Ufologists and others who believe that aliens regularly visit Earth say there has been physical evidence of these visits. The evidence they cite includes mysterious radar blips that, although transitory in nature, are witnessed by several people on more than one radar screen. Physical evidence also includes photographs of UFOs, crop circles, animal mutilations, objects presumed to be alien implants, and odd scars on people who claim to have endured alien surgical procedures. Of these, mysterious radar blips are considered by experts to be the most credible evidence. Still, sceptics insist that in every instance of a mysterious blip—a dot indicating that an unidentified craft is flying in the area—it has turned out to have been caused by an ordinary aircraft, a natural phenomenon, or equipment malfunction. Ufologists counter that some unexplained radar blips coincide with reports from people on the ground who say they spotted what appeared to be alien spacecraft flying overhead. These ufologists contend that in some cases there are photographs to back up these sightings.
How seriously these photographs should be taken is a matter of debate. Sceptics contend that all UFO photographs, both still pictures and videotaped images, are hoaxes. Exposing fakery, however, is more difficult than ever before because of advances in photography. With increasingly sophisticated digital imaging systems, it is possible to add a realistic image of a “flying saucer” to an ordinary landscape photo in such a way as to fool anyone but an expert trained to spot a fake photograph. Consequently, most ufologists rely on such experts to evaluate purported UFO images, and they refuse to declare a particular photograph genuine until they are confident that no sceptic will be able to prove it a fake. They also search for independent witnesses who can substantiate the photographer’s claim that the UFO in the photograph appeared at a particular place and time.
Ufologists are particularly careful in this regard because, they say, bogus images have usually been created not by people who believe in UFOs but by people who want to trick ufologists into declaring a photo genuine and then open them up to ridicule when the fakery is exposed.
Several videotapes that are purportedly of UFOs seem particularly credible. For example, in Mexico City, Mexico, on New Year’s Day 1993, several witnesses, including a Catholic priest, videotaped the same group of UFOs, and on January 11, 1991, an ABC network news crew filmed a UFO over Gulf Breeze, Florida, that was also spotted by several witnesses. A similar event occurred on May 10, 1991, when a Japanese crew from the NIPON television network filmed another UFO over Gulf Breeze, a city known for its numerous UFO sightings.
That Gulf Breeze has been the location where more than one credible videotape was made is of particular interest to ufologists. This is because ufologists have found what they consider physical evidence of alien visitation there. This consists of mysterious circles on lawns in which all grass blades have been flattened and swirled in a counterclockwise pattern. These circles seem to appear suddenly during the night, when no one is present to witness their formation. For weeks afterward the grass in these circles refuses to stand upright and continues to grow in a counterclockwise swirl. Such circles have been found in other places throughout the world; often these circles appear in fields of grain rather than on lawns.
Since the late seventeenth century, thousands of crop circles have been discovered, often in areas where UFOs have previously been sighted. The first reported crop circles were indeed round, but over time other shapes and designs began to show up. Regardless of shape all shared certain characteristics. The stems of the plants are bent without being broken, and upon close examination they appear to have been heated from the inside since there is no sign of external scorching. The seed heads of the plant remain undamaged, however, and if left alone the plants continue to grow. Moreover, the stems do not droop at random; instead, they swirl outward, weave into layers, or twist intricately around one another.
Some scientists believe that these characteristics are caused not by extraterrestrial visitors but rather by a phenomenon, as yet unidentified, related to Earth’s magnetism. This theory derives from the fact that in many areas where crop circles appear there is evidence of magnetic distortions. Specifically, compass needles are unable to locate north, and the instruments of airplanes flying over the circles fail. In addition, cell phones do not work, something that can happen when the earth’s electromagnetic field is disturbed. An alternate explanation is that crop circles are caused by electrostatic charges produced when winds sweep through fields of grain; this theory is supported by the fact that static electric discharges can produce flashes of light, and such flashes have been seen in the vicinity of some crop circles. Ufologists find none of these theories convincing and say that crop circles are caused by a spaceship hovering over a particular area. Sceptics, meanwhile, consider all crop circles to be hoaxes designed to bolster the claim that aliens are visiting Earth.
