Earth-shaking experience for UFO watchers
Sightings of aliens have been linked to electrical fields caused by quakes.
You are driving along an empty road late at night when several large, disc-shaped lights suddenly fly in front of you. One stops and hovers above the road. Your ignition cuts out and your curiosity turns to panic. The glowing ball is on the ground in front of you now. Is that a figure emerging..?
You are having a UFO experience which could mean:
a) you have actually been contacted by aliens;
b) you are having hallucinations, are stressed or schizophrenic, or it is a false memory implanted later under hypnosis;
c) you have walked on to the set of a sci-fi B movie in the making.
But there is another possibility - you might simply be receiving advance warning of an earthquake. This is the theory of Michael Persinger, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, who is the subject of a television documentary tomorrow night [Ref: Equinox : Identified Flying Objects]. Mr Persinger's research project is odd and intriguing.
For 20 years he has been working on a theory that connects not only UFOs and earthquakes, but also powerful electromagnetic fields and an explanation of paranormal beliefs in terms of unusual brain activity.
"Beneath the Earth's surface seethe massive geophysical forces," says Mr Persinger. "Around the time of an earthquake particularly, the tremendous seismic pressure on rock crystals produces powerful local electrical fields, measuring several thousand volts per metre, more than enough to produce balls or columns of light."
Depending on the culture, these can be interpreted as dragons, mystical visions or flying saucers. In one study Mr Persinger found that 90 per cent of the accounts of luminous events in the sky reported between 1820 and 1926 could be linked to a rise in seismic activity at the same time. More recently, noting the connection between large dams and a build-up of seismic strain he has found a link between UFO reports and five major American dams.
An apparent epidemic of UFO reports in Manitoba, Canada, in 1975 was found to have coincided with a severe earthquake in the area. An apparent rash of UFOs in Missouri during 1973 and 1974 occurred at just the same time as the only two recently recorded earthquakes in the region.
Two British researchers, Paul McCartney, a geochemist, and Paul Devereux, writer, have found that Clev Hill in Wiltshire, long a favourite haunt of UFO spotters lies, beside the only two fault lines in the area.
But these geomagnetic fields are not only producing balls of light, they are also capable of having an effect on the brain. In a series of laboratory studies Mr Persinger has found that electromagnetically stimulating two parts of the brain involved with memory and meaning - the amygdala and the hippocampus - can suddenly release a flood of images from the past that are automatically imbued with a tremendous sense of reality and importance.
He has also found that stimulating another area, the temporal lobes, can produce all sorts of mystical experiences, out-of-the-body sensations and other apparently paranormal phenomena. Susan Blackmore, a psychologist and presenter of the television programme on Mr Persinger, has reported how she felt when her temporal lobes were stimulated with a pulsed magnetic field of the same intensity as that of a commercially available relaxation device.
"It felt for all the world as though two hands had grabbed my shoulders and yanked me upright... I felt as though I had been stretched halfway up to the ceiling. Then came the emotions, Totally out of the blue, but in tensely and vividly, I suddenly felt angry. Later... I was terrified."
So not only can the electromagnetic field produced by tectonic strain produce UFO-like luminous shapes but the subjective experiences of those having close encounters begin to make sense too. Reports of blacking out as the "ship" gets near and subsequent amnesia suggest an assault on the brain's electrical system, which could also explain why car engines often fail.
Then there are sinister aliens and sexual experiments, "Temporal lobe stimulation can evoke the feeling of a presence, disorientation, and perceptual irregularities," says Mr Persinger. "It can also activate images stored in the subject's memory, including nightmares and monsters that are normally suppressed." Strong magnetic fields affect the genitals,sensations which can be interpreted as "spacemen did tests on my genitals".
Mr Persinger's theory also implies that UFO spotting could seriously damage your health. "Exposure to intense magnetic fields has been associated with an increase in cancers of the blood, brain and sexual organs and a rise in depression, suicide and alcohol abuse," says Mr Persinger. He notes that of three children who were closest to the famous lights, interpreted as a vision of Virgin Mary, at Fatima in Portugal in 1917, two died within three years, one from a solid lung tumour.
|IS ANYBODY OUT THERE?|
Horizon presents an earth-bound explanation for UFOs and alien encounters UFOs exist? Do alien abductions really happen? Are convincing dramas, such as Close Encounters and BBC2's The XFiles really so far from the truth? In Monday's Horizon, British psychologist Dr Susan Blackmore investigates the appearance of "grey ghosts" among the Mung people of Laos and medieval accounts of fairy abductions and the visitations of "The Old Hag", a night terror that haunts the fishing communities of Newfoundland. But the answer, she believes, is to be found in the minds of modern abductees.
|"First of all, most of them are not mad and not lying," says Dr Blackmore. "Something has happened to them. It has nothing to do with aliens but a lot to do with brains. There are several things going on here. One possibility is false memory, another is sleep paralysis, when you are suddenly mentally awake but your body is still in the dreaming stage of sleep and your muscles are immobilised. "A far more compelling possibility is the misfiring of the temple lobes of the brain. I hope that scientists will see that, even if there aren't aliens, these experiences can tell us a lot about the human mind and we ought to investigate them."|
The prospect of a consistent scientific explanation for UFO sightings and alien abductions deters Tony Dodd, director of investigations at UFO magazine, not a jot "I deal with dozens and dozens of cases of alien abductions. Apart from the physical marks on their bodies to back up their claims, there's a consistency of signs and symptoms in different abductees, no matter which part of the world they're in.
"We know categorically that major governments have been aware of this alien abduction syndrome for many years now and have played it down because they don't want to panic the public. If my intelligence officers are right, the authorities are aware of at least 20 types of aliens visiting the earth for various reasons. We want to get to the bottom of these things and are fighting like hell to get governments to admit what's going on."
Horizon Monday BBC2
Doing it the alien way
David Langford reviews Ellen Datlow's Off Limits
THE dark interfaces of sex, disease, technology and things alien still fascinate us: the history of science fiction is littered with enthusiastically daring anthologies that grappled with the once-forbidden subject of sex But in the permissive vacuum of space, surely there's nothing for taboo-breakers to push against? Certainly, it's harder to be simply shocking.
Other stories in Datlow's collection are less easy to classify. Scott Bradfield's fine, brief biography of a maddeningly self-destructive woman ends in perplexity. Neil Gaiman offers a verse screenplay that eats like acid at the porn-movie scenarios which it parodies. Simon Ings's idea of female meme sabotage of laddish events like Formula Zero racing is fun, but his writing is just too good for the first-person narration of his thick, cyber-boosted champion driver. Gwyneth Jones presents role-players in virtual reality, acting out characters from famous fantasy novels with anything-goes escapism... subtly sabotaged by conflicting fantasies of power and control.
After 50 years of ridicule,denial and cover up is the real truth about alien abductions about to be revealed?
ON A hot, sticky July afternoon in 1987 Jason Andrews is celebrating his fourth birthday at his family's cottage near Slade Green in Kent when the heavens open. As the thunder crashes all around, there is a single flash of lightning. Suddenly; a stream of numbers starts pouring out of Jason's mouth: fantastic numbers, complex mathematical equations, even algebra - all from a boy who struggles to count to ten. Seconds later the windows and doors begin to shake violently and the four-year-old announces to his mother, father and elder brother: 'They're waiting for me. I have to go.' Jason's father; Paul, grabs his son and stops him from walking out into the downpour, but the boy struggles violently, and as he does so the house shakes to its very foundations -until, finally, he seems to wake from a trance and the shaking stops. It is the first sign that Jason Andrews is no ordinary little boy and, in the eight years that follow, that is dramatically corfirmed. 'It wasn't until 1995, when he was almost 12, that Jason told his astonished parents exactly what had been happening to him - aliens had been abducting him from his bed at night. 'It's always the light that comes first,' he confessed to his mother; Ann. 'Then I see the tall one rise up at the foot of the bed. 'Suddenly there's lots of little ones everywhere. They're fuzzy and indistinct, and they move very fast. I can't move or speak, but I'm awake and I can see and hear and feel. I want to scream and run, but the sound doesn't come out and my body doesn't move. (See sleep paralysis - Sue Blackmore..and Horizon JB9?) 'I hate them. I hate them,' the boy sobbed. 'I have to go with them. 'They take me to an operating theatre, like at the hospital. It's all white and shiny. Sometimes it's a circular room with a metal floor. It's always cold. 'They're there. The big one touches me but I don't feel it, like as if I've had an anaesthetic.' Then he added poignantly: 'But you don't believe me, you just think I'm making it all up.' In fact, Ann did believe him, and went on to explore the phenomena affecting her son's life in a book, Abducted. This decent, uncomplicated wife and mother came to the conclusion that we may not be alone. Now, the rest of the world may be about to agree with her. After five decades of ridicule, official denials and alleged cover-ups, the possibility that aliens may have visited Earth is beginning to be taken seriously - and not just by sci-fi fanatics and UFO freaks. Scientific researchers are increasingly convinced that thin, grey-skinned beings about 4ft tall, with large almond-shaped eyes set in an oval, hairless, head, may not only have landed on earth, but have also abducted human beings for bizarre experiments; while all the time there has been an official conspiracy to keep their visits secret. Tonight American filmmaker Steven Spielberg, the man who brought the world Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and ET will bring those convictions - and aliens - to life in his new mini-series Taken, on BBC2. A CUNNING mixture of fact, conjecture and fiction, based on the latest research, it tells the story of how aliens affected the lives of three American families over the past half-century. A massive hit in the U.S., where it was broadcast on consecutive nights last month, Spielberg's series is the most expensive TV science faction drama ever made with a budget of more than £25 million - it's certain to re-ignite public debate on this forever-contentious subject. But surely all this talk of aliens is far-fetched? As a natural sceptic, I've always believed so, but over the past weeks and months of reviewing the evidence I've come to the conclusion that it does, in fact, warrant the closest investigation. There certainly seems to have been an official conspiracy to keep the facts secret. In the past few months, for example, firm evidence about unexplained events connected with Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) and extraterrestrial phenomena has begun to appear for the first time as governments around the world have released previously secret documents. And, for the first time, politicians have started to admit that evidence on the possibility of extraterrestrial life has been concealed. In October last year; for example, former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, who worked for President Clinton, called on the U.S. government to de-classify 'records that are more than 25 years old' and 'to provide scientists with data that will assist them in determining the real nature of this phenomenon'. Only four years ago, former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher hinted to British UFO researcher Georgina Bruni that there was considerable secret information on the subject, adding mysteriously: 'You can't tell the people.' BRUNI was so struck by the remark that she used it as the title for her 2001 book on alien sightings in Suffolk in 1980. Shortly afterwards, former Tory Secretary of State for Defence Michael Portillo also confided to her on the subject 'I know a lot, but I tell a little'. After a campaign by Bruni and other researchers, the Government last month released scores of secret files on UFO sightings in this country, all of which suggest that aliens can no longer be dismissed merely as the product of fevered imaginations. Certainly the majority of the public now seem to believe that aliens do exist. As the editor of the British UFO magazine, Graham Birdsall, points out: 'Sixty years ago, 90 per cent of the population thought the idea was "absolute rubbish". 'Now every single opinion poll on the subject shows that millions of people firmly believe in UFOs.' Last June, for example, when it was announced that Bonnybridge in Scotland boasted more UFO sightings than any other place in the world,a Sky News poll showed that 65% of its viewers believed in UFOs. Five years earlier - in one of the biggest telephone polls ever conducted on TV - 100,000 viewers phoned ITV to answer the question 'Have aliens already visited Earth?' and 92 per cent voted 'Yes'. 'There's strong evidence to suggest that Earth has been visited by extraterrestrial intelligence,' insists Birdsall. And after my own research I am prepared to admit that it is no longer possible to dismiss people such as Birdsall as 'cranks'. Spielberg, whose film Close Encounters Of The Third Kind dramatically raised the issue of alien encounters for a global audience, is certainly convinced they've happened. Fascinated by the possibility from childhood, he's devoted part of his life to discovering the truth and has become an authority on the subject as a result. But there is a striking difference between Spielberg's approach in his TV series Taken and the one he took two decades ago in ET. This time the aliens he is depicting are not trying to phone home -they're here to subvert, and ultimately control, the human race. And the new TV series, his first since the award-winning Band Of Brothers, is not only about the arrival of aliens, it's also about 'alien abductions'. 'I thought I couldn't do justice to this genre in a two-hour movie,' Spielberg explains. 'We would need a lot more time to do the history of alien abduction,starting back In 1947, right through to today. Watching the first episodes, it's clear that Spielberg has done everything in his power to create a fictional series on the edge of fact. This is no sci-fi comic book, no Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, but a compelling and all too plausible - drama. British UFO expert Mike Soper, of Contact International, is as convinced as Spielberg that alien abductions have happened. THE TELLING fact is that there are features common to all the people's stories,' he maintains. 'They all remember being taken to a craft, and often talk about being "examined". 'Many talk about something being "implanted" in their bodies, and when they return they often have triangular marks on their bodies and aren't wearing exactly the same clothes were before the abduction'. Ministry of Defence civil servant Nick Pope, 37, agrees. 'Abductions most definitely do occur;' he says. 'And although the phrase "alien abductions" is a gift to those people who want to deride it, these are genuine, ordinary people who believe that they have been in extraordinary situations.' Pope isn't a man with an anorak and a slightly weird look in his eye. He is a down-to-earth civil servant who had no interest in aliens at all until 1991, where the MoD. asked him investigate reports of UFOs, allen abductions and other strange phenomena. 'The 100 or so people I interviewed about being abducted by aliens weren't publicity seekers merely after their 15 minutes of fame,' he explains. 'I came to the conclusion that some of these people had to be telling the truth. And if just one of the abductees' reports is true, the implications for the human race would be profound and disturbing.' One person who helped to convince Pope was 37-year-old British-born make-up artist Bridget Grant, whom he met seven years ago. She addressed an audience of 750 people at the British UFO conference in Leeds In 2001, where she talked about her own abduction. She explained that in February 1993, when she was living in Los Angeles, she was driving with a friend in the Brentwood area at 5.50pm one bright; sunny day when she drew up at a set of traffic lights. 'I suddenly saw this silver tip out of the corner of my eye,' she explained. 'Then I saw that it was a solid silver craft, with a red-orange colour underneath it, about 35-45ft in diameter. It came right above the car and I leaned towards the steering wheel and looked up.' The craft 'flew really, really low' over her head, she said, and away to the west. Her friend Jane, sitting in the passenger seat, saw it, too. Grant was so disturbed by the experience that in September 1998 she went to see the American UFO researcher Budd Hopkins, of the Intruders Foundation in New York, to undergo four sessions of 'regressive hypnosis'. She wanted his help to remember the exact details of what happened on that afternoon in 1993 because she thought she had forgotten something. It appeared that she had. For when this pale young woman, with shoulder-length dark hair, addressed the Leeds audience she told them she'd not just seen the spacecraft but had been abducted by it, even though she thought she was in her car the entire time. 'There is often a time shift element in the stories of abduction, where the individual doesn't realise that time has passed,' explains Nick Pope. 'My hands were gripping the steering wheel,' Grant explained to the conference. 'But then I felt a pressure, like my body was being sucked. It felt like all the atoms of my body were going through the steering wheel. 'Then I saw this being. I was fascinated by its appearance - it was transparent, had white hair and was carrying a baby.' Hard though it may be for some to believe, and Grant is reluctant to discuss the events further; there is no doubt that the artists' impression of the being which she said she saw looks uncannily like many of the other descriptions of aliens that have surfaced in recent years. However; as sceptics point out, there have been so many depictions of 'space creatures' with dome heads and large oval eyes that it is hardly surprising that this has become something of a stereotype. When Spielberg was researching the aliens for Close Encounters, he held lengthy consultations with the veteran American astronomer Dr J Allen Hynek a once-fierce critic of UFOs and alien phenomena who changed his mind completely after he became a consultant on the subject for the United States Air Force. Hynek assembled the authoritative American dossier on alien encounters, Project Blue Book, and advised Spielberg what aliens looked like. But the idea that little grey -rather than green - men, with elongated fingers, legs and neck, may actually have visited this country still sounds incredibly far-fetched - until you talk to Georgina Bruni. 'When I interviewed Lady Thatcher a few years ago,' Bruni explains, 'I was describing to her the fact that U.S. military personnel here in Britain had reportedly had contact with aliens, and an alien spacecraft, in R-endlesham Forest in Suffolk in December 1980. 'I expected her to tell me that I'd been watching too many episodes of the X Files. But she didn't look shocked at all: She just sald, twice: "You can't tell the people."' WITH Bruni's encouragement, in the wake of this conversation Lord Hill-Norton, a former Chief of the Defence Staff, tabled l6 Parliamentary questions m the House of Lords as a result of which the Government released more than 20 previously secret files concerning UFOs arid aliens. One of the files revealed that the Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill wanted the matter investigated in 1952. He sent a memo to his scientific adviser, Sir Henry Tizard, asking What does all this stuff about flying saucers amount to? What can it mean? What it is the truth? After several months Tizard reported that all the sightings were "explicable by natural events" although shortly afterwards the Government explicitly banned RAF personnel from discussing sightings with anyone not from the military. The U.S. Government had adopted a similar policy of official secrecy five years earlier; in the wake of a spate of incidents near the U.S. Air Force base at Roswell New Mexico, in July 1947 - incidents that Spielberg uses as him starting point for his TV series. And so the modern history of UFOs, aliens - and official cover-ups was born. British UFO researcher Jenny Randles, who has spent more than 20 years investigating UFO and alien phenomena,maintains that in more recent times alien kidnapping has become much more common. 'An ever growing tide of people suspect that they may be alien abductees,' she says. So is it fact or fiction? I'm not certain, but the evidence of witnesses such as Jason Andrews and Bridget Grant is hard to ignore.And it's clear that as the 21st century begins, opinions are changing. The Government announced recently that it was 'open minded' about the 'existence or otherwise of extraterrestrial life forms' -a markedly different official position from the one taken half a century ago. Perhaps the politicians are beginning to accept that we are not alone. Steven Spielberg certainly does.