11% of the British public believe they have seen a UFO according to a survey published today. The same data also revealed a third of the UK population thinks aliens could already be living among us, while 15% believe Martians could take over the Earth within the next 20 years. 

Though the research has a fantastical element it represents a rising appreciation of ufology worldwide. This rise has largely been attributed to the compelling videos, confirmed as genuine by the US Navy in 2017, of two pilots tracking what seemed to be a flying craft of unidentifiable origin and technology. Later this year the US Department of Defense is due to reveal further information of its UFO surveillance capabilities.

That was a watershed moment says author, lecturer and Director of Investigations for the British UFO Research Association Phil Mantle. The New York Times’ editorial scrutiny, fact checking and the confirmation of the story by the Pentagon made the reality, of UFO ‘sightings’ at least, undeniable. “No matter how sceptical I can be there are still some things I can’t explain,” says Mantle. “I interviewed a RAF wing commander a few years ago who told me he’d tracked six UFOs on military radar, Heathrow and several other air stations. I asked him ‘what were they’. He said: ‘I don’t know. I can only tell you what they weren’t.’”

Philip Mantle

UFOs sightings are clearly nothing new. CulturAll spoke to a number of individuals who had had experiences and examined an airmiss report by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on an airliner’s close encounter with fast moving “lighted object” over the north of England in the 1990s. The review emphasises the validity and credence of the professional pilots making the report to air traffic control, though concludes: “There is no doubt that the pilots both saw an object and that the nature and identity of this object remains unknown. To speculate about extra-terrestrial activity, fascinating though it may be, is not with the Group’s remit and must be left to those whose interest lies in that field.”  

Another source told CulturAll they saw a UFO in Sydney:

“It was evening time, the sun had set though there was still a little light in the sky. Across the road and slightly uphill there is an Australian rules football oval and it was above the oval that I saw a UFO hovering. It was quite low as in not as high in the sky like a plane, much lower and it was huge! Maybe half the size of the oval, it was round and flat with loads of red and white lights on it. Didn’t make a sound, didn’t change air pressure and was just still and hovering. It was the typical “flying saucer” shape. I looked up again, and it was gone! Just disappeared with no sound.” 

CulturAll was also given this account said to have taken place in Australia:

“I was in Oz in 2004 staying in a remote town on the east coast. I was with some backpackers chilling in a park watching the stars…we all witnessed an object in the sky, very high up (edge of earth’s atmosphere)…the object travelled around from one part of the sky to the other at incredible speeds. It couldn’t have been a man made craft because the g-force alone would have killed anybody on board…it would move at breakneck speeds and sharp angles, very bizarre. Went on for 20 minutes. We were astonished…it then warp sped away. It was like a ping pong ball bouncing around in a pint glass.”

Evidence of more than a good story?

Since 2017, and following the Covid pandemic, there’s a bit of a debate on whether sightings have gone up or down, says Nick Pope, a prominent author, ufologist and the former MoD civil servant charged with investigating UFO reports. 

Nick Pope

The numbers revealed by the survey are hugely surprising he says. “It staggered me. If you extrapolate the numbers across the UK, then there have been millions of sightings. It finally nails the lie that this is some sort of fringe belief or obscure conspiracy theory.”

A mock up of a UFO allegedly seen in Scotland in 1990. The MoD is rumoured to have seized the original photos taken

Might this just be the natural result of the imperfect vision we all have? Certainly in part. As we mark a year of varying lockdown restrictions Pope told CulturAll that people have more time on their hands and “therefore there’s an acceptance that people have maybe seen a few more things. There’s been a lot less flying for example. Most UFO sightings are misidentifications of aircraft and aircraft lights. Because there’s been less of that maybe there’s been less conventional explanations.” 

He also mentions how the pressures of the pandemic may have led to more psychological ponderings which have encouraged people to think about, and perhaps ‘see’ UFOs. “It’s the irony that while being introspective, with UFOs we’re conversely beginning to look out more.”

The advances in science, such as the Perseverance Mars mission have helped bring this front of mind but Pope also points to a growing questioning of governments. “There’s an idea that government just isn’t up to the job of handling something. I’m not picking out any particular party or country but in the sometimes chaotic way the pandemic has been handled – you can see that scepticism in the UFO narrative. There’s a long standing belief that the authorities know something about UFOs. Something too terrible to be told.”

The research was conducted by UK TV channel Blaze ahead of UFO Week, starting March 22nd. https://www.blaze.tv/ 

BLAZE® is available on Freeview 63, Freesat 162, Sky 164 and Virgin Media 216Download the BLAZE App for FREE here

Image top- Harry Shelton via Unsplash

Alex Matchett

Alex Matchett is Editor of Culturall, specialising in culture, business and finance.