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British Ministry of Defense Releases Secret UFO Files

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) has begun releasing nearly 30 years of British UFO files, including sightings, reports, and secret internal correspondence. The first batch of files, covering thousands of sightings from the late 1970s to early 1980s, were released today, May 14, 2008, and the MoD will continue to release files in chronological order every other month for the next three years.

The released files will be housed at Britain’s National Archive and are available for viewing at their website: http://ufos.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

In a podcast at the National Archives site, Dr. David Clarke of Sheffield Hallam University said the documents fall into four main categories: reports from members of the public, the police, and the military; internal correspondence between different departments in the MoD and Defense Intelligence responsible for UFO reports; Parliamentary correspondence and House of Lords debates; and background briefings and statements of policy by the MoD.

Clarke said there are many interesting highlights sprinkled throughout the released documents. Although, as is always the case with UFO sightings, the vast majority are explainable as natural or manmade aerial phenomena (meteorites, lights on aircraft, space junk burning up as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere, etc.), a small but significant percentage of sightings remain unexplained. And many of these sightings were by trained observers of the skies, such as military or civilian pilots.

For example, the released files include a sighting from September 1985 by the crew of a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter. They tracked two unidentified objects on radar for 40 miles. In a memo to the MoD, they wrote they were certain from the radar performance characteristics these were “not spurious contacts”.

In 1984, three air traffic controllers in the control tower at a small airport witnessed a UFO actually touch down on a runway. The senior air traffic controller was talking the pilot of a light plane down for a landing, when the air traffic controller saw lights coming down on a different runway. He radioed the pilot that he was coming down on the wrong runway. The pilot radioed back that he was still in the air. The three air traffic controllers then watched an unidentified object come down at speed in a near vertical climb. It appeared to touch the runway, then it disappeared. The three controllers were so concerned they filed an official report, but there was no indication in the released papers that any follow-up investigation was ever done.

On September 5, 1986, the crew of a civilian airliner saw a UFO pass close to the port side of their aircraft. They described it as a long, black object. In their report, the crew wondered if it might have been an asteroid, space debris falling to earth, or even some kind of missile—but it was none of these. The object remains unidentified.

Overall, few of the sightings were investigated. Clarke said that while there were over 11,000 UFO reports in Britain from the public and armed forces since the 1950s, the Ministry of Defense was not concerned with the scientific significance of UFOs (whether or not they were alien spaceships), but only with their defense significance. In other words, all that really mattered to the MoD was whether or not the sighting was of an enemy (i.e., Soviet) aircraft. When it was determined that the sighting was not a Russian spy plane, the MoD was not interested in pursuing the matter further.

If a sighting report came from someone in the military, and it was made in good time, there was a better chance the MoD would investigate. In some cases, they would even replay the radar traces to see if the air defense system saw anything at the time of the sighting, but this was very rare.

Even so, Clarke found no evidence of a cover-up by the Ministry of Defense. If anything, these records show that the MoD simply didn’t know very much about UFOs at all. They collected these reports, checked them for defense significance, and that was was the end of it.

Whether this will end the public’s speculation that there is an on-going conspiracy, that’s another matter.


On November 7, 2006, just before sunset, several United Airlines employees, including a few pilots, saw a huge spinning disk in the sky over O'Hare Airport in Chicago.

Chicago Tribune reporter John Hilkevitch interviewed six of the airline employees who watched the object for up to twenty minutes. According to the witnesses, at the end of that time, the object shot straight up in the air, faster than their eyes could follow, with enough force to punch a hole through the clouds. One witness said it was like a "donut-hole" in the cloud cover, through which they could see clear blue sky for several minutes, until the wind blew the clouds back in place.

The reporter was impressed by the seriousness and credibility of the witnesses.They were all very professional and none of them claimed they saw a "spaceship" from another planet. They were mainly concerned for practical safety reasons -- if it was a man-made object like a weather balloon, it was in restricted airspace over a busy airport, and it would have to be removed immediately .

The witnesses are also concerned that officials don't seem to be taking the matter seriusly. When the reporter originally contacted United Airlines and the FAA, both organizations denied receiving any reports of a UFO sighting. The FAA backtracked when Hilkevitch filed a Freedom of Information Reqeust. However, no one in the control tower saw anything that day, and the FAA is not investigating further. A spokesperson for United Airlines suggested it was a weather phenomenon. "When the lights shine up into the clouds, sometimes you see funny things," she said.

But the United Airlines employees who witnessesed the object are standing by their story.

What do you think they saw?

(excerpted and expanded from ALMANAC OF ALIEN ENCOUNTERS)

Part 1. The Sightings Begin

In April of 1947, atmospheric scientists conducting tests at the Weather Bureau Station in Richmond, Virginia, released a weather balloon into the air. The balloon quickly rose to 15,000 and began drifting toward the west.

As one scientist tracked the balloon through a theodolite (a scientific instrument with a small telescope used to measure altitude and speed), a cry went up from his colleagues: the balloon had suddenly been joined in the sky by a much larger silver disk. The scientist watching through the telescope turned the instrument and aimed it at the disk -- he could clearly see it was flat on the bottom and round on top, and that it was moving much faster than the balloon. As he tracked it across the sky, another scientist called out readings from the instrument. After only a few seconds, the silver disk had flown out of sight.

The scientists straightened up and looked at each other, baffled. They had no theory to explain what they had just seen.

A month later, in Oklahoma City, a field engineer for RCA, relaxing in his backyard, saw a similar object overhead. He stood up and watched until it flew out of sight. He had never seen anything like it, and had no idea what it was.

By the end of June, sixteen similar sightings had occurred throughout the country.

The age of flying saucers was about to begin.

Part 2. The Arnold Sighting

On June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold was flying his small plane to Pendleton, Oregon on business. Arnold, a respected businessman, was a successful salesman of industrial fire safety equipment. He was also a deputy federal marshall.

While flying past Mt. Rainier, in Washington State, Arnold recalled a report of a plane that had crashed near Mt. Rainier the week before -- a C-46 Marine transport. The downed plane had not yet been located, so as he flew by the mountain, Arnold scanned the ground for any signs of wreckage, with no luck.

A sudden flash of light in the sky caught his eye. He looked up and scanned the blue distance, but didn't see anything. Then there was another flash off to his left, to the north, and he looked in that direction.

Arnold saw nine bright objects speeding across the sky in a wide "V" formation. They were heading south from Mt. Baker toward Mt. Rainier.

They were metallic, semi-circular craft of a kind he had never seen before. They were sort of skipping through the air, with a kind of bouncing movement.

Arnold wanted to make sure the objects were not simply a reflection on the windshield of his plane, or possibly water droplets that, due to an optical illusion, seemed to be miles away instead of mere inches from his face. He turned his plane to the left, and then tipped it from side to side to see if the objects were really on his windscreen. They weren't. They were real.

Arnold could see the objects were moving very fast, but he couldn't tell exactly how fast, so he timed them from the moment they flew over the peak of Mt. Rainier until they reached the next peak south. Arnold knew that was a distance of 50 miles. The flying objects swept across that air space in exactly one minute and forty-two seconds. Arnold did the math and realized that made their speed approximately 1,700 mph.

Arnold was shocked -- he knew that speed was impossible for any known aircraft. It was over twice the speed of sound, and no aircraft in 1947 could fly that fast.

He wondered if he was watching a secret missile test -- but as he watched the craft fly in between mountain peaks, veering in front of some and behind others, Arnold was convinced the aircrafts, or whatever they were, were being piloted. Occasionally they tilted from side to side in unison, revealing first their bottom surfaces, then their tops. When they tilted they reflected the bright sunlight -- that was what caused the bright flashes that Arnold had originally noticed.

Arnold lost sight of the mysterious crafts when they flew south over Mt. Adams' highest peak. He had been watching them for slightly less than three minutes total.

As he flew on toward Yakima, Washington, Arnold wondered what in the world he had just seen...

Part 3. Arnold Looks for Answers

June 24, 1947

Kenneth Arnold's mind was racing. What had he just seen?

He landed at the airport in Yakima, Washington, to refuel his plane, and spoke about his sighting to anyone who cared to listen. One pilot suggested the objects had simply been guided missiles, but Arnold didn't believe it. He was convinced he had seen something out of the ordinary.

Arnold flew on to Pendleton, Oregon, where an air show was going to take place the next day. Someone from Yakima had radioed ahead about Arnold's sighting, so when he landed a large crowd of aircraft enthusiasts were waiting to hear his report. Arnold described what he had seen, and everyone was talking about it. Were they top secret military airplanes? Were they guided missiles? Or were they something else?

The next day, while everyone else was absorbed in the air show, Arnold was still considering the meaning of his encounter. At the show, a stranger stopped Arnold and confided that he had also seen the "mystery missiles" on the previous day -- they had passed over his house, the man said.

Arnold decided he had to find out what he had seen.

He went to the office of the town newspaper, the East Oregonian, and spoke with Nolan Skiff, a columnist, and Bill Bequette, a reporter. Both men were skeptical in the beginning, but as Arnold spoke, it was clear he was a sane and responsible person who was simply curious about what he had seen.

Arnold described his entire sighting, and described the objects' odd, bouncing path through the air as resembling "saucers skipping across the water."

Arnold never said that he had seen something from outer space. He simply described the facts of his sighting, and expressed his curiousity about it.

Bequette, the reporter, wrote up a short story about the incident and printed it the next day. The story was picked up by the newswires, and was transmitted nationwide. It began:

    PENDLETON, Ore., June 25 (AP)--Nine bright saucer-like ojects flying at "incredible speed" at 10,000 feet altitude were reported here today by Kenneth Arnold, Boise, Idaho, pilot who said he could not hazard a guess as to what they were....

Newspapers all over the country printed the article. The reaction was immediate -- at least twenty people reported that they had seen the same objects in the Pacific Northwest the same day as Arnold.

When one newspaper printed the AP article, an anonymous headline writer borrowed a word from Arnold's description of the odd motion of the objects ("saucers skipping across the water") and used it in his headline, dubbing them "Flying Saucers."

A new phrase had entered the language...

Part 4. The 1947 Wave

On June 26, 1947, newspapers across the nation carried the story of Kenneth Arnold's UFO sighting. Arnold was inundated by phone calls and requests for interviews. It turned out Arnold's sighting two days earlier was not the only sighting of those mysterious disks -- there were at least twenty other sightings that same day, all but two in the Pacific Northwest.

Newspapers were soon reporting more sightings of what were now being called "flying saucers" or "flying discs". Over the next few days, reports began to flood in from the western United States -- including a bright disk that was seen over Roswell, New Mexico, on July 2, 1947.

Two days later, on July 4, Mac Brazel, ranch manager of the Foster Ranch near Roswell, found the strange wreckage of a mysterious silvery object that had crashed into a remote area of the ranch. He didn't know what to make of it, but he took some samples of the debris with him and decided he would take them to the sheriff the next time he rode into town.

That same day, thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C., the intelligence division of the Army Air Force,the Air Material Command, issued a report in an attempt to explain the sightings. The report stated that the "saucer" sightings might be due to one of three natural causes:

  • they were an optical illusion caused by the sun reflecting on low clouds;
  • they were small meteors breaking up in the atmosphere, whose crystals were reflecting the sun; or
  • people were seeing flat, extra-large hailstones gliding through the air.

Newspapers that carried this official notice also quoted several top atmospheric scientists who said these explanations were sheer nonsense.

As it happened, the same day the Air Force issued their report, July 4, 1947, there was a huge wave of flying saucer sightings across all of the United States and into Canada.

For example:

    In Portland, Oregon, two amusement park employees saw several flying disks overhead, and reported them to the police. For the next quarter hour, several policemen, four harbor patrolmen, and people all over the city reported seeing disks flying through the air at an incredible rate of speed. One patrolman said they were like "chrome hubcaps" flying through the sky.

    That night, the pilot and co-pilot of a United Airlines flight saw a formation of five disks outside their plane. To make sure they weren't imagining them, the captain called a flight attendant into the cockpit and without saying why, he asked her to look through the window. She looked out and gasped that she could see "those flying disks!" The five disks sped ahead of the plane, then four more came into view. The sighting lasted about ten minutes.

Sightings like these continued all week.

Then, on July 8, 1947, several sightings were reported at Muroc Air Base in California (now Edwards Air Force Base). The first occurred when several officers and airmen saw three silver disks fly overhead. A few minutes later, a test pilot preparing for a flight saw a bright yellow-white sphere in the sky. Then two technicians watching a group of fighter planes in flight suddenly saw a round silver object join the planes in the sky.

These sightings over Muroc Air Base made a huge impression on the Air Force's commanding officers. While sightings by civilians could by written off as the hysterical reactions of untrained observers, the sightings over Muroc -- along with others that were being reported over the White Sands testing range and U.S. atomic bomb facilities -- could not be so easily dismissed. The Air Force realized they were facing a very serious problem...

To be continued...

Now read the latest installment!

More UFO Mysteries

The Michalak Mystery

Stephen Michalak screamed, and tore himself away from the sudden burst of super-heated air. But he was too late--his shirt and vest were already on fire! He ripped them off and staggered to the road, where he managed to stop a passing car. Confused and disoriented, Michalak was taken to a hospital, where the doctors could make little of the unusual, grid-shaped burns on his chest.

The year was 1967, and the place was Falcon Lake, a small town in the province of Manitoba, Canada. An amateur prospector, Michalak had set out for the hills that day in search of precious metal. Instead, he ended up in a hospital bed, slipping in and out of consciousness.

When he finally recovered his senses, Michalak told a most remarkable story. He had spent most of the morning prospecting with no success. While he was skirting past a patch of marshy ground, he heard a sound in the sky. He looked up and saw two oval shaped, metallic objects come down over the marsh.

Michalak guessed that he was witnessing a test of a new, top-secret, United States Air Force craft. One of the objects flew away, but the other continued to hover close to the ground. Then Michalak saw a panel in the side of the object slide open.

Michalak approached, and although he couldn't see anyone he heard voices coming from inside. Michalak looked in the door and could see blinking lights on the walls. Still assuming it was an American craft, and now wondering if they were in trouble, he called out, and asked if they needed assistance.

The door abruptly slid shut. The oval object quickly rotated, until a vent was opposite him--and Michalak was suddenly hit by the blast of burning air. The last thing he remembered was the oval ship flying away.

The doctors were mystified. They didn't know what to make of his story. Luckily, the burn pattern on his body was photographed, and UFO investigators have been puzzling over it ever since.

Almanac of Alien Encounters

All right. This is my website, and I'm going to make my first UFO Tidbit a bit of shameless self-promotion. My newest book, The Almanac of Alien Encounters, will be in the bookstores next week, the first week of June 2001. (Of course, if you can't wait, you can pre-order it on Amazon.com.)

The Almanac relates the history of UFO sightings, alien encounters, and related phenomena such as crop circles, cattle mutilations, and government cover-ups, from prehistoric times to the present. I present the stories, information and impressions of eyewitnesses and UFO investigators, along with the skeptics' natural explanations for these seemingly extraordinary events.

I am very excited about this project. I spent several years researching and writing the book, and I only hope I've done justice to this fascinating subject. Working on it made me think about things I would otherwise probably not have spent much time thinking about: Are we alone in the universe? Are alien beings visiting our world? And if not, what's up with all these UFO sightings?

In researching the book, I read nearly two hundred books, hundreds of magazine articles, and countless websites and internet postings on the subject, and spoke to a number of experts, skeptics, and UFO investigators, and I came to one firm conclusion: anyone who thinks they know the answer doesn't. It is a genuine mystery, and it defies easy (or maybe any) answers.

As I told people I was working on this book, a surprising number of them had their own UFO story to share in return. Either they had seen strange objects in the sky, or had a mysterious encounter that seemed to defy explanation, or knew of someone who had experienced a UFO related event or phenomenon, such as "missing time".

Over the next few weeks and months (and maybe years), I will be posting UFO stories on this page that I didn't have room for in the book, along with other UFO stories I come across along the way.

If you have a UFO incident or alien encounter you would like to share with me, write to me at Click here to send a message to Eric!. If you give me permission, I will post it on this site. (I will change the names, of course, to preserve your anonymity.)

Enjoy my book, if you get your hands on a copy, feel free to explore this site, (and let me know what you think of it), but whatever you do...keep watching the skies!


Have a comment or question? Click here to send a message to Eric!

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