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Investigating Ufology 2018

 
                                               
                                                                                                                                        Steve Gray – Copyright

I don’t know a single scientist who would disagree with the statement that the
world is exceedingly ingenious.  Not just mathematical, not just beautiful, not just 
elegant, but the manifestation of something truly extraordinary…
Professor Paul Davies – Physicist/Cosmologist/Author
 
The landscape of ufology is changing radically as ever more sophisticated technology advances and people are influenced by the increasing array of online articles, opinions, UFO conferences, case reports and the media, all immediately accessible and driven by beliefs, perceptions, memory and pure sensationalism used by the media for their readers, viewers and listeners.  There will be more on this later.
  
 A majority of all sighting reports are now visual images and footage often captured on mobile phones.  These images must be submitted with a completed online BUFORA sighting report form, otherwise they cannot be assessed and evaluated by BUFORA.  There are also a percentage of images captured that are not observed with the naked eye at the time of taking the photograph, but only afterwards when reviewing photographs.  They can be the result of many things, including insects flying close to the camera lens or a smudge or raindrops on the lens and reflections (See our image analyst, Mark Easen’s  article Reflecting on UFO images).  Another prevalent feature that can look quite strange are birds which are not noticed at the time of the photograph, but which can give the added dimension of a strange object in the sky.

This particular aspect is a difficult one for BUFORA, as if the photographer believes they have captured an unknown object on camera and they have a strong belief that the image is unknown and therefore cannot have a rational explanation, BUFORA’s image evaluations giving a rational explanation for the image will be ignored, which then asks the question of why they are contacting a UFO organisation in the first place.  It is my opinion and experience that there is a key component that underpins the answer to this and that is the belief in the extra-terrestrial hypothesis, which will be a powerful theme that lies beneath their conviction that their photograph or footage is of non-human origin.

As I wrote in a previous article, there is nothing remotely odd about beliefs, we all have them in one area or another no matter the lack of real evidence or definitive proof.  Beliefs can be all consuming, while we follow all the roads that support those beliefs and avoid the signposts that will lead us to a better understanding of other possibilities.  Beliefs can sometimes be comforting and beneficial as in a belief in a God of our understanding, or in our ability to fulfil goals and ambitions in our careers or life and to believe in imparting values and good judgment to our children.  There are many ways that beliefs can be a positive force in our lives.   Beliefs only become tenuous and negative when we refuse to become informed about a subject on both sides of the debate, using scientific and objective reasoning to allow our opinions, ideas and beliefs to form in a substantial way and thereby come to an informed conclusion about something that we feel is very significant within our lives.

Let us not forget that Ufology has been created by all those involved in this subject, the investigators, the researchers, the witnesses, the media, the writers, documentary film makers and of course UFO organisations and an increasing number of conferences.   Let evaluate all the parts that come together to create what is loosely known as the UFO phenomenon, one step at a time…

The Investigators

The opinion and beliefs of the investigators will drive the assessment of sighting and high strangeness reports and although this may not be at a conscious level, this may sometimes add to the less than robust and objective evaluation of these reports to the various UFO groups.  Therefore, beliefs can sometimes play an intrinsic part of how a perceived strange sighting or experience is investigated. 
 
Investigation is at the cutting edge of how the subject is understood in the first place, as objective assessment of  sighting reports is critical  in how it develops on the onward journey with regard to the media, conferences, documentaries, books and articles, which will then build a construct of the nature of the UFO subject lead by either rigorous investigation and research, or belief driven investigation resulting in the muddied and uncharted waters of the present trends of modern ufology.  So, in many ways nothing has changed and as a new, younger generation build the roadmaps for ufology today, the narrative changes very little and is foggier than it ever was.

Investigators have a primary responsibility to those reporting sightings and perceived high strangeness experiences to be informed about the possible very rational explanations for these sightings and experiences.  The fact that someone approaches a UFO organisation in the first place means that the witness feels that their experience was related to the idea of something unknown in our skies or, more significantly, they interpret their strange experiences as being linked to something of extra-terrestrial origin.  This will always be based on their beliefs, perceptions, memory and interpretation of a curious incident.  It is a perfectly human thing to do based on all of those things.

The Media

The media can be a primary source of influencing and reinforcing public opinion about UFOs and the diverse debates on the nature of unidentified aerial phenomena, because of the belief, for some, that UFO=extra-terrestrial vehicles.  Of course it is the case that there is a powerful impact from our relationship with the media in every area of our lives. It is up to the individual to have as much information as possible to enable them to make their own judgement and evaluations about a particular area of interest, such as unidentified aerial phenomena.  It is also the case within the media, and particularly with irresponsible investigative reporting, that sensationalism is the key to how the UFO subject is presented to the public.  
 
Attracting readers, viewers and listeners means using a dramatic and spectacular approach to captivate an audience.  Let’s face it we all love drama and mystery, something which operates outside the parameters which we understand.


 
Photograph by Bill Rose (copyright)
 
The Witness

Sighting reports to BUFORA from the members of the public are given via the BUFORA sighting report form, which must be completed by them for an assessment to be carried out.  This form is very important for BUFORA even though some people are unhappy when having to complete forms.  It is, however, a simple form and asks the relevant questions which BUFORA needs in order to evaluate a sighting.  Therefore, it is the case that when we receive phone calls or emails regarding a sighting report, we must request that the person takes the time to complete the form.

BUFORA also receives a percentage of historical sighting reports, and these can, sometimes, go back many years and on occasion more than fifty years ago.  Obviously, there can be problems when a witness presents a sighting from so many years ago as there are many parts to consider, such as memory and how a witness recalls their sighting or experience after so many years.   Years on, there can be many images that they perceive to be associated with their sighting/experiences which have been downloaded into their subconscious mind from the internet, documentaries, the media, science fiction movies and all manner of memories that may have been ‘added’ to their memory of the original event. 
  
This can give an inaccurate understanding and memory of their experience, therefore it can be a very difficult road for the investigator to follow, notwithstanding the fact that after so many years, it is difficult to follow up the report with any kind of robust investigation.  However, BUFORA’s extensive collection of archives may give further information of historical reports by  people providing  dates, time and location are reported with some degree of reasonable accuracy..

Further problems with sighting reports come under two categories:

1.  Sightings that are linked together with other features such as a physical trace in a field or a garden, when the person who has a curious sighting then links an odd feature in the surrounding environment as definitely being linked to their sighting of a strange light or object in the sky. This can also involve another person who reports a sighting in the same area around the same time.
 
Problems arise here as a perceived physical trace that a witness may feel is related to their sighting may bear no relation to their sighting and is completely independent of their observation. For example several reports that BUFORA received consisted of a sighting of an odd light in the sky and then a circle of dead grass in an otherwise healthy garden or field, which can be reported as if the two things are related. This circle of grass very often turns out to be a common occurrence of fungi, which is very familiar to gardeners, and has nothing to do with the person’s  sighting. 
 
2. Where there is more than one witness, independent of the others claiming to have observed the same anomaly, this can also be problematic as they may have observed an object or light not connected to the primary sighting and therefore both witnesses need to complete the report form in order to gain insight as to whether both witnesses actually were observing the same object.

The Investigators Training Course (ITC)

Before I move on to address the areas of high strangeness cases, I would like to give an update regarding the BUFORA Investigators Training Course (ITC).  There have been many enquiries regarding the course this year and I would like to summarise the information of what is involved with enrolling on the course.

The ITC gives candidates an understanding of the reality of the lights and objects that can be observed and misidentified in the sky, and the list is huge.  Therefore, the course comes in six modules addressing each area of this list, which includes environmental, technological, astronomical and atmospheric phenomena, which can often look unusual and highly strange in the night sky.  Also included is a module on sighting reports that include photographs or video footage, which are very prevalent in the last few years as everyone has a phone camera and will often take photographs of something, they perceive to be strange in the night sky.  Also included is a module on sighting reports that include photographs or video 
 
There is also an Examination which is loosely based on a high strangeness case.  The course can take several months to complete and there is month allowed for completion of each module.

When someone wishes to enrol on to the ITC, the initial stage is a telephone call with me in order to establish the potential candidate’s knowledge of the subject and to discuss the pre-ITC preparation, which involves some reading of various articles, the BUFORA Code of Practice, which must be signed prior to enrolment, completed Investigator’s Questionnaire etc.  This will require a little time before enrolment.

Within the experience of BUFORA investigators and more specifically BUFORA image analysts, it is the case that up to 98% of all sighting reports can have a rational explanation provided they are reported within a few days and with full supporting and detailed information via the BUFORA sighting report form.  The high percentage of sightings that can be explained becomes more evident after the course has been completed.

Strange Places and extraordinary human experiences



BUFORA has seen an increase in high strangeness reports over the last few years , which are puzzling in some cases as to why reports that do not include sightings of perceived strange objects and lights in the sky are reported to a UFO organization at all.
 
I believe that there are many possible justifications for the thinking behind this and it is essential that we try to understand the underlying dynamics that create the reasoning that lie at the core of what people perceive to be more exotic and complex experiences, which they relate to being UFO encounters.

There are several key factors that can draw people to believe they have experienced an alien encounter, with reports of being ‘abducted’ by extra-terrestrial beings, from a diverse number of locations, including their bedroom and their home. So, what is going on, is it possible there is an objective truth in these narratives or is modern day interpretation, belief and memory the key to finding explanations for these high strangeness reports to BUFORA, other than an alien encounter?

Let us journey back to the nineties when claims of encounters with alien beings and being taken aboard an extra-terrestrial vehicle to undergo examination and experimentation were a prevalent feature within many UFO organizations with a huge media profile supporting these claims, particularly in the United States.  In addition there were many UFO conferences all over the UK and UFO newsstand publications, UFO books and articles were at an all-time high, not always based on robust and rigorous investigation and research, but often written in a style to captivate an audience  who had come to expect an incredible and thrilling array of speakers at UFO conferences who would reflect the audience’s  own beliefs and interpretation of perceived curious personal experiences.   Our attention is often focused on ideas and opinions that will reinforce our reliance upon certain beliefs that we have, and the sureness in the reality of these ideologies.  The ‘facts’ become superfluous  and we can become overwhelmed with the idea of cover-ups and conspiracies that are being used against what we believe to be true.
 
In a way it was a different era, as the internet and the modern technology of today had not evolved to the standard and pace of today, twenty plus years on. UFO sites are now numerous on an international scale giving more and more unchecked and unchallenged information in the modern trend of how the UFO subject backlogs the internet. 
 
UFO conferences are increasing dramatically with the idea of very exotic alien experiences becoming almost normalized.  The interpretation of high strangeness experiences are mimicking encounters with extra-terrestrial beings as belief, memory and interpretation coordinate with the preconception that these experiences are actual contact with alien beings.  Could this be the case and where is the definitive proof for this?  In my research and investigations over many years, I have never found any definitive proof that people are having experiences with an extra-terrestrial presence.  

Definitive evidence of alien encounters is of course different to anecdotal narratives about extraordinary human experiences and how these are interpreted, so they remain just that, remarkable tales from people who have experienced mysterious incidents during their lives.
 
The Unconscious Mind




It is interesting as to how people interpret strange and unknown experiences with familiar UFO imagery downloaded into their subconscious to explain odd events that have occurred.  Human imagination knows no boundaries to curtail the exquisite and the extraordinary, so the imaginative contribution  extends the already familiar UFO imagery to try to understand the nature of their experience.  This can result in somewhat compelling stories that are indeed much stranger than fiction.

Those who feel they have undergone such puzzling experiences look for answers in many ways and these can depend upon their beliefs as to how they interpret these perceived events, so they contact people and organizations that will reflect and reinforce these beliefs, unwittingly at times.

It is the case that within BUFORA in the last few years there has been an increase in high strangeness reports.  These are reports where people feel that the nature of their experience is persuasive ‘evidence’ they have had an extra-terrestrial encounter.  They are absolutely convinced by this because of their irresistible belief  that an alien presence is responsible for what has occurred.  When beliefs are such a powerful force, then whatever convincing evidence and rational explanations are given - and there are many -  the person reporting alien encounters cannot take on board any other possibility, no matter how substantial the evidence is that their experience can be explained.

What then appears to happen, is that the witness seeks out an organization who will reflect and reinforce their ‘understanding’ of the reality of their experience and what they absolutely believe to be true.  This then presents the problem that an objective understanding of their experience cannot be a factor as there is no informed debate from other perspectives and the scientific community for witnesses to ponder and possibly come to a different conclusion as to the specific nature of that experience.

I would like to illustrate this with a very recent email to BUFORA enquiries asking for help because of a perceived very strange experience, which the lady concerned interpreted as being a visitation by an unknown entity.  Below are details of the email dialogue between BUFORA and this person.
The lady reported feeling very confused and not knowing who else to tell as she had awoken the other night to see a mist in her bedroom and when she looked around the room, saw a small figure at the end of her bed.  She reported this figure as completely white with huge eyes and a small mouth with two arms by the side of its’ chest.  She looked away and when she looked back it has gone.

She reports not being scared and went back to sleep.  Upon awakening she reports having two large bruises on her legs in the same place.  She then goes on to say that we will probably say she was dreaming, but she knows that she was awake and is worried that she is going mad.

I responded as below:

Thank you for your email about your strange dreamlike experience.
 
Below is a link that may explain what occurred.
 
Sleep disorders such as sleep paralysis and hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations can sometimes lead a witness to believe they have had a strange experience. This is the altered state of consciousness between waking and sleeping and the reverse.  These altered states prepare us for sleep and we can experience visual and auditory perceptions during this time that appear very real to us, but they are not occurring in a   physically real sense. These altered states can exist together with sleep paralysis, which adds to the impact of how a person 'understands' an unknown experience.  During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the body is paralysed in order to prevent people from 'acting  out' their dreams so that injuries do not occur - this is known as sleep paralysis.  I would highly recommend you read articles on this  subject by Dr Chris French, which can be accessed on the internet. Also a couple of links below:
 
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-real-life-nightmare-of-sleep-paralysis/

https://vimeo.com/11459308
 
This may be an explanation for your experience.
 
Her response was interesting…
 
She thanked me for the reply but felt that the explanation was a problem because she was not paralysed and able to move throughout this experience.  She felt maybe she was over-reacting, but she was now scared to go to sleep in case ‘it comes back’. She said she had attached a picture of her bruises as she had looked at photographs on the internet and found s similar picture of the figure that she saw, although she states it was not as defined and had much bigger eyes.
 
I responded again…
 
With regard to sleep paralysis and the fact you were able to move,  your dream experience could still be to do with hypnagogic  hallucinations.  This altered state of consciousness between waking  and sleeping and sleeping and waking can appear very, very real to us.  In  fact we can experiences visual, auditory and a sense of a presence in  the room.  During this stage of the process of going to sleep, this  altered state of consciousness appears to be much more than a dream  and it can reflect your beliefs in the idea of an extra-terrestrial  presence.
 
From what you have said, it seems that you have tried to get validation and information from the internet about your experience. There are a lot of unsubstantiated reports on the internet about this subject and high strangeness experiences.  These can only serve to make you feel as though something very curious has occurred and  reinforce your beliefs that there was an objective reality to your dream.
 
With regard to the bruises on your legs, I doubt this has anything to do with your 'dreamlike' experience.  Is it possible that you may have had these already, but connected them to this experience?
 
Below is a link regarding hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations, which, I hope, will be of help to you.  Do read this and I would also advise you that possibly making an appointment with your GP may help you to understand the nature of your experience.
 
https://patient.info/doctor/hypnagogic-hallucinations

(This is an excellent link and meant for clinicians but gives extensive information about hypnagogic hallucinations before sleeping or waking where they are known as hypnopompic hallucinations.  It is hugely important for all those investigators who receive this type of high strangeness report.)

