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Steve Gamble

What is a UFO?

A UFO is an Unidentified Flying Object.

It is "Something seen in the sky (or on the land, or expceptionally in the water, but thought capable of flight) which the witness could not identify and thought sufficently strange to report to either an offical or unoffical investigating body".

A UFO is the stimulus for a UFO report made by a UFO witness. UFO researchers (often called UFOlogists) study UFO reports and witnesses. UFO researchers cannot directly study UFOs. There are some reports in the literature of different governments recovering craft thought to cause UFO reports, but most of these reports are speculative. The study of UFO reports is referred to as UFOlogy. This implies a scientific basis to the study, when in practice very little scientific research is carried out. After careful investigation about 90% of all UFO reports can be reasonably explained as either natural phenomena or misidentification of normal manmade devices. Sometimes the term IFO is used for these Identified Flying Objects. Those cases which are identified as natural phenomena are often rare or short lived and are worthy of study in their own right.

In the early days of investigation used interchangably with the term 'Flying Saucer'. More recently the term Flying Saucer has fallen into disuse, although some researchers use it as a term to specifically refer to an extraterrestrial spacecraft.

What is an alien?

According to my dictionary :

ALIEN - belonging to another : a foreign-born resident of a country in which he is not naturalized

Therefore the term alien means, more or less, somebody or something that is in the wrong place. It should be noted that whilst extraterrestrial beings might be a sub-group of aliens, not all aliens are (necessarily) extra- terrestrial. Some people use the term 'space aliens' to refer explicitly to extraterrestrial beings.

Classification of UFO Reports

The main classification of UFO reports in use is based upon one used by Dr J. Allen Hynek in his book "The UFO Experience" (Aberlard-Schuman 1972). It should be noted that many other classification systems have been devised by other researchers. Briefly the Hynek system (with the most commonly used extensions) is :
NL (nocturnal light)
A simple visual sighting of a unidentified flying light seen at night. This group contains 35 to 40 percent of all UFO reports.
ND (nocturnal disc)
A simple visual sighting of a unidentified flying extended or structured light source seen at night. (This is an extension to Hynek's system).
DD (daylight disc)
A simple visual sighting of a UFO with distinct shape seen during the day.
Radar Cases
UFOs detected by radar alone. In more recent years fewer cases involving radar have hit the press. This could be because of a number of factors, for example the government is better at suppressing these reports, or there has been a change in the nature of the phenomenon which makes it less detectable or that many of the early reports were the result of spurious events and false positives which are handled better by more modern equipment.
Radar Visual Cases
UFOs observed visually whilst being simulataneously on radar. From Hynek's study these make up 1 to 2% of reports.
Close Encounters of the first kind (CE1, CEI)
As first defined by Hynek, a CE1 is an observation of a UFO within 150 yards.
Close Encounters of the second kind (CE2, CEII)
A UFO which leaves some form of physical evidence Example: A burn where the UFO appeared to touch the ground or the finding of material of unknown makeup.
Close Encounters of the third kind (CE3, CEIII)
A visual sighting of an occupant or entity associated with a UFO. An analysis by Hynek of 650 reports found only 1% to be CE3. These entities are sometimes called UFOnauts.

As well as entities seen inside a craft, entities have been described as sampling soil, rocks and plants or might communicate with the witness. These witnesses are sometimes referred to as contactees. As well as communication, the witness may report that they were invited on board a craft or even taken for a trip.

Although included with UFOs, when dealing with contactees the researcher is dealing with a case of something clearly identified by the witness as some form of craft (without specifying the origin of that craft). Strictly speaking the object is no longer unidentified.

(Close Encounters beyond the third kind are extensions to the basic Hynek system. Different authors have used the same designation to mean different things.)
Close Encounters of the fourth kind (CE4, CEIV)
An abduction of an individual by an alien being or race. The most famous of these being the abduction of Betty and Barney Hill in September 1961. (Hynek included this case in his CE3 category.) Although in recent years abductions have, because of their spectacular nature, received a great deal of publicity, they constitute only a small proportion of all UFO reports.

Close Encounters of the fifth kind (CE5, CEV)
Sometimes used to represent a direct contact or communication with alien being or race. For example: Billie Meier with the Pleiadians, U.S.Govt. with the Greys, or channeling.

Other researchers have used this classification for strange beings that have been reported, but without the obvious presence of a 'craft'. These beings are generally seen in the witnesses house at night. Their description is similar to the beings seen associated with UFOs in abduction and contactee cases. Sometimes they are called 'bedroom visitors', the same set of reports have been classified as CE0 (zero) and CE9 by other groups of researchers.

It must be remembered that, after careful investigation, over 90% of UFO reports can be reasonably explained as manmade or natural phenomena. The late Charles H. Gibbs-Smith (aviation historian to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London) had something he called Gibbs-Smith's rule which is worth keeping in mind when studying UFO reports. It states that "the strangeness of a case increases in proportion to the distance, in either time or geographical distance, between the investigator and the location of the report."

Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI)

For many years there have been small unco-ordinated projects to search for evidence to extraterrestrial life. These have been mainly by looking for unexpected radio transmissions using radio-telescopes. Over the past couple of years NASA has funded a co-ordinated effort to scan the whole sky over a wide range of frequencies. The SETI project was cut from the 1994 NASA budget, however donations have been obtained from a number of individuals which will allow it to continue as a private project but at a lower level of activity.

What do we really know about life elsewhere in the universe?

There has been much speculation about life elsewhere in the universe. Unless UFO contactee and abductee reports are evidence of visitation by beings from elsewhere in the universe, there is very little evidence.

Much of the speculation centres around something called tha Drake Equation. This attempts to estimate the number of civilisations in the universe by using a number of inprecise variables. The only planet where we have firm evidence of there being civilisation is a place called Earth.

Evidence of planets around other star systems has relied upon complex calculations based upon minute variations in the star's 'wobble' about its axis. Recent improvements in imaging systems have improved the reliability of these observations. It is likely that the smallest extra-solar planets detected are two to three times the mass of Jupiter. There is no detailed information on the structure or conditions on these planets. It is not known if any of these planets could support life.

Many of the molecules believed to be essential to the formation of life have been detected in interstellar space. Amino acids have been found in some meteorites. These tend to be equal mixes of left and right handed forms, which is more likely to be the result of a chemical rather than a biological process.

Types of Aliens

Over the years many different researchers have made studies of contactee, abduction and other cases where entities have been described associated with flying saucers or other UFOs. These researchers have produced reports which describe around 12 different types of alien.

The most widely reported type of alien is a small grey being approximately 1.0m-1.25m in height, with large oval black eyes. Reports of this type have been widely reported by the media, perhaps as a result of the books by Budd Hopkins, David Jacobs and Whitley Streiber.

Many abductees have described meeting european looking aliens, around 1.75m tall with long blond hair. These aliens are often referred to as 'Venusians'. They were first reported by George Adamski reporting a series of encounters in the early 1950s. He stated that they told him they were from Venus and the name has stuck since.

The Channelers believe that the abductions are part of a battle between good energy forces and evil energy forces.

About Abductions

There are many people who believe they have been abducted by UFOnauts. These abduction victims often experience memory loss and "missing time". some of them have been able to recall their abductions from memory and others have recalled their abductions by the aid of hypnosis. Often these encounters involve being taken aboard an alien craft and examined by the UFOnauts and put through a variety of physical and mental procedures. Then the individuals are returned. Many of the abduction victims have shown signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Some of the major researchers who have studied the abduction field include Budd Hopkins, David Jacobs, Leo Sprinkle, John Mack, Philip Klass, John Spencer and Jenny Randles.

The opinions of some skeptics such as Klass believe that the hypnotists themselves are leading the abduction victims unknowingly into believing that they have had an abduction experience. The skeptics believe that the the media has been saturated so much with the abduction material that when people having nightmares or people who believe that they have experienced the "missing time" are put under hypnosis, they draw upon what they have seen in the media to fulfill the expectations of the hypnotist and causes themselves to be put trough the trauma for that reason. They say the nightmares are often caused by the sleeping disorder narcolepsy, and the "missing time" is not an uncommon experience and is caused when the mind is preoccupied by other matters. They often give the advice to go to clinical doctors, and not to contact an abductionist.

Other researchers such as Jacobs and Hopkins believe that there is something physical causing the abduction experiences. Hopkins has stated that he believes that the abduction are real and that the recounts of the abductions are to similar to each other to be anything but the truth. Jacobs takes a slightly different approach, he has been categorizing all the accounts and trying to find patterns in the testimonies.

There people on the net who believe they have had personal experiences with Alien contacts or abductions. Some have posted accounts of their experiences. Many others decline to post due to attacks by skeptics.

There has been possible material evidence of UFOs or Alien contacts. There are abundant material traces, even excepting those confiscated by the military. Material traces include burned grass and earth where UFOs have landed, UFOs shown on radar tapes, UFOs on film and in photos. Bodily traces on abductees include scoop-marks in the flesh, incisions, burns, apparent radiation exposure, bruises, inflammation, etc. Whether any of these is considered *evidential*, however, is a subjective value call.

UFO Theories & Controversies

There are many theories of UFO origins. These include that UFOs (and associated aliens) are some form of advanced technology, perhaps extraterrestrial; that UFOs might be time travellers; that UFOs might be some form of new natural phenomenon; and the UFOs might be some form of psychic phenomenon.

In common with other cases where there are more than two theories to explain an event, nobody really knows what the true explanation is.

US Government Offical Studies

On Sep 30, 1947 Lt General Twining of ACM expressed his opinion that there was sufficient substance in reports to warrant a study on UFOs. On Dec. 23, 1947 Project Sign was established to collect, collate, evaluate, and disseminate all information concerning UFO sightings and phenomena. Project sign completed it evaluations in Feb of 1949 and concluded "No definite and conclusive evidence is yet available that would prove or disprove the existence of these UFOs as real aircraft of unknown and unconventional configuration." Project Sign was changed to Project Grudge on Dec.16, 1948. Project Grudge recommended that the investigation and study of UFO reports be reduce in scope. In early 1950 UFO reports by the public increased. This prompted Project Grudge to be changed to Project Blue Book in March of 1952.

Project Blue Book goals were :-

  1. To find an explanation for all the reported sighting of UFO's.
  2. To determine if the UFO posed any security threat to the United States.
  3. To determine if UFO's exhibit any advanced technology which the U.S. could utilize.
In 1966 the USAF commisioned a report on UFOs from the University of Colorado. This project was headed by Dr Edward Condon. They reported in 1969, the report being referred to as the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, also known as the Condon Report. They concluded:-
  1. There is no evidence that any UFOs are "extraterrestrial vehicles"
  2. No UFO has ever given any indication of a threat to the national security.
  3. There is no evidence that UFO's represent technological developments or principals beyond present-day scientific knowledge.
As a result the USAF closed down Project Bluebook.

Main Source: Project Blue Book: The Top Secret UFO Findings Revealed, By Brad Steiger, 1976
Robert Sheaffer

When did it all start?

The modern era of UFO reports is held to have started with the report by a Boise, Idaho business man, Kenneth Arnold. On 24th June 1947 near Mount Rainier, Washington State he reported nine strange objects flying in formation.

There were earlier reports than this. During World War II pilots on both sides reported strange lights which followed their aircraft. Each side thought that these were some secret weapon of the other side. These became known as Foo Fighters.

There were earlier cases, but these are more suspect. For example, in the year 810ad the emperor Charlemane is reported as being thrown from his horse when it was startled by a silver ball which flew down from the sky.

Roswell Crash Incident

On the night of 2nd July 1947, Mac Brazel a rancher from near Corona, New Mexico heard a loud crash. The next day he went out Horseback riding with a neighbour and came upon a field with debris scattered about. The debris field was 3/4 of a mile long and 300 feet wide. It was oriented in a northwest to southeast direction. There was a gouge in the northwest side of the debris field that was 500 feet long and 10 feet wide. The debris on the field mostly consisted of I-beams and parchment like, paper thin pieces of metal material. The material was very light in weight, a dull gray in color, and most pieces were 6 to 7 inches in length. Some pieces that were even thinner than paper could not be broken in half, cut or burnt.

Mac Brazel collected several pieces of the debris and went back to his ranch. On July 6, Brazel went into Roswell to report what he had seen and to show a piece of the debris to sheriff Wilcox. The sheriff decided to call the local air base. During this time Frank Joyce called in from the local radio station to see if anything newsworthy was happening around town. Brazel gave him the information about what he had found.

Major Jesse A. Marcel and a few other military personal arrived from the base only a few minutes after the sheriff had finished talking to the people at the base. Brazel and the military personal left and went back to the Ranch. The next morning (July 7) they went to the crash sight. The military retrieved some of the debris and returned to Roswell.

On July 8, the military came back and sealed off the area, They took Brazel into custody. That same day they found a second crash site two and 1/2 miles southeast of the first. Barney Barnett and 4 archaeologists had stumbled onto the new site a few minutes before the military had arrived there. At the site they found a "pretty good sized metallic dull gray object" and 4 small alien bodies. They were 4 to 5 feet tall, with large pear shaped heads, small bodies and skinny arms and legs. They had two large eyes, no ears and no hair. Their skin was pinkish grey and leathery. They were wearing a one piece grey suits. The civilians were escorted out of the area when the military arrived.

On July 9th the military escorted Brazel to the radio station , there he told Frank Joyce that he saw a weather balloon. He left again with the military and didn't get back to his ranch until around July 15. Later when asked about what had happened Brazel said he had given a oath and could not talk about it.

The Incident remained closed and the public and UFO research organizations at large accepted the weather balloon story until 1970 when Jesse A. Marcel broke the silence and told his part in the story.

The case has been extensively researched by Stanton Friedman and independantly by the team of Kevin Randle and Don Schmitt. Between them they have discovered around 200 witnesses who claim to have been involved in the recovery or subsequent handling of the Roswell material. Researcher John Keel has suggested that the Roswell material might be the remains of a Japanesse Feugo balloon, a balloon with a bomb attached launched towards the USA during World War 2. These were still being discovered in remote parts of the USA in the late 1940s.

In 1994 at the request of US Senator Steven Schiff the General Audit Office started an enquiry into the incident and subsequent cover-up. The GAO required the US Air Force to reopen the enquiry. After a nine month study the Air Force announced that the Roswell object had not been a weather balloon but a balloon involved in a top secret project to study Soviet missile launches. Many UFO investigators remain unconvinced by this explanation.

Main source: UFO Crash at Roswell by Kevin D. Randle & Donald R. Schmitt Published 1991 by Avon Books

Phenomena which have be associated with UFO reports


Strange lights have been reported associated with movement of rocks along fault lines. Sometimes also known as the Tectonic Strain Theory. Proposes that light is caused by a peizo-electric effect. These lights may be reported as UFOs. Major researchers in this area have been Michael Persingher and Paul Deveraux.

Men In Black (MIB)

These are a strange group of men in old fashioned dark suits, who wear Homberg hats and drive around in black 1950s style USA cars. The MIBs frighten witnesses not to talk about their reports. Various suggestions have been made as to the origins of MIBs. These range from paranoia by UFO witnesses, through hoaxers to they are government agents or agents of aliens.

Unusual Ground Markings (UGM)

A broad term which includes crop circles, "tripod marks", saucer nests, burn marks, etc.

Interest in strange circular patterns in fields of cereal crops increased throughout the 1980s. There are a number of reports of circles from before this time. The complexity of the patterns increased with time until in 1991 the patterns started to include what became known as pictograms - patterns which included elements other than just combinations of circles. A proportion of circles are known to be hoaxes, depending on which researcher you listen to this proportion varies from something very small up to all crop circles being hoaxes.

UFO Organisations

Throughout the world there are many civilian organisations which either have the study of UFOs or extraterrestrials as their main object of interest or include them as part of a wider remit. Each organisation has a different view of the subject ranging from the basically scientific to, in some cases, the frankly nutty.

The main FAQ contains a long list of organisations. This is about 25% of the whole of the FAQ, so has not been included here for space reasons. Originally I did not include the address for any UFO organisations in the mini-FAQ as this would be unfair on those missed out. I have included below the address for a few of the major organisations as this appears to be regularly asked. You are urged to consult the full FAQ for a more extensive list or the excellant list of UFO organisations produced by John A. Hayes for UFOnet.

	1. British UFO Research Association
	   WC1N 3XX
	   Great Britain
	2. J.Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies
	   2457 West Peterson Avenue
	   Illinois 60659
	   United States of America
	3. Mutual UFO Network
	   103 Oldtowne Road
	   Texas 78155099
	   United States of America
	   74 Avenue Paul Jansson
	5. Victoria UFO Society
	   P.O. Box 43
	   Australia 3189


Disclaimer: Please Note that I don't claim that any of this research strictly as my own. It comes from many books, articles, electronic postings and people. As the FAQ (and the MINI-FAQ as it is extracted from the FAQ) is a combination of the efforts of many people, any opinions expressed should not be held to be those of any particular contributor or the editor unless otherwise stated. The opinions expressed here should not be held to represent those of the employers or sponsoring body of any of the contributors.