UFOs in the U.K.

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This week, Britain's National Archives released some of its 30 years' worth of secret files about UFOs.


Britain's national archives this week began to release some 30 years worth of secret files about unidentified flying objects. The defense ministry investigates thousands of UFO sightings during the Cold War and thereafter. And most were easily explained, but some of the sightings remain a mystery to this day. Vicki Barker reports from London.

(Soundbite of radio talk)

GUARD: …Now we've got an object about ten degrees, directly…

VICKI BARKER: December, 1980, guards at a U.S. airbase in rural England investigate a mysterious aircraft seen landing in a nearby forest.

(Soundbite of radio talk)

GUARD: (unintelligible) that he had paint but coming down to the ground. I don't know.

BARKER: April 1984, London, a Ruth Novelli is called into her yard by a neighbor to behold a strange object emitting balls of red, yellow, and blue light.

Ms. RUTH NOVELLI (Witness of strange object): One of these balls of light shot across our gardens so that we find the police.

BARKER: The resulting police report is among the documents now online at the national archives website. There's also a defense ministry report about some mysterious crop circles which appeared in a wheat field about 13 miles from Stonehenge in 1985. Investigators at the time pronounced themselves baffled. The files contained a few unsolved mysteries, but no hard evidence of an extra-terrestrial origin.

Mr. NICHOLAS POPE (Worked on Ministry's UFO Desk): No little green men, I'm afraid, not in these files.

BARKER: Nicholas Pope worked on the Ministry's UFO Desk for three years. He admits the department's sole concern was identifying possible military threats, not trying to phone ET. And if alcohol may have played in some U.F.O. sightings, Pope concedes that perfectly sober police officer, pilots, and military men have all reported seeing mysterious flying objects over the years.

Mr. POPE: People were describing a vast triangular shaped craft. An Air Force witness described this thing to me as moving very slowing, and then suddenly accelerating away to the horizon many times faster than our military jet.

BARKER: One mystery has since apparently been solved. Hampshire artist Doug Bower says he and a friend were responsible for those mysterious crop circles and he calls the defense ministry's investigation…

Mr. DOUG BOWER (Responsible for crop circles): Cards wall up, and that's the truth. I'd like to meet these people, but I think they'll have a red face with me.

BARKER: There was a curious post script to Ruth Novelli's experience. A few days later, a UFO-logolist told her not to be surprised if she was visited by some men in black driving a shiny black car. Sure enough, a few weeks later, Novelli says, she returned from a holiday to be told by her neighbor she'd had some visitors.

Ms. NOVELLI: Someone there knocking on the door for about a half an hour, wearing black suits, looking that it's raining with a shiny black car. Who they were or what they were, I really don't know, but it is rather bazaar.

BARKER: It certainly was. It was 13 years before the movie came out.

For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker, in London.

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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