The (not so) real life X-Files: Chinese lanterns responsible for surge of UFO sightings, files from MoD reveal

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Abductions, extra-terrestrial invasions and the man who had lived with an alien "for some time" - newly declassified files reveal the phone calls patient staff at the MoD received on a typical day

The Ministry of Defence’s UFO hotline was shut down because it was a waste of money despite UFO sightings soaring the year it was closed, declassified files have shown.

By November 2009 - the year their UFO desk was closed - the MoD had already received 520 reports, three times the 150 they usually dealt with on average each year. According to a briefing in the files, this increase was associated with a growing trend in setting off Chinese lanterns during weddings and public holidays.

UFOs were also spotted by the public near several major UK landmarks, including Stonehenge and Blackpool Pier. These latest files, released by the National Archives, show records of sightings reported to the MoD's UFO Desk during its final two years.

The MoD shut down its UFO desk in 2009 because it served “no defence purpose” and was taking staff away from “more valuable defence-related activities”, the declassified documents showed. In a briefing for Bob Ainsworth, the then Defence Minister in November 2009, Carl Mantell, of the RAF's Air Command, suggested the MoD should try to significantly reduce the UFO task, “which is consuming increasing resource, but produces no valuable defence output”. He told Mr Ainsworth that, in more than 50 years, “no UFO sighting reported to

(MoD) has never revealed anything to suggest an extra-terrestrial presence or military threat to the UK”.

The 25 files include reports of alleged abductions and contact with aliens, with UFO sightings coming from as far across the British Isles and the Canary Islands. One person even left a message on the hotline's answerphone, reporting a UFO flying over the Houses of Parliament in London.

Other reports included “green, red and white lights” remaining static in the sky in 2008, photographs of Blackpool Pier showing aircrafts in the sky that had not been visible before, a letter from a school child to the MoD asking for the truth about UFOs after she had seen witnessed strange lights, and including a drawing of an alien waving, and someone claiming they had been “living with an alien in Carlisle for some time”.

Another sighting described “discoid” shapes noticed in photographs of Stonehenge. In an email, dated 14 January 2009 and titled “UFOs over Stonehenge?” it said that the shapes had gone unnoticed until the photos had been uploaded onto a computer and the background had been zoomed into.

The files also showed that some members of the public were keen to offer the MoD their advice on how to “correctly shoot down UFOs“, with one letter from an Australian sender addressed to the Queen saying: “I know how you can correctly shoot down a 'UFO:' using electrodisruption.” In another message, dated 16 May, the author wrote: “I have a theory for a device which could be used to take down an extra-terrestrial UFO craft. My theory involves using a device similar to that of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon which once deployed from an aircraft would be fired and the device would attach itself to the UFO through use of magnetic pull.”

MoD employees politely declined such offers, and replied: "The UK has a comprehensive suite of capabilities that provide its air superiority, both here at home in the UK and also on expeditionary operations. The UK's Air Policing Area is under continuous surveillance using a combination of civil and military radar installations that provide a continuous real-time 'picture'. Any threat would, of course, be handled in the light of the particular circumstances at the time, however, rest assured that we have at our disposal a range of capabilities that we are confident can neutralise even the most demanding of targets."

The files also shed light on the campaigns led by "ufologists" for the Government to investigate sightings more thoroughly, with letters sent to senior ministers, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and even the Queen, calling for more action.

Officials had predicted a backlash from ufologists on the decision to close the UFO desk, and also noted that they had ”deliberately avoided formal approaches to other governments on the issue“, amid fears of "international collaboration and conspiracy“.

After the closure, air traffic control centres and local police forces were advised to no longer refer UFO sightings to the MoD.

An official MoD statement said: “The Ministry of Defence has no opinion on the existence or otherwise of extra-terrestrial life.

However, in over 50 years, no UFO report has revealed any evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom. The MoD has no specific capability for identifying the nature of such sightings. There is no defence benefit in such investigation and it would be an inappropriate use of defence resources.

“Furthermore, responding to reported UFO sightings diverts MoD resources from tasks that are relevant to defence.”

Dr David Clarke, author of The UFO Files, said: “The last pieces of the puzzle have finally been revealed with this insight into the last days of the UFO desk. These files spell out clearly why the MoD decided - after 60 years - it no longer needed to keep tabs on sightings, even those made by 'credible' people such as police officers and pilots. The last files from the UFO desk are now all in the public domain. People at home can read them and draw their own conclusions about whether 'the truth' is in these files or still out there.”

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms