Excitement levels reached near fever pitch one morning when the early duty reporter hurriedly ended a routine briefing call to inform me that the local constabulary had the night before received numerous calls from concerned members of the public about a series of fast-moving mysterious bright lights in the skies above the midsize English town where I lived and worked.
Due to the fact that rows about leylandii or the questionable quality of sausages on offer at the mayor’s ball usually passed as hard news, an X-Files style mystery was guaranteed to grace the front page of that day’s edition of the newspaper.
The punchy report outlined how a pair of circle-shaped lights had danced erratically across the night sky, prompting a number of baffled residents to phone the police and was finished off with a plea to readers who’d seen the lights to phone the paper’s newsdesk – a tactic we’d hoped would lead to at least one follow up story. We must have received 100 calls in response, mainly from people who wanted to share their shock at what they saw.
However, we also received a call from the organiser of a local business awards ceremony who informed us that the mystery sighting was more than likely spotlights that he had used to celebrate his event, an event that at least one senior manager from our newspaper had attended.
It’s fair to say that, after that particular career low point, I went out of my way to avoid any involvement in future UFO-related stories but it appears that not every mystery is as easily explained away as my spotlight shame.
Last week, an official report was handed over to the US congress, delivering the verdict that UFOs, or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs), are actually a thing.
The nine-page document, compiled by the US Navy and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, listed 144 sightings and was unable to offer a reasonable explanation for the vast majority, with the exception of one which was believed to be a deflating balloon.
A navy pilot reported seeing an object, which she described as a giant Tic-Tac mint, rising up out of the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California.
Although the report stopped short of saying that earth was regularly visited by little green men, officials say they cannot rule that notion out completely and lack enough data to determine what these sightings were.
To be fair neither does the report rule out that the unexplained sightings could be falling ice crystals or the latest in secret technology from off-message nations such as China or Russia.
What the document does do is vindicate the ufologists out there, who have endured a lifetime of being written off by the rest of society as fruitcakes.
Take the high priest of hell-raising Shaun Ryder, arguably our most high-profile UFO believer, who has had to put up with choruses of ‘well, of course, he has seen aliens’, due to his well-documented former party lifestyle.
Despite the cynicism of others, the Happy Mondays’ frontman insists that he has always been sober whenever he has had an encounter with beings from another world and he asks the biggest question of them all: ‘Do we really think there isn’t anybody else out there?’
We live in an age where consideration must be given to nearly every opinion and way of life, yet we snigger like schoolchildren at people who believe in something that none of us can really comprehend.
I’m not saying that we must take everything that we are told at face value but neither should we dismiss anything that sounds remotely fanciful, although maybe don’t get too excited by fast-moving lights above your local town when there’s an awards night on.