The lady’s response was positive…

She thanked me and said the link made ‘total sense’ to her.  She also said that she takes the antidepressant venlafaxine.  This may have been contributory factor in her strange experience.   She felt she would now be able to sleep and would talk with her GP about what has been going on.
It is always rewarding for BUFORA when we can help a witness who feels they have experienced a very strange and unknown incident, which they have interpreted and perceived to be something extra-terrestrial in origin.  We then attempt to give them a rational explanation by exploring the nature of their experiences and give definition and clarification so that they can understand the wide-ranging probabilities for what may have happened to them. 

Sadly, it is the case that the above case is in the minority of the high strangeness narratives that BUFORA receives, where the witness is open to the idea that there are indeed other explanations for what they experienced.  A powerful belief system can be the core of why a person will never agree that their experience may have a far more rational explanation. They *know* what happened to them and they must have validation to fit those beliefs.

Other emails that BUFORA receive relating to perceived high strangeness experiences ask about hypnosis to unlock their memory of that experience.  BUFORA do not only never recommend hypnosis to be used as an investigative method of eliciting the truth  of these experiences, but also have a moratorium on any BUFORA investigator using hypnosis as a method of recovering the truth about a perceived strange experience.

Below is an extract from an interview many years ago with Judy Jaafar, a clinical hypnotherapist and past BUFORA accredited investigator of twenty years, which is recommended reading for anyone considering using hypnosis in this way:

HYPNOSIS AND MEMORY
JUDY JAAFAR IN CONVERSATION WITH HEATHER DIXON


                                                                                                                                             Copyright Bill Rose
 
HD: Judy, during our conversation you mentioned memory and the very controversial issues with memory retrieval. As an experienced therapist in Clinical Hypnosis, you are acutely aware of the problems concerning memory and the way it works. This is very important in the area of claims of alien abduction and the way regression hypnosis has been used in many cases to elicit an objective truth about these experiences. This is of course at the cutting edge of the tremendous problems in the area of abduction issues that have been creating continuing debates for some time now. I would be very interested in your thoughts in this area.

JJ: In my reading over the years, particularly into alien abduction accounts from American researchers, I have always felt very uncomfortable when I was reading the transcripts of hypnotic regressions.  I always suspected that in some way this wasn’t right. It was a gut feeling I had that this was not the correct thing to do and what really bothered me about regression hypnosis was that the witness does not understand anything about hypnosis. It is a very powerful tool and can be dangerous when used irresponsibly, and no matter what fantasy a witness might come up with during hypnosis, it has to be remembered that under a hypnotic trance state your capacity for imagination and fantasy is probably doubled or trebled.
So whatever experience they describe, during hypnosis as far as the abduction scenario is concerned, and when a recording or transcript is taken, this has now become a real event for them, irrespective of whether it actually happened or not.  It is now real - and that really bothered me because I felt that we were dealing with someone’s mental health - for the rest of their lives.  Because they’ve been hypnotised, they really believe that they must be telling the absolute truth because they have this peculiar notion that hypnosis is like a truth drug, but it certainly isn’t! 

They feel that this must have really happened to them the way they imagined it under hypnotism and that is a huge responsibility for their therapist to take on and it is not one that I would ever want.  These were my feelings about it before I ever studied hypnosis and obviously it has been a bone of contention in ufological circles for years now.  BUFORA holds a moratorium on the use of hypnosis and we have had problems from other groups about this, so I decided, purely out of curiosity and in order to make an informed judgement, that I would go and study hypnosis myself and find out what this is all about, and I’m afraid that every concern I had about hypnosis has been confirmed during this course. 

The literature about hypnosis has been around for a very long time and it was modern hypnosis that was pioneered during the latter part of the nineteenth century by some French doctors working in Paris. They were medical doctors, medically as well as psychologically qualified, and they took up hypnosis as an experiment to find out what it was all about, and what they found out still stands today. Someone who is under hypnosis is highly suggestible, highly imaginative and, something which is conveniently forgotten nowadays in hypnosis study, highly telepathic. Experiments were conducted that proved beyond a doubt, that certain subjects were highly telepathic under hypnosis, much more so than in a normal conscious state. No-one really knows how hypnosis works, but there are actually eight different theories to explain it and not one of them actually explains it completely, but there will be a part with which you can identify.  A hypnotic trance is a strange situation.

One thing that I’ve learned, which is actually very interesting, is the problem of memory retrieval under hypnosis.  Memory as we understand it at the moment is deemed to be part of the unconscious mind, not the conscious mind, and when you experience anything, the first avenue of experience is your sensory memory, which takes in all the data on the spot, immediately.  It is then passed very quickly into your short-term memory where it is processed and if this is emotionally significant enough for you to remember it, to bring it out at a later date, it is then processed and coded into your long-term memory.  Now long-term memory is a function of the unconscious mind, not of the logical, analytical, conscious mind. The unconscious does not work in language, logic, reason, rationality - that is the conscious mind.  The unconscious works in symbols and metaphors and images, which is therefore a non-verbal recording.  Symbols, metaphors, emotions and perceptions; most people don’t know that every single emotion you have comes from your unconscious mind and is not a product of your mental analysis of anything. That is why emotions are so hard to deal with; you can’t shut them off or turn them on, because they are part of your unconscious mind.  Memory also resides here in your unconscious mind, so you have to understand that anything that you are memorising, (apart from what we call conscious learning, where you have to memorise information say for an exam, that is a conscious process) or anything you are picking up perception-wise, feelings-wise, in your day-to-day life, will bypass your conscious mind totally, and go straight into the unconscious memory banks. 

The only way you can retrieve that memory is to go into the unconscious and pull it out, but you cannot converse in logical language with the unconscious mind. It will bring forth something that is a metaphor for what you are actually looking for, so therefore when you are retrieving memories from your long-term memory, it will be coming back as a series of perceptions, images, feelings and emotions. It is very contextual and very dependent on how it is being coded in the first place.  How you are going to retrieve it depends on all of these things. It is not a cut and dried process, unlike going to a video cabinet in your house and thinking ‘ah that is the video I want to look at again’ and pulling it out and it still remains the same as when it was recorded.  This does not happen with memory - not at all.  Once it has been processed and then coded, the decoding process is very complicated and will not make you re-live an event.  It will give you a feeling of an event and it will concentrate mainly on your feelings at that time, not on the actual objective, chronological order of things that were happening.  It will pull that out of your memory as a feeling, an emotion, and a perception and this is where we come to the really sticky stuff about regression hypnosis.
 
You take someone back for example to ‘missing time’ where they have no conscious memory of any event, so therefore the analytical, logical, judgemental process cannot be brought to bear on the situation. Immediately the witness has to delve into their unconscious mind, which as I have explained is actually an emotional storage house, but their retrieved memory that they may then come up with, is based on their emotional feelings when they are being put under hypnosis.  If they are fearful that they have been abducted by aliens because they have ‘missing time’ and they have read about ‘aliens’ and ‘missing time’ that fear will then present in whatever memory they can come up with then and if they are afraid, they will have a fearful memory of an event in their past because they actually have no logical conscious memory of anything. They go directly to the unconscious mind, which is a wonderful, dreamlike fantasy factory.  It is so important in our lives, we need to be able to do this otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it.  It sorts out all of your emotions, it is not like a filing cabinet, it is not an archive - it is an emotional repository to access every day of our lives; to keep our mental health balance.  And this is what you are sending your witness into, totally unprepared, they don’t know what they are looking for except that they feel they have been abducted by aliens otherwise they wouldn’t be with a ufologist in the first place.   They have already made up their mind that this is what must have occurred, and you go into your unconscious with that conscious thought in your head and it is very likely that you will come up with a scenario where that is exactly what happened, because that is what you are expecting.  Your mind will accommodate you beautifully and it goes into psycho-drama mode filling in the spaces, confabulating, giving you meaning where there was no meaning before.  But the meaning is a purely emotional, psychological meaning.  The meaning has no need necessarily to have any objective content at all.
 

A Light at the end of the UFO Tunnel?
 
                                                                 
 
After exploring all the parts that connect to make up the complex subject loosely defined as the UFO narrative, we realise that there are still parts missing as the more we delve into trying to understand what lies beneath, the more we may conclude that central to understanding  of all of the sightings, strange stories, extraordinary human experiences and  exotic encounters is the human factor, which lies at the heart of so many mysteries. 

This is not to say that there no mysteries.  My twenty five  years of experience in the field of curious, unfamiliar and eerily strange has taken me on a journey of discovery in the exploration of puzzling sightings and up-close encounters with perceived unknown phenomena.  What I have learned is that many mysteries can and do have a rational explanation with robust and rigorous investigative methods, combined with an objective understanding of memory and beliefs and how these can play on our interpretation of anomalous events in our lives.

However, in my opinion and experience after so many years involved in ufology and strange phenomena, there are some mysteries that remain unexplained by conventional science which continue to persist, and which appear to have no reasonable explanation.  The problem is in identifying the category in which they remain a mystery, because perceived odd sightings, experiences and incidents are always open to interpretation and that interpretation will usually be based on our beliefs, memory and the infinite number  of images that have been ‘downloaded’ to our subconscious through our lives.  This is a perfectly normal mechanism that we use to explain the extraordinary, or something unknown to us as the brain needs to try to identify everything. 

Strange incidents, extraordinary experiences, sightings and all manner of odd events are often reinforced by our underlying beliefs as to what is happening so we may feel that an unexplained feeling or experience is related to an alien encounter – if we believe in the idea of  extra-terrestrial visitation. However, if we are religious we may interpret a strange vision as being related to God, the Virgin Mary, angels or possibly something demonic in nature.  If we are interested in paranormal phenomena, we may interpret the sense of a presence as being ghostly or an apparition or possibly we may use our interest in mythology and folklore to explain our vision as being connected to the fairy world and folklore.  It is always a question of how we interpret something we don’t understand by using our beliefs to reflect how we feel, talk about or report an unknown experience.
Trying to understand something that we cannot comprehend is a huge problem, as we will use whatever imagery we have at our disposal to explain the unknown.  The brain needs to match the unknown with the known and so travels through millions of images to find a likeness for what we have experienced or observed, therein giving an acceptable solution.
 
Mysteries have always been with us and in some ways they have changed as they have evolved to suit modern day trends and cultures, in other words the way we interpret mysteries align with the times in which we live.  They can reflect our deepest fears and our hopes and dreams in looking beyond the familiar to something more, which we could find comforting, incredible, glorious … and attainable.

So, back to the question at the beginning of this chapter – Is there a light at the end of the UFO tunnel?  I believe there are  and there  will be many lights at the end of this tunnel, some much brighter than others, as  new generations explore the UFO mystery backed up with futuristic science and  technology in which to  re-examine what actually defines the UFO mystery and whether there is indeed a mystery at all in terms of extra-terrestrial activity in our sky or visiting our planet.

It may be, too, that what is perceived as the UFO mystery will be redefined omitting any of the familiar words, phrases and dialogues and this will ultimately be understood and interpreted in a very different way.

The Eye of the Storm

                                                                            

The work of BUFORA over a half a century on:

BUFORA is a voluntary organisation with dedicated volunteers contributing to the investigation and research of unidentified aerial phenomena, over its existence of a huge number of years.  These volunteers, past and present, have devoted many hours of their time in trying to create some clarity and understanding as to the nature of the UFO subject as discussed above.

The subject has evolved in a way during these years as a complex network with a considerable diversity of views of the multi-faceted parts that appear to come together, upon examination of the subject.  To reiterate, modern technology has opened a gateway to endless possibilities, and in some ways has redefined the subject in very different ways today making it ever fuzzier as to the exact nature and meaning of the subject.  In fact, in my opinion, the more information that comes to light as you attempt to comprehend the many and diverse sightings, visual and high strangeness reports, the less you realise you actually understand at all about mysteries that appear to lie outside our familiar framework,  and the more tangled and problematic it becomes.  

As many researchers over years have discovered, this subject encompasses a diverse landscape of many parts often connecting to give a more stable and rational understanding of what would be considered extraordinary by ordinary people.  These parts include some scientific disciplines, such as astronomy and psychology, folklore and mythology, the paranormal, religion and, on occasion, neuroscience.

The crucial essence of this area of study is the ‘human face’ of ufology and how we perceive, interpret and remember a perceived strange or traumatic event. These perceptions are sometimes based and influenced by powerful belief systems, which can create muddied waters for the investigators, researchers, writers and media.  Therefore, there is an enormous amount of information and debate to absorb and reflect upon before developing our own ideas of the possibilities of these mysteries.

Within BUFORA we always try to investigate in an objective and robust way, dealing only with the facts of the sighting as reported by the witness.  Even this can be difficult for the investigator as we are reliant on the accuracy of the completed sighting report, which can depend on many things including our angles of viewing along an apparent trajectory, plus height, distance and speed is extremely difficult to judge in a night sky. Add to this beliefs, perception and interpretation and this can contribute to a less than objective report and description of a reported sighting and/or photograph.
To conclude this article, I would like to extend huge thanks to all my BUFORA colleagues for the enormous amount of work that is involved with investigation of sighting reports, visual images and footage.  As was stated in this article, photographs and video footage now compose a majority of all the reports we receive and have been for several years, as many members of the public capture images on their camera phones when they observe lights or objects in the sky that they perceive to be strange or of unknown origin.  I would specifically like to thank Mark Easen and Dave Newton for their dedication and invaluable work in their evaluations of images that BUFORA receives.  This can be a definitive identification, but also possibilities for a particular image if the quality of the photograph is not good and the supporting information to the photograph or footage does not give an accurate understanding of the image they have captured.  During 2018, they have conducted excellent work in their rigorous evaluations of a huge number of photographs and footage that have been received by BUFORA, in conjunction with the completed BUFORA sighting report form for full supporting information.

I would also like to acknowledge Mark Easen for his invaluable support and help in tutoring the BUFORA Investigators’ training course. This course is at the cutting edge of investigation giving a fundamental and critical understanding of what can be observed and misidentified in the sky as already stated in this article.  It also contributes to an understanding of high strangeness experiences as addressed in the Course Examination Paper.

My thanks and appreciation also go the Michael Hudson, who has achieved so much in uploading all BUFORA publications to our website.  These include all our Conference papers and journals over many years, which are now available online to read free of charge.

Vehicle Interference Report
 

 
In addition, a major project, documented over many years by Michael Hudson and Geoff Falla  entitled ‘The BUFORA Vehicle Interference Report (VIR)’ has now  been made  available as a hard copy publication.  This can now be purchased from BUFORA for £19.99 (including postage within the UK) A4 Softcover 283 pages. Please email michael@bufora.org.uk to obtain your copy and for postage charges outside of the UK.
 
I also like to give my thanks  and appreciation to Tony Eccles, BUFORA’s Treasurer and Research Coordinator for all his valued work for BUFORA over many years.

Last, but certainly not least, and on behalf of BUFORA, I would like to give huge thanks and appreciation to John Wickham, who sadly left BUFORA a few months ago.  John was the BUFORA Chairman for several years in addition to his role of   BUFORA’s Press Officer and dealing with the media and press over many years keeping BUFORA’s image of objective and rigorous investigations and research alive and well.  Thank you John and we miss you and wish you very good things for your future.

BUFORA continue to receive a vast array of sighting and visual reports and 2018 has been a very busy year for all my colleagues in following up these sightings and the huge amount of analyses of photographs and footage in addition to dealing with many enquiries, questions and people wanting to connect with BUFORA.

Finally, I want to acknowledge everyone who take the time to send in their completed sighting report forms, photographs, video footage, thoughts, comments and questions.  It is because of your continued support and contact that  BUFORA are still here fifty-six years on,  and able to carry out investigation and research into sightings and those who report perceived high strangeness experiences.  This teaches us all – witnesses and researchers – the reality of how we interpret and try to understand what we perceive as unusual phenomena observed in our skies and what we feel are extraordinary human experiences. 

I wish every one of you a very Happy New Year in 2019.
Heather Dixon
December 2018