Similar arguments are voiced regarding circles of disturbed earth that have supposedly been found following UFO sightings. One such circle appeared in November 1975, when a family reported seeing a UFO land in a football field near their home. Investigators discovered that a circular patch of soil in the area did seem to be different from the surrounding soil, and they sent samples of the affected dirt to the University of Kansas Space Technology Laboratory for analysis. The results showed that although at a microscopic level the composition of the soil in question was the same as the surrounding soil, the affected dirt displayed thermoluminescence—that is, it emitted faint light when heated. Thermoluminescence per se is not unusual; the phenomenon has been observed in many soils. In this case, though, the thermoluminescence was ten times greater than what such soils produce naturally.
Ufologists say that such a phenomenon can only be the result of the extreme heating soil would undergo when a UFO lands. Indeed, ufologist Budd Hopkins tested samples taken from a suspected landing site in the late 1980s. He discovered that in order to make normal soil behave the way this soil sample did when gently heated, the normal soil had to be kept in an 800 degree Fahrenheit (427°C) oven for six hours. Hopkins considered the fact that all the grass was dead in the circle from which the sample was taken to be further proof of an alien landing. Skeptics, however, have argued that a likelier explanation for the dead grass is that it was infected with some kind of fungus. In fact, a fungus known as Maramius oreades does grow in rings and dehydrates the soil so that it gradually kills the grass, creating concentric circles of flattened, dying grass.
Skeptics similarly argue that natural causes explain mysterious cattle deaths discovered in areas where UFOs have been reported. They say that these deaths, which occur unexpectedly and are followed by the carcass being strangely mutilated, are the result of disease, decay, and scavengers such as coyotes. But once again, believers in UFOs counter that there is no earthly explanation for the phenomenon. They note that the cattle that died under such circumstances had been extremely healthy, and that the mutilations do not appear to be the work of predators because the carcass displays cuts so precise that they could only have been made by a surgical instrument rather than an animal’s teeth. Moreover, the same body parts—reproductive and digestive organs, and sometimes an ear, eye, and/or the tongue—are missing in each case.
Evidence of surgical cuts, in the form of mysterious scars, also appear on people who claim to be alien abductees. Once again many ufologists consider this to be physical proof of alien contact. Though most of these scars are unremarkable in appearance, a few are highly unusual. For example, one abductee claimed that after experiencing an alien medical procedure she was left with three small blisters, forming a triangle, on her body; they later dried up, turned black, and began to resemble healed burns.
Sceptics such as Philip J. Klass believe that such scars have not really appeared suddenly in adults but are merely the remnants of ordinary, long-forgotten childhood accidents. However, psychologists like Kenneth Ring have suggested that abductees’ minds could be creating these scars. He says such cases are similar to those of fanatically devout Christians who exhibit spontaneously occurring scars and wounds, called stigmata, in locations on their bodies matching the places where Jesus is said to have been wounded during his crucifixion.
A special type of scar tissue is occasionally cited as physical evidence that aliens not only visited Earth but also abducted someone and implanted some device during a medical examination. Sceptics say that no such device has actually been proven to exist, although people who claim to have been abducted occasionally find an object in their bodies that they then turn over to researchers. Such objects generally have a decidedly earthly origin. For example, in 1989 abductee Richard Price gave his “implant” to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who subsequently determined that the “implant” was actually a hardened knob of skin tissue that had formed around a few cotton underwear fibres that had apparently become embedded in Price’s skin. For his part, Price rejected this explanation, arguing that the aliens simply disguised their implant as cotton fibres in order to keep humans from finding physical proof of their existence.
- Alien Implants
- Cattle Mutilations
- Crop Circles
- Fairy Rings
- Photographic Evidence of Paranormal Phenomena
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning