been used before in warfare, like in the Cuban Missile Crisis. An engineer called Leon Davidson published a book in the 70's claiming that this was the source for the Washington Invasion of 1952. Pilkington also claims that this is what Milton Torres was ordered to intercept in 1957 over England. It's certainly true that radar jamming can produce non-existent returns that can be huge, solid and impossibly fast-moving, but this alone cannot explain all these incidents. With the Washington event there were also visual sightings of the objects, which Pilkington describes in his book. Also with Milton Torres he didn't just encounter this strange object on his radar, he was ordered to fire his missiles at it. Why? Was it some kind of test? If so, why was he never debriefed? There was also a second very similar incident in Iran in 1976 in which the pilot, a Lt. Jafari, got a visual sighting on the object as well; therefore this event, known as "the Tehran Invasion" cannot be explained away as a mere radar phantom. As far as both Davidson's work goes, as well as the Bennewitz Affair, it's true that intelligence organizations are spreading lies about UFO's' but if this is the case, what's its purpose. The author's basic model is that they are creating a false reality for something that doesn't exist, but, as I've said before, how can he be so sure? What if they're actually creating a false reality for something that does exist? It's a "muddle up instead of a cover-up" as Andrew Johnson would say. As far as I can see, if this is the case then it reinforces the theory that the government know about UFO's, rather than debunking it! Pilkington admits that some UFO stories might be true by describing his own close encounters, in which case we can anticipate on theoretical grounds that the government will take an interest in them because they have to be, as Nick Pope says, of defence significance. Protest to the contrary is ludicrous; if something that can travel effortlessly at sixty thousand knots, stop on a dime and penetrate our most secure nuclear facilities is not of defence significance than what on Earth could be!? If one of these objects ever comes to grief on the Earth's surface we can also anticipate that our Illuminati-occupied governments would want to salvage the debris to study it; and there are myriad reasons why they would do so secretly. Apart from the Free Energy issue, there are also psychological think tanks who have advised the governments that there are profound cultural problems associated with the revelation that We Are Not Alone, see: . The author describes, correctly, how government intelligence agencies have used superstitions as tools of psychological warfare against target populations. In 1948 an American intelligence officer, Maj. Gen. Edward Lansdale, led a campaign against Communist guerrillas in the Philippines. He exploited a local belief in a vampire-like creature called an Aswang by killing prisoners, hanging them up to drain the blood out of their bodies and puncturing their neck to make it look like they had fang marks on them. This terrified the guerrillas when he left the bodies to be found by them, so demoralizing them into defeat. Also I've spoken before about Dr David Clarke's study of the "Angel of Mons", see: I don't think extrapolating this into the modern world, as Smith does in the novel as well as Pilkington does in his book, can be used as a template to explain the entire UFO phenomenon. The truth behind UFO's is far more complicated than that. The book concentrates on UFO events in the United States, but of course UFO's are a global phenomenon and have been reported in virtually every country in the world. The most interesting reports currently are coming out of Russia and other nations of the former Soviet Union. Here during the Cold War  the political situation was very different with no (overtly) free press and a much more developed censorship infrastructure, and despite the misgivings of James Oberg, see: , I think there's a massive story to be told coming out of that part of the world, see: UFO's are also far older than the era Pilkington addresses in his book, going right back through history. The oldest report I can find is probably the narrator in the Book of Ezekiel in the Bible. They appear in mediaeval paintings and even in cave art tens of thousands of years old. The world's first UFO photograph was taken in 1870, not long after the invention of the camera. As cheap portable cameras emerged in the early 20th Century more followed; the world's first UFO photograph was definitely not the one by William Rhoads taken on July the 7th 1947, as is claimed by Pilkington in the book. At one point in the book the author questions the ET explanation for the famous abduction case of Antonio Villas Boas in which he suffered both a medical examination and sexual abuse at the hands of some very strange creatures. What the author might not be aware of is that there is a report from South Africa dating from just two years later, 1959, in which the witness encountered the very same creatures while hiking in the mountains of Mozambique, see: It makes it far less likely that Boas was simply suffering a hallucination caused by a CIA helicopter spraying drugs on him.

Pilkington does briefly discuss one of the most common and widespread, and also the most disturbing and frightening aspects of the UFO phenomenon: animal mutilation. In the book he draws very much on the work of Gabe Valdez, via Richard Doty, an early researcher into the phenomenon. Valdez reported seeing surgical gloves and gas masks lying in the field around the corpses and also watching the animals being winched aboard helicopters via chains; and so he believed it was a secret government experiment. This theory is full of massive holes, as I discuss here in Part 12: . Both the theoretical logic and evidence doesn't support the notion of government involvement, at least direct government involvement. This has been shown time and time again by everybody from Linda Moulton Howe to Richard D Hall. Ironically, Pilkington does ask the necessary questions for discounting Valdez' theory, but then fails to make the required empirical leap and admit that humans simply ain't doin' it!
The book's bibliography is notably short of Exopolitical titles; the only one really was Richard Dolan's UFO's and the National Security State. Pilkington's reading tastes definitely lie to the Skeptical side of Fortean. I've said before in my review of Who are the Illuminati by Lindsay Porter, that I find such overly-selective bibliographies suspicious, see:

In Mirage Men Mark Pilkington describes UFOlogy as being surrounded by a wall of noise, as far as he can see we are all locked in an MK Ultra "magic room" in which confusing and contradictory messages are hurled at us; fantasy becomes reality and vice versa. However, out of this searing, bubbling maelstrom the author has wrestled a 48 pound narrative, and he stands proudly over his catch and declares it to be the rational and scientific truth. On page 202 of the book he talks very harshly and cynically about "cognitive dissonance"; this is inability to consider rational alternatives to some belief system we have; he accuses those with UFOria of being victims of cognitive dissonance. But is this fair? Perhaps in some cases, but I think we "UFOrians" and practitioners of "saucery" are far more emotionally and mentally sound and mature than Pilkington gives us credit. Also I smell the stench of hypocrisy again, and also perhaps the author's own cognitive dissonance. I think Skeppers are at least equally vulnerable to cognitive dissonance as we "woo's". It's actually quite interesting and amusing to see how eagerly and unquestioningly they embrace even the most outlandish and nonsensical explanation for UFO events... so long as it's not ET! The Rendlesham Forest incident in 1980, which barely gets a word in the book, has been explained as a lighthouse, a lorry load of burning manure (being driven by a parachute test dummy no doubt), a time-and-motion study and, my own personal favourite, a gang of joy-riders messing about in a stolen ice cream van! It doesn't matter how grotesque and absurd these explanations become, they will be swallowed hook, line and sinker by whole congregations of wailing, chanting Skeptics virtually as a reflex.
I did enjoy reading Mirage Men. I thank the author for it and I will recommend it to others; but it really falls way short of a true portrait of the fascinating, multi-faceted and true phenomenon of the Unidentified Flying Object. The book omits many of what I consider to be the most significant cases: Berwyn Mountains, Varginha, Dr Jonathan Reed and the general contactee and abductee situation, which is a massive and vital subheading on its own. It shows a huge lack of understanding of the theoretical and evidential relationship between UFO's and governmental authorities. By all means, read Mirage Men by Mark Pilkington, but never forget that there is another side to the story. If you are new to the UFO subject you will need to study other titles to get the full picture.

I'd like to suggest an alternative hypothesis: This whole thing is an elaborate double-bluff. Many of these UFO's are actually artefacts of an extraterrestrial or extradimensional civilization. The Illuminati-occupied governments of this world know about it and are keeping the population in the dark about it for various reasons. The intelligence scams and disinformation Pilkington describes in this book are real, but their purpose is to filter and control the flow of information between the authorities keeping this secret and the ordinary people within the population who are looking for it. I can't prove my hypothesis beyond any doubt, but neither can Mark Pilkington prove his. Which one makes more sense? You decide!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

BUFORA Conference 2012


Last Friday night, just before 11pm, a cluster of about 20 bright lights were seen crossing the sky over Great Britain and Ireland. In Scotland a number of people called the police thinking that they were witnessing a plane crash; luckily they weren't. The real cause of the fireballs was either meteorites or pieces of "space junk", an old satellite or spacecraft, burning up when they entered the Earth's atmosphere at very high cosmic speeds. If the objects survived their fall to the Earth's surface intact then they've probably fallen into the North Sea. It's likely that this spectacle might generate a few UFO reports too. If you want to make a UFO report for the first time, with no experience of the subject, and you go to Google and put in "UFO", one of the first hits you'll get is the website of BUFORA, the British UFO Research Association, see: For a long time now, I've been a believer in synchronicity and used the word "coincidence" less and less to explain the way separate events can be very apt in their timing. You see, the day after this celestial fireworks display, the BUFORA Conference began and I attended.
As regular HPANWO-readers will know, I'm financially much worse off than I used to be; I've not been able to do my usual tour of the conspiracy/paranormal conference circuit this year, however I remain in good spirits. Compared to others who have shared my fate, like Tony Farrell and Kevin Annett (See:, I've been very fortunate. I have a roof over my head and food on my table; what's more I've managed to break my addiction to materialism and consumerism that we're all conditioned to get hooked on, and I've realized that there's a spiritual dimension to life that you can't get sacked from! I also believe that the universe helps you along if you can keep a positive frame of mind, and as "luck" would have it several conferences have been organized this year that are cheap and easy to get too, so I've been able to join the other delegates there. One of these was the BUFORA Conference which took place in London; London is linked to Oxford by a very good coach service that runs almost 24-7. I was also offered accommodation at the home of two friends of mine from the Kent Freedom Movement who live in Shepherds Bush, see: The venue was at the Holiday Inn near Kings Cross Station, a half-hour ride on the London Underground. The conference room was in the basement and made up for in comfort what it lacked in daylight. There were the usual book stalls in the foyer and a neat and clean auditorium. Considering that the subject of conversation included orbs, the patterns on the carpet were remarkably appropriate; "it's almost as if they knew we were going to be here" said one of the speakers. See the photoes below:
The hotel itself is modern and very grand, a bit too grand perhaps. There was nowhere we could purchase refreshments over the counter and when I asked if there was somewhere I could buy a cup of tea the receptionist said: "Go and sit in the bar and I'll send the waiter in to serve you." I did so and about five minutes later a very dapper man in a suit came in and said: "What would you like, Sir?" This 5-star service arrangement is all well and good if you enjoy that kind of thing, but when you've got a 15 minute break between speakers you just long to be able to just flip somebody 50 pence and have them hand you over a mug of tea straight away. I apologized to the waiter and told him I didn't have time. Then I did what I should have done to begin with: nipped out of the hotel to the greasy spoon across the road. This became the generally-accepted social gathering place for many of the delegates over the weekend.
The three letters "UFO" are a very good root for acronyms because they have two vowels with a consonant in the middle, hence the ease with which names like MUFON, BUFOG, CUFOS etc roll off the tongue. BUFORA is another, although it was originally BUFOA, the British UFO Association; the R for "research" was added in 1964 when the original group merged with another. The tall and learned-looking founder-president Lionel Beer (BUFORA link) opened the conference with a brief history of the organization. It began in September 1962 at a meeting in Kensington Central Library; this was exactly 50 years ago, so this one was a very special anniversary conference: the half-centenary, as you can see in the banner (Thanks to Matt Lyons, the BUFORA chairman for allowing HPANWO to illustrate this article with these official graphics). Their first Chairman was Nick Stephenson whose photo is below. As another speaker quipped: "It's 65 years since 1947 so modern UFOlogy is at a pensionable age." BUFORA immediately recruited a network of investigators and got stuck in to all the biggest and most promising British cases, the "Warminster Thing", the Lakenheath Incident, the famous 1979 House of Lords UFO debate and many others. BUFORA has a reputation for being a "pure" UFOlogical group, an aspect which I'll expand on more later, but it's had its fair share of sinister and underhand attention over the years, including an attempted infiltration by the Church of Scientology and the Aetherius Society. The latter are bat-excrement crazy, but pretty harmless; however the former are well-known to have a dark and violent side to them. When Lionel received threats he was understandably worried. In the early years he also had to contend with the rise of the far right and their own involvement with UFO's. BUFORA members were harassed by the sinister and mysterious people calling themselves "APEN- the Aerial Phenomenon Enquiry Network". This is believed by many to be a cover-organization for the National Front or one of the other BNP-like parties that were popular at the time. The Government were investigating those parties at the time and people showed up at BUFORA meetings whom Lionel swears were MI5 or Special Branch. I'm not sure, but I suspect that APEN was actually run by the Government itself, however they'd be foolish to let every department of MI5 and Special Branch in on that secret so I don't doubt that real agents from those outfits did attend Lionel's meetings as he said they did. I met a man from Germany at the conference who told me that UFOlogy is very unpopular in his native country because it has connotations with Neo-Nazism via its inevitable overlap with the conspiracy theory community. The German author Jan van Helsing is specifically named as a bridge between the two milieux. I've read one of van Helsing's books, paradoxically advertised under the title Don't Touch this Book!, and I could find nothing racist or fascist in it, but I do understand why the Germans are very sensitive about this subject because of their own tragic history. I myself am a part of this overlap, but I can honestly say that there are far fewer people in the conspiratorial world with racist and far rightist political views than most people think; and nothing justifies the hysterical and hateful abuse that David Icke has suffered at the hands of the "anti-fascist" movement, see: If anybody dares to accuse me of being a Neo-Nazi then the kindest thing I can say to them is... leave my vicinity... or words to that effect!
BUFORA also found itself hurled into Cold War politics, which, sadly, few people managed to escape in the 60's and 70's. A staffer from the Soviet Embassy joined and although Lionel approved his membership it lost the organization a part of its security certificate. More infiltrators turned up at meetings and asked political questions. Lionel thinks that these people were testing BUFORA to see where its political loyalties lay. He was also tested to see if he would swallow disinformation. Luckily the Association has a policy of being non-political which was a wise move in those days; and it still is, up to a point. BUFORA has long been affiliated with the magazine Flying Saucer Review, and since Gordon Creighton sadly went, as Lionel puts it, "to that great saucer in the sky" BUFORA has been given the substantial research archives of that oldest of UFO journals. Lionel has had his house raided by the police, has been arrested for photographing Bentwaters Base (This was before the Rendlesham Forest Incident), sat for five hours in the House of Lords public gallery, been thrown out of Morely College and had L Ron Hubbard threaten to drown him in the sea! The life of a UFO investigator is not without its hazards.

The next speaker was Heather Dixon (BUFORA link) She spoke clearly and professionally during her hour on stage, obviously she has experience of doing lectures. She is striking in appearance, disarmingly pretty and smartly-dressed with a head of well-groomed, lush blonde hair. She began by lamenting about how much of the information available to UFOlogists nowadays is false and misleading; I agree completely with that and have said as much myself, see: She then went on to explain how it is that people can make mistakes about what they see in the sky, how they might see something that they don't recognize and assume wrongly that it's inexplicable. Several times during her lecture she repeated: "More than 98% of all reported sightings have a mundane explanation" and this was a point reiterated by several other speakers. The list of things that can confuse the witness is enormous; 60% of reports can be explained as Chinese lanterns. I'm ashamed to say that I was taken in by them too; once but never again! There are other things such as laser light shining into the sky; although I think they've been banned because they can dazzle aircraft pilots and could even cause a plane crash. Astronomical objects are major culprits, like the planet Venus. I find it hard to believe that large numbers of people could be fooled that way, especially professional observers like pilots and policemen, but Heather says these do account for a large proportion of the reports received. She presented statistics of sightings and their analysis in the same way other speakers did. The International Space Station, birds, kites, balloons and satellites in space also cause people to pick up the phone and call. She also echoes Mark Pilkington, Nick Cook and others by claiming that the Government is quite pleased when people think they've seen spacecraft from another planet when they accidentally intrude on a top secret test of some new spy-plane. This may true in some cases, but it in no way accounts for the entire UFO phenomenon. And I also suspect that some kind of double-bluff may be in operation; the Government could be using aviation projects to launder their secret UFO research programmes, see: She then went on to discuss what she calls "high strangeness". This is of course the title of a famous book by Laura Knight-Jadczyk, but Heather uses the term to mean close encounters and the abduction phenomenon. She made a lot of the same points Richard Wiseman does in his book Paranormality, see: hypnagogic and hypnopompic states of mind, sleep paralysis etc. During the Question and Answer session at the end I asked Heather: "Leaving aside the whole UFO subject and just concentrating on the 'high strangeness', can the explanations you've just given account for every single case you've ever investigated?" To her credit, Heather immediately replied: "No." She then told me about a man she knows in Northumberland whom she gives the pseudonym "Steve Robinson". She thinks he could be experiencing real alien contact. I enjoyed listening to Heather's address and she's quite right to make people aware that it's essential to eliminate all mundane explanations for UFO sightings before postulating the possibility of ET involvement, but I would have liked to have heard more about "Steve Robinson" and any other real cases she'd encountered. She only had a limited time to speak, I know, but I hope she'll maybe do a new speech next time where she squeezes the explicables down to 20 or 30 minutes and leaves the rest for the real ET research she's done. I'd make a similar observation about two other speakers, Jenny Randles and Vicente Juan Ballester-Olmos (See: Vicente Juan's statistics showed that on one occasion the number of unexplained sightings rose from its comfortable average of 2 or 5% to 40%; but he blames that on less cases being examined; and "unexplained" being the default category for a case not yet investigated. However, bear in mind that investigators have different viewpoints. One of the cases he quoted as "solved" was the Solway Firth Spaceman; however I think that there is need for a second opinion on his diagnosis, see:
Heather Dixon supports the policy BUFORA have towards the use of hypnosis to retrieve information from a witness. They're against it. She says hypnosis simply fuels and solidifies fantasy and can construct false memories. This is highly disputed and there are many other groups who endorse the use of hypnosis and rebut the misgivings Heather described. I recently interviewed Mary Rodwell on HPANWO Radio, see from 0.46.40: As she details in the interview, she think hypnosis is a good method of recovering lost recollections and explains why she refutes the theory that it generates falsified memory. The same goes for AMMACH, see:

Jenny Randles (See: is a living legend in the UFO community. She is one of the "Four Horsewomen" of Rendlesham Forest (Another of the Four, Dot Street, was a delegate at the conference. Brenda Butler was not there and Georgina Bruni has sadly passed away) If it hadn't been for those four eminent ladies the Rendlesham Forest Incident would never have become what it is today, see: It's unlikely anybody would have even heard about it. At best it would have emerged rather like the Roswell Incident did: the aging witnesses coming forward 30 or so years later, round about today, with wild stories but no documents, no photoes, no forensics, nothing. She's a former chief investigator with BUFORA. Jenny could not travel to the venue personally, so through the wonders of technology she spoke from her home in North Wales via a live Skype link (A lot of UFO enthusiasts seem to live in North Wales for some reason). Like several of the other speakers she once again reminded us that over 95% of all reported sightings are explicable in mundane terms, what she called "IFO's- Identified Flying Objects"; it began to sound a bit like a mantra to me. She thinks it's important to focus on IFO's for the same reason Heather Dixon does, however I once again found myself wondering if they're focusing on that a bit too much. Jenny plans to write a book on IFO's... a book!? Normally it's only Skeptics who write books like that (I analyze exactly what I mean by "Skeptics" as opposed to "sceptics" in this episode of HPANWO Radio, from 1.07.23: But Jenny is not a Skeptic, she has not completely rejected the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis. Perhaps we could call her and people like her an "IFOlogist". As a writer myself I know how much effort is required to write a book; it means giving up a year or more of your life to write, rewrite, revise, edit, submit, negotiate with publishers etc. Jenny is taking the line Heather did, the perceived necessity of constantly looking over your shoulder, to an even greater degree. Another observation Jenny made was that when people experience a UFO sighting, like in the case of the meteor shower the night before, you'll often find that they embellish the details of the sighting. For example if they see a few balls of fire trailing across the sky they'll then later on claim that they saw a structured craft with lights running along it, or that they heard a buzzing alien-like sound coming from it etc. This may sometimes be the case, but there are other incidents which indicate the exact opposite. The strange case of the "Avebury Carlos" is one. A few years ago, some engineers built a fake UFO out of a model plane and flew it over Avebury, an ancient sacred site and a gathering place for mystics, hippies and pagans. The intention was to fool them and therefore show them up for being dupes. People did indeed report a UFO, but in a way the plan backfired because they reported pretty much what they saw. There were none of the embellishments and exaggerations that the hoaxers were banking on. It showed that even the so-called “most gullible members of society” have turned out to be much better witnesses than previously thought. Jenny Randles has recently been a focus of controversy because of her views on one of the most significant events in British UFOlogical history, the Berwyn Mountains Incident of 1974, the "Welsh Roswell" (This is an inaccurate nickname, in my view, because it does not involve a crash-retrieval. See here for my review of the book on the subject UFO Down by Andy Roberts: This case has been massively played down by the mainstream media with facetious newspaper reports like this one: This article is not only making a mockery of the entire event in true tabloid style, with its comic-book illustration and the clumsy, Murdochian forced pun in the title; it contains errors that could so easily have been avoided that I can only conclude that they were "deliberately not avoided"; for example, the police searched the wrong mountain! However the dismissal of the magnitude of the Berwyn Mountains case comes from inside the UFO community too. To this day many UFOlogists maintain that this was the coinciding of an earthquake and bolide meteor, together with the "earthlights" phenomenon written about by Paul Devereux. Unfortunately Jenny is one of them; in fact she even claims to have seen an earthlight herself during a field trip to the Berwyn range. A good friend of mine is Richard Wright, who reviewed the 2011 BUFORA Conference for UFO Matrix magazine. He is both a UFO journalist and a geologist. He told me that Jenny must have seen something else that could not be an earthlight. The only way rocks can produce light is through friction, like rubbing two bits of flint together to produce a spark. What's more a massive amount of work has been done by many UFOlogists, especially Scott Felton and Richard D Hall, that proves that no other event in our sights right now deserves further study more than the Berwyn Mountains Incident. Richard has produced a feature-length documentary on the subject which I recommend, see: In less than two years it will be the 40th anniversary; are we going to let it go past just shrugging it off as earthquakes and earthlights? Another conference speaker, Dave Newton (See BUFORA link) disappointed me by also repeating this line during his address on Sunday. There have been a few TV and radio reports about Berwyn like this one: It features a number of UFOlogists being interviewed, however among the out-takes you should find Scott Felton as well. Why was his part not broadcast? A TV expert would say: "We had to cut it down to 45 minutes and simply didn't have room for him", but the way the other individuals, like Jenny, are given so much air time indicates that it is the nature of what was said that decided what this film's editors chose to broadcast, and what to exclude. This means that this programme is presenting Berwyn in a particular light. If therefore we have some kind of media cover-up in operation and this film is a piece of its propaganda then Jenny Randles is collaborating with it, whether she knows it or not. That would be a great shame given her vital contribution to UFO truth in the past.

During our Saturday lunch break I was walking though the merchandise area when I saw an elderly man wearing a neatly-pressed suit. He looked well built and his head was shaved, though he had a sparse beard, like a retired bouncer; but he also had an intensely jolly smile and bright eyes that looked youthful and full of joie-de-vivre. I went up and spoke to him. He had a calm, mellow and intelligent voice. It wasn't long before I recognized him as the Revd Lionel Fanthorpe (See: He has one of the most impressive CV's you could ever wish to see, in fact it's easier to think of something he hasn't done than something he has. He's a school teacher, a vicar, a motorbike expert, a journalist, a martial arts expert, a weightlifter, a wrestler, he's a member of MENSA, the society for people with high IQ's, and on top of all that he is president of ASSAP (See: I first heard of him many years ago when he presented the brilliant programme Fortean TV, see: Now aged 77 he's still going strong and has lost none of his charisma; in fact I've often described him as Britain's answer to Robert Anton Wilson. He did a presentation entitled Behind all Anomalous Reports. He made a list of all possible things UFO's are, and aliens from space was just one of them; the list was similar to what you'll find in Richard Dolan and Bryce Zabel's AD book, see: 1: ET's, 2: interdimensional objects, 3: time travellers 4: ghosts 5: angels and demons 6: denizens of Atlantis or another unknown prehistoric Earth civilization; I'm sure we can think of more. There are two other possibilities that spring to my mind, 7: All of the above, 8: None of the above; something nobody has yet thought of! His speech was light-hearted yet informative, and I was enthralled by his story about how a man experienced an interdimensional slip while in the public toilets outside Norwich Cathedral! Another entertaining performance took place at the end of the Conference on Sunday and was carried out by my old friend Ross Hemsworth (See: whom I was delighted to see again. Ross organized one of the best conferences I've ever been to in Glastonbury in 2008; unfortunately it was just a one-off, see: In his lecture he describes a strange encounter he had with a telepathic being in Rendlesham Forest. The photo is copyrighted and so I can't post it, but the being appears as a smoky or misty shape above Ross' head. It has a humanoid face and what looks like huge ears or horns coming out of the side of its head. I hear that Ross and Lionel Fanthorpe are going to do a TV show together soon; I have a feeling those two will make a good double act. John Hanson (See: also gave a fascinating speech about his experiences in Rendlesham Forest, and he even brought with him some of the mysterious stones that appeared out of thin air and dropped to the ground in the forest. These are what are known as "apports", solid objects that seem to manifest out of nowhere, usually during Spiritualist seances. John allowed us to handle the stones and they looked and felt like ordinary stones to me, but John, like Ross, has had some really weird experiences in those woods and is willing to talk about them. He's also engaged in a monumental project to construct an encyclopaedia of Britain's UFO's. As you can see in the link above; it is going to run to many volumes.

The history of UFO's and their impact on human society is a theme picked up by several of the speakers John Spencer (See: made a speech entitled "A History of UFO's" in which he described how the UFO phenomenon has evolved alongside human society, set against the backdrops of World War II, the Cold War and the advent of the Space Age. It is clear that in fact UFO and alien encounters have not changed at all; it is our attitude towards them that has changed and it's changed because our world has changed. This leads to the question that often gets knocked back with curious frowns: Why do we call them "extraterrestrial"? The answer will often be seen as obvious: "Because they come from outer space of course!" But do they? How do we know that? Dave Newton and several other speakers echoed the thoughts of some other people I know, like Brian Allan, see: The classic Extraterrestrial Hypothesis is the one which states that UFO's and aliens are flesh and blood creatures from some unknown Earth-like planet a long way out in space, which we could see with a telescope if we looked hard enough, and that they fly here in nuts and bolts spacecraft that are simply more sophisticated versions of our own rockets; this is really an assumption. There's little hard evidence that indicates that that is the case. If they're not little green men from Mars then what are they? I refer you to Lionel Fanthorpe's list.
Tony Eccles (See: has discovered that there are many similarities between alien encounters and religion, like Shamanism. This is a point not lost on people like Rick Strassman and Graham Hancock (See HPANWO Links column). Contactees have a lot in common with Spiritualist mediums and indigenous shamans of the Amazon who take psychoactive drugs to commune with their gods. Despite this Tony doesn't think that UFO's are a religion. There is no "UFO God" as such (although Steven Greer thinks there is, and it's him!). On the question of what UFO's are Clas Svahn (See: has been studying a particular type of UFO: "ghost rockets". These date back to the 1930's and the first ever recorded aerial interception was deployed by the Swedish Army Air Corps in 1931 to try and examine them (Good 2009). They continue to be reported to this day. Unlike most UFO's these do bear a moderate resemblance to man-made aircraft or projectiles; they tend to be streamlined and have wings, fins and propulsion nozzles. They're also unique in being almost exclusively confined to a specific region of the world: Scandinavia. They often end their flights by dropping into lakes and Clas has even organized a diving expedition to one of the lakes where a ghost rocket has been reported to have landed. So far they haven't found anything, but the lake bed is covered in thick, deep mud so they'll need to go back with better scanning equipment. I hope he'll succeed because he's been chasing these stories since he was 16 years old. Geoff Falla (See: BUFORA link) has studied incidents in which people experience close encounters while driving along in their cars. These often start with the vehicle suddenly malfunctioning; the engine stops, the electrics cut out, the radio experiences interference etc. This is a very common feature of UFO incidents on the road and was what befell Richard Dreyfus' character in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The director of that movie, Stephen Spielberg, approached real UFOlogists to act as consultants. Geoff has gathered some interesting statistics that seem to indicate that certain regions of the globe are more afflicted by these kinds of events than others, and it's all to do with latitude and longitude.
Richard Conway (See BUFORA link) Did a presentation together with his father Stan Conway (Not billed) that was definitely one of my favourites of the Conference. Richard is the science adviser of BUFORA and shares a passionate interest of mine: Free Energy. I got the impression from the blurb that he was going to debunk the concept, but in fact he didn't. He is dubious only about those people who claim to have received the knowledge to build advanced scientific technology from "alien epiphanies". He met a lady in Turkey who built a lightweight ceramic radio-shield after an extraterrestrial being told her how to. I don't think it's prudent to dismiss the notion that people can be inspired this way; after all Tony Eccles showed us that ET contact experiences are very similar to other kinds of mystical states of mind; and that it's a well-known fact that some great marvels have been achieved through them. Francis Crick, the discoverer of DNA, was encouraged in his quest by visions and insights he gained on LSD trips. I hope Richard and Tony compared notes afterwards. Richard also takes seriously the issue of "Cold Fusion" that I myself have investigated, see: and: and: . Stan Conway gave an energetic talk about the progress of Zero Point Energy technology. Amazingly NASA have launched a serious project to research this and as you'll see in the links above, so has Dr Robert Duncan of the University of Minnesota. But as I say in those linked articles, these projects up till now have been very abortive. For some reason they start very well, but grind to a halt. Rumour has it that some "rich philanthropists" get involved who quietly and covertly scuttle the ship when nobody's looking. For this reason I'll be watching these new projects very carefully to see what happens. Richard talked about people he refers to as "tinkerers", these are laymen with an interest in science who carry out scientific work as a hobby. Among these he includes John Hutchison, John Searl, Edward Leedskalnin and Viktor Schauberger. He says that these people are often just "eccentrics" who have misled themselves into thinking they've made a scientific breakthrough, and when properly-trained scientists investigate they find out that there's nothing in them. However I've studied these individuals myself and I take them far more seriously (See for example: and: Most of these "tinkerers" come from the USA, and this is a country with a great tradition of garden shed, amateur inventors; people like Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers. People laughed at them once, but, as the Frank Sinatra song goes, who has the last laugh now?
I'm very glad I went to the BUFORA 2012 50th Anniversary Conference. I met some lovely people, caught up with some old friends and made some new ones. I had some great conversations with Matt Lyons, the chairman, the German man I mentioned and another man called Bill. I also met up with some old buddies, like Colin and Dave from Probe, see: I also saw Mike Rutter whom I interviewed at a recent Probe conference, see: Many thanks to all the organizers and speakers for their hard work in putting together this conference and for giving us this information on stage. I must confess it was not what I expected. I said at the beginning of this report that BUFORA was "pure"; I meant that it is purely for the scientific study of the phenomenon and doesn't embrace any of the conspiracy theories related to the subject. The Exopolitics movement, on the other hand, takes a diametrically opposed position on UFO's. For them, UFO science has already done its job and generated a conclusion: UFO's exist; now what do we do about that? One thing's for certain if you're campaigning for Disclosure: There is, by definition, a conspiracy involved. My own opinion, as regular HPANWO-readers know, is that the Exopolitics movement is correct. This doesn't mean that UFOlogy has no further purpose; it does. Just because I'm certain that UFO's exist doesn't mean that the scientific investigation of them should stop; on the contrary, it is an even more urgent mission now. Therefore there is still a role for organizations like BUFORA. My concern is that the denial that a conspiracy exists could lead to them easily falling foul of one, and, as I've detailed above, the Berwyn Mountains case could well be the first tripwire. Nick Pope defines Exopolitics as the "militant wing" of UFOlogy; I define it as a group of UFOlogists who have simply made up their minds.
If I met somebody right now with an emerging interest in UFO's who was thinking of going to a BUFORA event or joining BUFORA I would definitely say: "go ahead", however I would also advise them to also look into the other side of the story; go to Exopolitics events too, read UFO conspiratorial books. I know several people who feel very disillusioned by BUFORA; some have said so publicly like Richard D Hall and Simon Parkes. My own experience along with this conference comes from my submission of two sightings reports, see: I have no serious criticism of how they handled my reports other than it is slightly tinged with the "looking back over their shoulder" tendency that I went into above. The email I received in reply to my Chinese lantern sighting was longer than the one about the December 2008 sighting, even though the one in 2008 was far harder to explain. I'd be more interested in that one than the Chinese lanterns and want to write more about it! I get the feeling that BUFORA, like ASSAP, quite enjoys having one foot in the Skeptic movement and rather apes them. A major hero for the speakers who was repeatedly quoted was Carl Sagan; this was man who may have started out as amenable to the prospect, but did not take the idea of UFO's seriously in his mature career. He developed a reputation as a debunker and has won several posthumous Skeptic awards. BUFORA, and also ASSAP and the CFZ (See HPANWO Links column), occupy that strange demi-monde between the two worlds; on the bridge, being shot at from both sides. On the Skeptic-believer scale this conference was one notch up from the specialist Skeptic ones like James Randi's TAM or QED. I've actually been to TAM London; I like to hear all sides of the story:
There will be no BUFORA Conference next year, but in 2014 they plan to hold an event in Glastonbury. It will be a single day only so that delegates have the chance to see all the other sights in the town during the weekend. If I can I will go along and I would recommend it to anybody else. I didn't notice it at the time, but there was a BBC reporter at the conference and this is his article: