|UFOs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are only small spots of light that
move in strange patterns across the night sky. These are called nocturnal lights
are the most commonly reported type of UFO. Nocturnal lights are not really very
interesting because the witness can see little detail; without details, ufologists cannot
learn anything new. Faraway objects, often disk- or saucer-shaped, seen in the daytime are
called daylight disks (DDs). When UFOs approach much nearer to witnesses (within 500
feet), these sightings are called close encounters. There are three types of close
encounters, designated as CE-1, CE-2, and CE-3. (Abductions are sometimes referred to as
CE-4s.) During close encounters, witnesses report seeing UFOs that are shaped like
saucers, boomerangs, spheres, diamonds, cigars, triangles, or other strange shapes. They
have bright lights, sometimes white or red, other times multicolored.
reported speed of UFOs varies dramatically. UFOs can hover silently for a long time then
instantaneously fly off at great speeds--certainly much faster than conventional aircraft.
They can move slowly across the sky, or perform unbelievable maneuvers, such as right
angle turns, at incredibly high speeds. We do not know what powers UFOs, or why they have
There are few unquestionably authentic pictures of UFOs. Many so-called UFO photographs
are really natural phenomena (such as strangely shaped clouds) or are light leaks in the
camera or flaws that were introduced when the film was developed. Some photos are
deliberate hoaxes made by people who want you to believe they have seen UFOs; for any
number of reasons, such as fame, money, or to promote a religious or philosophical
viewpoint. Some of the best UFO photos were taken in McMinnville, Oregon, in 1950; in
Rouen, France, in 1954; off the coast of Brazil in 1958; and in Lubbock, Texas, in 1951.
There are also videotapes of UFOs taken in the Hudson Valley region in New York, and in
Belgium. These pictures can be seen in many UFO books available in your local
Photos are not sufficient proof for the reality of UFOs because they are easily
When did people first see UFOs?
Many UFO researchers argue that UFOs have appeared throughout history. There are many
myths, legends, and stories that tell of strange things seen in the sky or beings who came
from the sky to help humans develop civilization. Because modern scholars cannot directly
check the facts of these stories, it is impossible to determine if these are accurate
reports of true events. Most ufologists, therefore, concentrate on studying UFO reports
beginning in this century.
In the 1890s, people across North America watched strange dirigible-shaped airships
with very bright searchlights flying above their farms and towns. Some people claimed they
had met the airship pilots. Researchers disagree about the authenticity of these accounts.
Many investigators think the airship reports were hoaxes spread by local "liars'
clubs" or sensational stories written by creative journalists hoping to sell papers.
A few ufologists, however, are convinced these airship sightings represent the first
reliable UFO reports in history.
During World War II pilots saw strange, glowing balls of light flying beside their
airplanes. They called these lights "foo fighters," a term based on an
expression ("where there's foo, there's fire") from Smokey Stover, a popular
comic strip at the time. At first the Allied command believed the foo-fighters were secret
German weapons or surveillance devices. Only after the war did they discover that German
pilots had also seen the glowing lights, which were thought to be American or British
During the summer and fall of 1946, a number of unusual aerial objects were sighted
over Sweden and Norway. They were given the name of "ghost rockets" and it was
believed that they were secret Russian weapons developed from the German wartime rocket
program. The Swedish defense ministry stated that 80% of the 1,000 ghost rockets could be
explained by natural phenomena, but about 200 cases could not be explained as either a
natural phenomenon, Swedish or Russian aircraft, or misperceptions.
Although the airship and foo-fighter reports are more detailed and credible than
ancient stories of strange "prodigies" seen in the sky, many ufologists question
whether these sightings can be accepted as true UFO reports. As a result, many researchers
say the modern UFO era started on June 24, 1947, with the sighting by businessman and
pilot Kenneth Arnold. While flying his small plane along the Cascade Mountains in
Washington state, Arnold saw nine crescent-shaped objects flying along the contours of the
mountains. Although he saw them for only a three and a half minutes, Arnold knew they were
not regular airplanes. He radioed in his report, and when he landed at the airport,
reporters were waiting to ask questions. He described the motions of the objects as
"like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water." This is where the term
"flying saucer" came from.
How can you recognize a UFO hoax?
Although tens of thousands of UFOs have been reported over the past forty years, less
than 1% have been shown to be hoaxes. For the most part, competent UFO investigators have
been able to recognize hoaxes almost immediately. The most common type of UFO hoax is a
prank balloon, which involves tying a flare or candle to a helium-filled balloon. On rare
occasions elaborate hoaxes have been perpetrated, necessitating a more extensive
To eliminate the possibility that a UFO report is a hoax, one must examine the
credibility of the witnesses, the details of the report, and any physical evidence,
especially photographs. The reliability and validity of these factors must be ascertained
before a researcher can have confidence in the data. A witness's reliability can be
checked by interviewing neighbors, friends, relatives, co-workers, and other associates.
In particular, an investigator is interested in determining whether the individual has a
reputation as a sincere, responsible person, or as a practical joker, prankster, or
The researcher also examines the UFO report to determine if there are any unbelievable
claims or glaring inconsistencies. For example, are there elements in the report similar
to those found in science fiction or so unusual that they do not appear in other UFO
accounts? Does the witness claim to have seen the UFO many times, although other witnesses
cannot be found? Does the witness claim that important evidence is mysteriously missing or
taken by unknown "government agents"? While such facts may not prove a hoax,
they can cast doubt on the report and must be considered during the investigation.
Finally, the UFO investigator must examine the evidence to check if it has been
altered, falsified, or hoaxed. If the evidence looks faked, or if it can be explained by
more prosaic methods, doubt is cast on its validity. Often an experienced ufologist can
determine that a UFO photograph is a hoax upon first viewing. Clues, such as a noticeable
difference between the sharpness of the UFO image and that of foreground and background
objects, can indicate a hoax. Computerized photo enhancement can also be used to prove a
hoax. Enhancement techniques can reveal supporting strings or wires and can provide
information about an object's actual shape, material, and density.
Remember, in any investigation you must critically and thoroughly examine the evidence.
The more evidence that is proven to be unreliable, the greater the doubt to be cast on the
validity of the UFO event. A rule-of-thumb to consider when investigating any UFO case is
if something appears too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true." (This
is also true in life, not just ufology.) So--investigator beware, and never let your
critical thinking skills down.
What do aliens look like, and where do they
||Because we do not know for certain that UFOs are spacecraft,
we cannot be sure aliens are visiting the earth from other planets. Many ufologists argue
that there is enough evidence to show that UFOs are really spacecraft operated by
intelligent aliens. Among the reports of encounters with aliens (Close Encounters of the
Third Kind, or CE-3s), there is a wide variety of descriptions. Some witnesses describe
beings who look very human. In fact, they say these aliens could easily blend into the
crowd on any street in any city of the world. These types of aliens are sometimes called
Nordics, because they most closely resemble the people living in northern Europe. Others
report seeing short, gray beings with large, almond-shaped eyes, and large, bulbous heads.
These aliens have been called Grays. The Grays are sometimes divided into subgroups
depending on other physical characteristics, such
|as height. On some occasions, witnesses report seeing creatures that
resemble robots or androids. Only in the most unusual cases do people claim to have seen
monstrous creatures so often depicted in popular movies about beings from outer space.
(The beings in the illustration are those described in the book Encounter at Buff Ledge,
by Walter Webb.)
There are many theories about where aliens come from, but there is
no absolute proof. Some speculate that aliens come from other planets, while others
suggest different dimensions. The idea that UFO beings are time travelers from our own
future is also a possibility. The most intriguing clue about the origin of the aliens
comes from the UFO abduction account of Betty and Barney Hill. During their abduction
aboard a UFO in 1961, Betty Hill was shown a three-dimensional map of a cluster of stars.
She later drew the star map while under hypnosis. Years later, an Ohio school teacher,
Marjorie Fish, made many models of known groups of stars in our section of the galaxy and
compared them to the Hill star map. Fish eventually found a match and concluded that the
two major stars shown were the binary stars, Zeta Reticulum I and II. It is interesting to
note that these stars are similar to the sun and could very well have earthlike planets in
orbit around them--planets that might support intelligent life.
Are people ever hurt by UFOs?
People occasionally report feeling pain or receiving an injury during a UFO encounter
or abduction. Physical effects include eye irritation, sunburn, skin cuts, and sickness.
After the experience, witnesses may have nightmares and feel anxious, and they may undergo
personality changes or changes in their beliefs about important life issues. Witnesses,
especially abductees, claim later UFO encounters and other experiences with the
paranormal, such as poltergeist activity or the development of psychic powers.
One of the most famous UFO sightings resulting in injuries to witnesses involved two
women, Betty Cash and Vicki Landrum, and Mrs. Landrum's grandson, Colby, as they drove
along a deserted Texas road during December 1980. In front of them, they saw a huge,
brilliant, diamond-shaped object with flames shooting out from the bottom. Cash stopped
the car and got out to have a better look at the UFO. The object radiated intense heat
that softened the dashboard of her car. Terrified, Cash returned to the car and with the
others, watched the UFO move away. As it did so, a squadron of helicopters appeared and
surrounded the UFO. The witnesses followed the object and the helicopters until they
disappeared in the distance. By the time the three reached home, all were feeling ill.
Within a few hours, they developed sunburnlike blisters, nausea, and diarrhea. Betty
Cash's symptoms were the most severe, and she eventually sought medical treatment and was
hospitalized as a burn victim. Her doctor concluded Cash was exhibiting symptoms of
radiation sickness. The witnesses later sued the United States government, claiming it was
responsible for their injuries. (They had identified the helicopters as Chinook twin-rotor
helicopters used by the U.S. Army.) Their lawsuit was unsuccessful because they could
never prove the UFO or the helicopters were devices owned and operated by the American
Does the United States government study UFOs?
At present, the United States government does not officially investigate UFO sightings,
although there is some evidence suggesting that various governmental agencies continue to
maintain a secret interest in the subject. During the past forty years, however, there
have been several projects and investigative panels that examined the UFO evidence, at
least superficially. Because UFOs are an aerial phenomenon, between 1947 and 1969 the U.S.
Air Force was charged with organizing several projects to investigate UFO reports. The
most famous was Project Blue Book, which existed from 1952 to 1969. Although there were
many UFO reports during those years, including numerous sightings by military and civilian
pilots, and other technical personnel, the Air Force maintained that UFOs were not real.
The military considered UFO reports seriously only because it believed that they could be
used to confuse and overwhelm our intelligence and communication operations, thereby
making America vulnerable to surprise attack by some foreign power.
Some military experts also admitted the possibility that the Soviet Union, with the
help of captured German scientists, was developing technology far superior to any the
United States possessed. Therefore, the Air Force concluded that UFO reports should be
investigated until these possibilities were proven unlikely. Through its investigations,
the Air Force was able to explain most sightings as natural phenomena or misidentified
aircraft. However, there were still hundreds of UFO reports that it could not so easily
In 1966 there was a wave of spectacular UFO sightings across America that received
widespread press coverage. Political leaders, especially congressional representatives,
were pressured by their constituents who demanded explanations for their sightings. A
congressional committee conducted hearings on the UFO sightings, and pressure was placed
on the Air Force to resolve the issue once and for all.
In response, the Air Force contracted with the University of Colorado to conduct what
it hoped would be the definitive study of the UFO phenomenon--a study that would finally
settle the UFO question to everyone's satisfaction. The project was headed by Professor
Edward U. Condon, a physicist, who had expressed negative views about life on other
planets and the existence of UFOs. Several members of the Colorado study (which became
known as the "Condon Committee") charged Condon with failing to act in an
open-minded and impartial manner, thereby biasing the study. Despite becoming mired in
controversy, after several committee members were fired and the Congress organizing its
own symposium on UFOs, the Condon Committee continued its investigation and eventually
released a final report. The study's conclusion, written by Condon, stated that the
21-year study of UFOs had not added anything to scientific knowledge and that further
study could not be justified. Critics charged the report's conclusion did not follow from
the study's own data, and the Condon investigation was a sham from the beginning. Despite
the controversy surrounding the Condon Report, the Air Force used its conclusions as a
ustification for disbanding Project Blue Book in December 1969 and severing its connection
with the UFO subject.
Despite this disbanding, many ufologists believe the government still maintains
extensive files on UFOs and continues to investigate sightings in secret. Their belief is
reinforced by the fact that U.S. intelligence agencies have already released documents
showing that they have been collecting UFO information that is still classified Top
Secret. The government does not allow public access to these documents, despite numerous
attempts by UFO researchers to see them through the Freedom of Information Act
which is supposed to give American citizens the right to view any government document that
does not threaten national security.
In response to the government's reluctance to release UFO documents, the UFO group
Ground Saucer Watch began legal action to gain the release of documents on UFO sightings
over military bases in the 1970s. After Ground Saucer Watch ran into financial
difficulties, Citizens Against UFO Secrecy (CAUS) pursued the case. Though CAUS argued
that the release of official UFO information would not threaten national security, U.S.
intelligence agencies claimed their operations would be jeopardized by their release. Even
when CAUS emphasized that it only wanted the UFO information and not anything related to
U.S. intelligence, the government adamantly refused to release the information.
Eventually, federal judge Gerhardt Gesell ruled in the government's favor, citing national
security reasons. CAUS protested the decision, claiming the hearing was unfair. In
particular, the group pointed out that the judge was not allowed to review the UFO
material despite having top security clearance. In fact, Judge Gesell was only given a
summary explaining why the government could not release the documents, which served as the
basis for his decision. Although CAUS failed to win the case, it continues to work for the
release of government UFO documents through the Freedom of Information Act.
What is an IFO?
An IFO is an Identified Flying Object. In essence, it is a natural or man-made object
that people reported as a UFO. About 90%-95% of all UFO reports prove to be
IFOs, after an
examination of the evidence by a trained investigator. People report natural or
conventional objects as UFOs because they do not recognize them as such, due to unusual
environmental conditions, ignorance, or the rarity of a natural event. For example, people
have reported the planet Venus as a UFO, unaware of how bright the planet can appear at
certain times of the year. Stars near the horizon are sometimes reported as UFOs because
atmospheric turbulence and thermals (columns of warm air) cause them to twinkle rapidly in
red and blue colors. Stars may also appear to dart back and forth because of
This is a psychological phenomenon in which a person's eye movements create the illusion
that a bright object seen in the dark without a frame of reference is moving.
In order to distinguish between UFOs and IFOs, an investigator must find as much
information about a sighting as possible, without leading witnesses into giving false
details. It is also important that UFO reports are investigated soon after the sighting,
so all relevant information about possible IFO explanations can be considered.