Talks about aliens, sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) and unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP) are back in the mainstream news around the world following a Congressional hearing in Washington D.C., US, on 26 July 2023.
In what was possibly the biggest newsmaker around the world, a former military intelligence officer told a bipartisan House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security under oath that the US government is in possession of UFOs as well as “non-human” beings.
The sensational hearing — the most high-profile examination of extraterrestrials ever done — has led to a renewed interest in subjects related to aliens. It has given a major boost to previous reports of extraterrestrial activities and inexplicable aerial phenomena over the last century, many of which were rejected as ‘conspiracy theories’ but gave birth to countless sci-fi movies on visitors from outer space.
The testimony came a year after the first public hearing on UFOs in about half a century in which deputy director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray told a House panel that the number of UFO sightings has risen to “approximately 400.”
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All about the UFO hearing
David Grusch, the officer who appeared before the committee, served for 14 years as an intelligence officer in the Air Force and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency of the US Department of Defense (DoD) until 2023. He led UAP analysis within the DoD agency and became a whistleblower in 2022.
“I was informed, in the course of my official duties, of a multi-decade UAP crash retrieval and reverse-engineering program, to which I was denied access,” Grusch told the baffled House of Representatives committee.
He said that he conducted interviews with 40 witnesses over a four-year period and confirmed that there were “people who have been harmed or injured” as the government tried to suppress UFO-related information.
He also said that the funding for the massive, long-term and secretive programme comes through “misappropriation of funds” and has been kept “above congressional oversight.”
UAPs have captured Americans’ attention for decades.@RepLuna calls for the government to release more explanations and footage on UAP sightings from Roswell, NM to the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. pic.twitter.com/VJZMuYLOjy
— Oversight Committee (@GOPoversight) July 26, 2023
Grusch was joined by former US Navy pilot Ryan Graves who encountered UAP on training missions.
Former US Navy Commanding Officer, Black Aces Squadron, David Fravor, was the third witness before the committee. Fravor is known for having spotted what is today famously known as the “Tic Tac” object during a flight off the coast of California in 2004.
In a 2021 interview with 60 Minutes, the Top Gun graduate said that on 14 November 2004, he and his F/A-18F wingman, along with their respective weapons system officers (WSO), saw “this little white Tic Tac-looking object…moving above the whitewater area.”
The flying object was about the size of his fighter aircraft but had no markings, wings or exhaust plumes. He said that it flew away with an astonishing speed when he tried to cut it off and was around 100 km away in less than a minute.
Here are the most famous UFO incidents of all time
Encounters with aliens and UFO sightings have apparently been recorded since antiquity in almost every known civilisation. Conspiracy theorists suggest that some of our most famous ancient structures were built by aliens. There is, in fact, an entire series dedicated to this belief: the 19-season popular show Ancient Aliens (2009–).
Most of the older incidents cannot be explained, or have been authoritatively debunked. The new ones, however, still baffle people because of the absence of either conclusive proof against the claim or in favour of it.
It is interesting to note that the most famous UFO sightings were recorded almost from the end of the 19th century to the late 20th. Nearly all incidents after that failed to capture an equal level of popular interest, even though Hollywood kept churning cinematic marvels on aliens.
But the bottom line that has now been drawn after Grusch’s testimony to the House is this: There is a high chance that many of the famous UFO sightings of the past may be real and not a figment of imagination.
The buried ‘alien’ of Aurora
Aurora is located around 50 km northwest of Fort Worth, Texas. It is a small town with just about 1,200 residents. Back in the 1890s, it was even smaller with just about 370 people living in Aurora. But in the eyes of some ‘UFOlogists’ (those who study UFOs), this tiny town may have a strong claim to the world’s first recorded alien contact.
It was on 17 April 1897 when locals spotted a cigar-shaped aircraft crashing through a windmill onto a farm. The pilot of the aircraft, who died in the crash, was described in the media as “not from this world.”
The locals believed that the pilot, who they named Ned, was a Martian. They buried Ned at the Aurora cemetery. The Texas Historical Commission placed a marker on the site, but it was later removed.
Interestingly, renowned novelist H.G. Wells started publishing The War of the Worlds, his most famous fictional book, in a serialised format the same month in Vol. XXII of The Cosmopolitan magazine in the US.
Flying saucer of Ängelholm in 1946
A concrete 1:8 scale model of a flying saucer in the middle of what looks like the impressions made on the ground by a UFO mark a memorial in Kronoskogen, near the Swedish town of Ängelholm. Erected in 1972, the memorial recounts the incident on 18 May 1946 when Gösta Carlsson spotted a UFO landing on this site.
Carlsson went on to found two of the world’s most famous pharmaceutical companies — Cernelle and Allergon. It was in the 1970s when he claimed that the aliens he encountered on that day gave him the idea of natural medicines with pollen as the main ingredient. This helped him create his pharma companies. He also founded Rögle BK, Sweden’s first ice-hockey team.
But, of course, no one believed him — not even alien researcher and UFO proponent Clas Svahn. Nevertheless, the memorial is worth a visit. There is also a plaque in Swedish erected by Carlsson in which he has retold the events of that day.
The discs over Mount Rainier in 1947
This was the incident which originally triggered the popular fascination with aliens and led the press to use the word “flying saucer” for the first time.
Kenneth A. Arnold was an accomplished private aircraft pilot and businessman. On 24 June 1947, he was flying his single-engine CallAir A-2 light aeroplane past Mount Rainier, an active stratovolcano, in Washington state in the northwest of Western United States.
Arnold suddenly saw what he described as nine shiny objects flying in a formation about eight km long. He said that each of them was circular, had no tail and was around 100 feet (around 30.4 metres) wide. He calculated that they flew at around 1,900 km/h — twice that of any aircraft known to humans at the time.
According to a 2014 article in The Atlantic, he variously used the terms “saucer,” “disk,” and “pie-pan,” which may have led the press to quote him as saying “flying saucer.”
The Roswell incident
To date, the incident at Roswell is considered the most famous UFO-related event after the Mount Rainier sighting. It was so significant that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Army Air Forces (later United States Air Force) launched their own investigations into it.
It all happened on 14 June 1947 when rancher W.W. “Mac” Brazel and his son Vernon came across “a large area of bright wreckage made up of rubber strips, tinfoil, and rather tough paper, and sticks.” The father-son duo were at the time driving across their ranch, around 128 km northwest of Roswell in the New Mexico desert.
Brazel collected the shattered metallic fabric on 4 July and took them to Sheriff George Wilcox at Roswell on 7 July. This was where the authorities stepped in and the Roswell incident made headlines across the US and, gradually, the rest of the world.
Declassified FBI records show that the day after Sheriff Wilcox received the debris, the FBI Dallas Field Office sent a teletype stating that a “flying disc” that looked like a high-altitude weather balloon had been found.
“The disc is hexagonal in shape and was suspended from a balloon by cable,” said the report, adding that there was a telephonic conversation between an investigator and Wright Field (US military installation), which did not “bear out this belief” that the object was a radar reflector. An Army investigation at the time quickly rejected the “flying disc” story in the media, which was based on an initial release by the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF). They maintained the weather balloon story.
Eventually, a 1994 Office of the Secretary of the Air Force investigation concluded that the extraterrestrials believed to have been seen on that day were “actually anthropomorphic test dummies that were carried aloft by U.S. Air Force high-altitude balloons for scientific research,” which was part of a then top-secret programme named Project Mogul to detect sound from Soviet nuclear tests. It was not a weather balloon, after all.
Yet, weather balloon or spy balloon, some ‘UFOlogists’ believe to this day that the Roswell incident has been a cover-up by the authorities.
Whatever the truth, the incident turned the sleepy Roswell into a popular tourist destination for fans of extraterrestrials. It also inspired scores of movies and TV shows on aliens, the most famous of them all being the blockbuster 1996 film Independence Day starring Will Smith.
UFOs over a football ground
This happened in the megacity of Florence in the Tuscany region of Italy on 27 October 1954. It is one of the most unbelievable sightings of UFOs and remains both unexplained and debunked to this day.
Fiorentina was playing against Pistoiese in the afternoon, with over 10,000 fans enjoying the game at Stadio Artemio Franchi. Suddenly, they saw multiple objects appearing in the sky above the football stadium. The BBC reported in 2014 that they all fell silent and then let out a huge cry. The din was so loud that the referee stopped play for 10 minutes and wrote about it in the official report.
According to a 2010 report by The Florentine, Pistoiese captain Romolo Tuci told the media years later that he, too, “saw something like small rings in the distance; what they actually were I really don’t know.”
Ardico Magnini of Fiorentina, who played for Italy at the 1954 FIFA World Cup, told BBC that he saw an object “moving slowly, slowly, slowly.”
“Everyone was looking up and also there was some glitter coming down from the sky, silver glitter. We were astonished. We had never seen anything like it before. We were absolutely shocked,” he added.
The report says that there were about 20 such objects. They were first spotted zipping past the dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, one of the world’s largest churches. The news was immediately conveyed to the La Nazione newspaper office, whose staff, including an editor named Giorgio Batini, confirmed the sightings from the top of their building. The lights from the objects were also seen kilometres away outside the city.
Witnesses described the objects as either cigar-shaped or like eggs. After the flying objects left, fine white threads fell on the city from the sky. The threads evaporated quickly, but the University of Florence managed to do research on them which established that their composition included boron, magnesium and silicon.
To date, there has been no explanation or agreement on the sighting or what the threads actually were. But it wasn’t mass hysteria, the BBC report said, as there were multiple sightings of UFOs in other parts of the Tuscany region of Italy on that same day and over the days that followed.
The 1978 Emilcin abduction case
The fear that aliens, if they come to Earth, might abduct us can be seen in anyone who believes in extraterrestrials. The origin of this fear can be traced back to a farmer named Jan Wolski who claimed that he was abducted by aliens on 10 May 1978 in the village of Emilcin, Poland.
Wolski, then 71 years old, never rescinded his statement for the rest of his life after he first revealed what happened to him in the documentary film Odwiedziny, Czyli u Progu Tajemnicy.
He said that he was driving his horse-drawn cart through a forested stretch when two green-skinned figures wearing black overalls (Men in Black, anyone?) approached him and spoke in a language not known to him. He saw what he described as “some car hovering in the air.”
Wolski said that he was invited to step into the flying thing, which was pure white, through a lift by one of the beings. They undressed and examined Wolski without hurting him. He said that they also offered him something to eat before letting him go.
Though Wolski never said he was abducted, his account became famous in Poland as the country’s most famous kidnapping incident. It was researched deeply, gave a fillip to interest in UFOs in Polish society, and gave birth to famous stories, comic books and non-fiction works centred on extraterrestrials. But no one could conclude if what Wolski said was true or not.
In 2005, a memorial was erected at the site where Wolski claimed he met the aliens. It features a metal cube balancing on one edge of a rock. The text on it reads: “The truth is out there!”
The strange case at Dechmont Law
In 1979, a forestry worker employed with the Livingston Development Corporation in Scotland became the subject of the only criminal investigation concerning aliens in the United Kingdom and, possibly, the world.
On 9 November, Robert Taylor, who was then around 60 years old, arrived at his home in Livingston in West Lothian council area with injuries to his body and dishevelled. His clothes were torn, and he appeared shaken. He told his wife, Mary, that he had been attacked by a “spaceship thing.”
The cops came, and an assault investigation was launched. Taylor recounted that he went out with his dog, a red setter called Lara, to inspect gates and fences in the newly planted woods of a nearby hill named Dechmont Law. He was working when he came across a grey spaceship, around 6.5 metres in diameter, in a clearing between the woods at 10:30 am.
His dog started barking as “two robots that were shaped like land mines, but with longer spikes that they used for walking, making a suction-like noise” tried to grab him. He said a strange burning smell overpowered him, and he lost consciousness.
Taylor told the police that he found the clearing empty when he came to his senses, but there were deep marks on the ground. He was so shaken that he met with a minor accident on the way home and was forced to walk back.
The case instantly drew nationwide attention. It was variously dubbed the Livingston Incident and Taylor Incident in the press and by the authorities.
A major reason why this case remains one of the greatest mysteries of all time is because of the police investigation and its findings. When his clothes were examined, it was found that Taylor’s explanation that he was hauled and pulled up was true.
According to the BBC, investigator Detective Con Ian Wark said that the police found 32 holes (some other media suggest there were 40) 3.5 inches in diameter on the ground where Taylor said he saw the spaceship. To understand why there were inner “ladder” marks on the ground, the police also checked the machinery at Livingston Development Corporation, but they had none that would match the impressions at the scene of the crime. In fact, the marks were nowhere else in the area except at the exact place where Taylor was attacked.
The police report filed at the time said that it was clear that an “object of several tons had stood there but there was nothing to show that it had been driven or towed away.”
“These marks just arrived,” Det Con Wark said, adding, “They did not come from anywhere or go anywhere. They just arrived as though a helicopter or something had landed from the sky.”
But no helicopter or aircraft was in the area on that day or the days before the incident.
The other major reason why the Livingstone incident is considered by many more genuine than others is Taylor’s personal reputation. He was a war hero, a teetotaller, a respectable person in the community and had no mental health issues or serious ailments. Indeed, in the numerous interviews he gave since the incident, he never once deviated from what he told the police till his death in 2007. Such was his fame following the incident that some of the biggest media houses, including The Economist, published obituaries for him.
Today, the site of the incident is a tourist destination. A UFO trail leads to the place where Taylor had his moment of close encounter with the third kind. The exact spot is marked by a rock with a memorial plaque.
Rendlesham Forest UFO sighting
On 17 April 2009, the UK’s National Archives released the complete file on the famous ‘Rendlesham Forest Incident’ — known as one of the most famous recorded UFO sightings in Britain. It was part of the declassification of as many as 800 alleged encounters in the UK from the 1980s through the 1990s.
The revelation of the incident confirmed what was widely believed by many: that US Air Force Lt. Col. Charles Halt indeed saw a UFO.
According to Halt’s official account, the incident happened over two or three nights starting on 26 December 1980 at the US military base of RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk, England. He said that two of his servicemen first saw “unusual lights” at around 3 am on the first night in the woods. A patrol party sent to investigate reported seeing “a strange glowing object” in the forest, which was triangular and metallic. It “illuminated the entire forest with a white light,” Halt wrote.
They found deep impressions and radiation readings on the ground during the day. Halt said that he and his soldiers saw “red sunlike light” in the woods when night fell. His report said that the light separated into five white objects and vanished.
The 2009 report reveals that the UK’s Ministry of Defense simply closed the case after failing to explain the sightings. The ministry, however, added that radars had not detected anything landing in the region.
But sometime later, The Lord Hill-Norton, who was the former head of Britain’s armed forces and former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, told the then-Defense Secretary Michael Heseltine that the incident was “puzzling and disquieting.”
He indicated that there could only be two possibilities: One in which if the sighting was genuine, “British airspace and territory are vulnerable to unwarranted intrusion to a disturbing degree.” The other would mean that a large number of USAF personnel stationed in the UK could be seriously wrong in their perception, “the consequences of which might be grave in military terms.”
When it happened, the incident remained unreported in the media for three years until the now defunct News of the World broke it after the US government released a memo from Halt to the UK defence ministry.
The Rendlesham Forest incident inspired a movie, The Rendlesham UFO Incident (2014), and a documentary, Codename Rendlesham (2020). In the forest is a UFO hiking trail that leads to the spot where the personnel claimed to have seen the strange object.
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore