Witnesses' drawings made when reporting UFO sightings to the MoD
IMAGINE a scenario involving unidentified flying objects – encounters with aliens, near-misses with aircraft, crash landings and conspiracies – and it's likely to be in the files of the Ministry of Defence.
The MoD, while insisting that it did not investigate and never had investigated UFO sightings, meticulously collated all the sightings, reports by ufologists and personal accounts.
Those thousands of pages, from 1986 to 1992, have now been released on the website of the National Archives. They reveal hundreds of sightings, which arrived at the MoD via military bases and the police, from across the country – and several from Devon and Cornwall.
One sighting in Exeter in August 1987 was made by a postman and "several witnesses", according to a report passed from RAF Chivenor to the MoD.
The "very bright" triangular UFO was seen for two hours from St David's Post Office. Witnesses were looking "from Exeter towards the plough (constellation not pub)", according to the documents.
The mysterious vehicle was "steady" and "then returned overhead [towards] Tiverton".
The witnesses were among hundreds of people who, apparently, reported seeing strange triangular-shaped objects and lights travelling over Devon.
The MoD later told witnesses that the lights, first sighted in Exeter and then Plymouth, were probably from US military jets refuelling.
A report on the incident, including diagrams, was filed to defence officials by the Plymouth UFO Research Group.
Four months earlier, a witness aboard a boat on the River Tamar reported a "small, very bright, white light" heading over Devonport in Plymouth. It moved "very fast" in a direct line, with no "variations".
The same month, April 1987, the MoD also received a report of "one largish, inverted, funnel-shaped object with brighter light at base, accompanied by sparks". The department assumed it was "a hot-air balloon viewed at dusk".
Other sightings in the Westcountry came from St Columb, near Newquay, where a triangular flying object with "red and yellow lights flashing down each side" was seen in June 1988.
In Plymouth, in February of the same year, "orange and white" lights were seen over Devonport.
Those reports rather pale in comparison with the report of a near-miss between a UFO and a passenger jet coming in to land at Heathrow Airport.
The captain of the Alitalia airliner was so concerned he shouted "look out" to his co-pilot after seeing a brown missile- shaped object shoot past them overhead.
The mysterious incident near Lydd in Kent on April 21, 1991, was thoroughly investigated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the military.
The McDonnell Douglas MD80 aircraft was en route from Milan to Heathrow at 22,000 feet with 57 people on board when pilot Achille Zaghetti saw the strange object some 1,000 feet above him.
He recounted: "At once I said, 'Look out, look out' to my co-pilot, who looked out and saw what I had seen.
"As soon as the object crossed us, I asked to the ACC (area control centre) operator if he saw something on his screen and he answered 'I see an unknown target 10nm (nautical miles) behind you'."
A CAA document notes that Southern TV broadcast a story about a 14-year-old boy who reported seeing a missile flying at low level before climbing through the cloud and disappearing on the same evening.
Radar images showing the UFO were initially labelled "cruise missile??" but it was quickly established that it was not a military weapon.
By July 2, the MoD had concluded that the object had not come from the Army firing ranges in the Lydd area and that there was no known "space-related activity" that night.
An unnamed Whitehall official wrote: "It is our intention to treat this sighting like that of any other Unidentified Flying Object and therefore we will not be undertaking any further investigation."
Arguably, the most curious of all the documents is a letter from an unknown woman to the "Air Ministry" in March 1990, claiming to be an alien from the planet Spectra.
It reads: "Your first reaction to this letter will be one of pure disbelief, however let me assure you I am neither insane or a charlatan, as the facts will prove.
"During WW2, as I am sure you are aware, a crashed UFO was recovered by the military somewhere in this country. I should like to know the exact date and location of this event.
"It is possible this was Pussylock Warren, the location of which I am as yet unable to discover. There are several options, Wistman's Wood by West Dart, Devon, between Gara Point and Blackstone Point, Devon, the Norfolk coast of Wenlock Edge.
"In fact the name Pussylock Warren could be quite wrong, it just came into my mind one morning from whence I know not.
"The crashed vehicle contained two males from Spectra, a planet orbiting the star Zeta Tucanae and a female from one of the two inhabited planets in the Sirius system, Amazon the planet of warrior women. That female was me."
The author continued: "Whilst my body lay in the UFO, I was taken into the Spectra computer. That was a strange experience.
"The parents of my present body were chosen in 1940. They saw a rocket-shaped UFO trailing a blue flame, and experienced a strange stillness.
"Although Spectra rule me, they will not tell me why I am here."
She helpfully included a sketch of herself, looking regal in a flowing gown, and a Spectran with "oriental features, no hair and 'Mr Spock' ears".
It is unclear whether the two-page letter and two pages of sketches were tongue-in- cheek or sincere. There is nothing on file to indicate that the MoD replied.
The online files are accompanied by a guide to the highlights from Dr David Clarke, a UFO expert and journalism lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University,
He said the documents would shed new light on relatively little-known sightings but admitted that some conspiracy theorists would already have decided that the release of the papers was a "whitewash".
"Because the subject is bedevilled by charlatans and lunatics, it is career suicide to have your name associated with UFOs, which is a real pity," he said.
"The National Archives are doing a fantastic job here. Everyone brings their own interpretation. Now you can look at the actual primary material – the stuff coming into the MoD every day – and make your own mind up."
The files can be accessed at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ufos