If you watch a typical documentary about UFOs, you might be forgiven for thinking that there’s a stark and straightforward choice as to what might lie behind these sightings – some sort of misperception or the so-called ETH (extraterrestrial hypothesis) of spacecraft visiting Earth from an alien world. In fact, there have been many other theories of UFO origins over the past six decades...
At a point close to sleep, visual and auditory hallucinations are common, according to psychological studies. False awakenings, where a dream that includes a UFO encounter is misperceived as a waking memory, are also known. Some cases involving alien contact and bright lights seen outside bedroom windows have been successfully proven to fit these vivid experiences to which everybody is prone.
This was proposed to explain the surgical nature and physical appearance of the entities described in many alien abduction cases as well as the clinical, white environment. It was suggested that the stress of something perceived as a close encounter exposed deep-seated memories of the birth process, which emerged as alien-like imagery. Studies comparing people born naturally and by cæsarean section failed to produce evidence of expected differences reflecting their experiences.
A surprising number of witnesses to close encounter cases also have experience of what might be called channelling other intelligences via mediumistic-like messages. These are often presumed to be from deceased persons. The theory proposes that visions and perceptions of alien contacts are misperceived images within the consciousness of ‘gifted’ mediums who ascribe contact with ‘the dead’ as coming from non-human intelligences.
Both OBEs (out-of-body experiences) and NDEs (near-death experiences where a witness has an OBE during a physical crisis such as a car crash) are reported by over 10 per cent of the population. They share key features with UFO close encounters, and this theory defines a continuum of ‘altered states’. Psychological, physiological and potentially metaphysical events may be interpreted according to the personal belief system and cultural experience of the witness.
Experiments during which rocks containing crystal structures are put under pressure has demonstrated that electrical and chemical processes occur whereby light energy and other types of EM radiation can be triggered. It is thought that in the landscape such Earth energies can generate visible glows and moving light balls over areas where underground strata are under pressure, from reservoirs or fault lines for instance. UFO researchers have independently identified ‘window areas’ where sightings seem particularly common and these appear to match locations with predicted geological attributes.
If a form of time travel is developed by science centuries from now, then visits from our descendants (as futurenauts), travelling back into their past, seem credible. If so, then they could create many sightings of similar-looking craft scattered through the ages. Their occupants might appear human-like, which would match well with much UFO evidence.
GHOSTLY TIME SLIPS
According to some paranormal researchers, ghosts could be video images recorded into the electromagnetic environment of our world via unrecognised physical processes. Evidence includes apparitions following old ground levels since built upon by modern pavements. Curiously, some UFO and alien sightings involve objects and occupants that float above the ground level today. Can ghostly recordings from our future be the cause, with the ground level being that of many centuries from now?
That some UFO cases are simply invented by witnesses is readily proven by documented research and confessions, but it is very difficult to argue more broadly for such an explanation. Indeed, studies show that less than one in 100 cases is hoaxed – although with alien contact reports and photographic cases that percentage rises sharply. The greater the kudos and attention, the more likely a case is to be a hoax.
After investigation, analysts agree that between 90 and 95 per cent of all UFO sightings prove to be Identified Flying Objects. Over 300 different things have been misperceived as UFOs – including a bin bag, a shaggy dog and a telegraph pole. The Null Hypotheses proposes that all of the remaining unsolved cases would become IFOs given enough study and sufficient evidence. However, statistical analysis (like that conducted by the Battelle Institute and French aerospace researchers GEPAN) has indicated differences between solved and unsolved cases that challenge this proposal.
Psychologist Carl Jung wrote an early treatise on UFOs in 1959 and saw hints that the consistent types of sighting being made matched deep-seated mythological archetypes within the human mind. The theory suggests that the disc shape favoured by UFO reports or the tall, blonde aliens and small dwarf-like beings seen by witnesses everywhere match strong subconscious motifs that power our psychosocial needs. UFOs could be a space age guise for the same phenomenon that has fuelled cross-cultural belief in myths and legends for thousands of years.
After eliminating other options, a die-hard sceptic might offer the premise that ‘kooks’ see UFOs because of an innate desire to promote the mystical within their lives. They do so by introducing magic to mundane events so as to elevate their status amongst peers. No significant evidence has been published that more than a few witnesses are so motivated and most psychological profiles of UFO witnesses suggest they are stable individuals who sincerely believe that they have seen something odd.
Unusual cloud formations have been proven to create some UFO sightings. Lenticular clouds with their disc or cigar structure can be especially impressive, and though rare in Britain they can form anywhere – one encounter occurred in Rochdale. Rarer cloud types such as noctilucent (which reflect the sun from below the horizon when the local area is in darkness) have also provided plenty of reports.
Physicists have attempted to explain some of the latest problems of cosmology by developing a theory of multiple interlocking universes. This proposes a series of universes that can be linked via subspace but where our limited perception restricts awareness of all but our own. Some universes could be closely aligned to ours and others would have evolved very differently. Rather than aliens coming to Earth from another planet, more advanced humans from a parallel universe might have found a way to cross the divide, with their transient presence in our own universe causing UFOs.
Some close encounter witnesses have been shown to suffer from short-term ‘time loss’ episodes throughout their lives. Sometimes these are found to be due to temporal lobe epilepsy or narcolepsy (where the person sleeps briefly with no control of the process). New links have been made with vasovagal syndrome, in which sudden fainting fits can occur due to a rapid decrease in blood pressure when stress triggers a vagus nerve malfunction. Such episodes are twice as common in women (a statistic that matches the higher percentage of female witnesses claiming time loss and alien abduction).
Some researchers have proposed that many UFO encounters are the result of unusual mirages triggered by light phenomena such as bright stars or planets. Cases where UFOs appear semi-transparent or appear to fade in and out as the witness moves support the theory, and it has been debated in connection with celebrated sightings such as Rendlesham Forest. However, the dimness of the initial light source for some theorised mirages has been noted.
A modern theory proposes that atmospheric pollution could be causing close encounters. Some sensitive individuals are known to respond to exposure to EM radiation, such as that emitted by microwave towers, and suffer both physiological and psychological reactions. Others claim to detect low-frequency waves and hear sounds that most people can’t. The rise in UFO encounters as EM pollution has grown plus the relative preponderance of cases within developed countries support the argument.
One mysterious feature of close encounter cases is their witness selectivity. It’s common for a person or a small group to experience a full-blown episode when further potential witnesses only yards away see nothing. A sphere of influence seems to surround the UFO that turns it from an imagined or trivial event into a shared reality for those inside it. They experience a quasi-conscious phenomenon, real to them, but less real to others only slightly further away. There are two schools of thought on this. One suggests that a shared psychological vision triggers the QC event, another seeks a physical energy that effects human perception to a significant degree only when close to it.
REALITY BORDERLINE CONFUSION
It is argued that humans create a boundary that assigns some things to the category ‘real’ owing to their shared acceptance and regards others as ‘imaginary’. Psychological studies of those raised in an environment where strange perceptions are considered routine show that they can grow up with a greater acceptance level of phenomena such as angels, UFOs and aliens.
A key type of abduction encounter is the ‘bedroom visitor’ scenario, where aliens are seen as the witness awakens and experiences paralysis and a pressure like something sitting on the bed. Such cases go back centuries, and where once demonic forces were blamed they now suggest the sleep paralysis theory. In deep sleep, body muscles are paralysed, preventing the sleeper from enacting dreams. Normally, we are unaware of this, but waking suddenly can leave a person aware of the paralysis (felt as a pressure or restraint), which, it is theorised, could be incorporated into a dream or vision of an alien presence.
Evidence has been collected of instances where electrical energy, gravity anomalies and other physical effects seem to be associated with misty clouds or masses. These have some attributes of storm clouds, but appear able to distort the perception – or actual passage – of time nearby. It is common for these ‘time storms’ to be seen as UFOs and the missing time as an alien abduction, but they have been seen and interpreted differently in the past. One theory is that time storms are rare, possibly naturally occurring events that disrupt the flow of local space/time leading to anomalous events – often perceived mystically.
Human beings are generally considered the superior intelligence and dominant life-form on Earth. Since UFOs appear to involve a different, seemingly greater, intelligence, it has been widely speculated that they come from another planet using advanced technology. The Ultraterrestrial concept proposes instead that there is a more advanced intelligence co-existing on Earth but beyond our normal perception, just as an ant might only be vaguely aware of humans as an intimidating or overpowering presence, and whose true nature is beyond their comprehension.
A number of physicists have studied historical reports of fair weather whirlwinds and related atmospheric vortices, uncovering a pattern shared with some modern UFO reports. Lens-shaped masses and electrical and pressure forces are common to both sets of data and it is thought that some perplexing UFO cases might be extreme examples of vortices that can generate floating, glowing atmospheric plasmas through the powerful forces involved.
WAKING LUCID DREAMS
Psychologists are aware of a state known as the lucid dream, where a person becomes conscious that they are asleep and dreaming and their waking mind can take control of the dream environment, producing a remarkably vivid experience. It is suggested that a waking lucid dream operates in a not dissimilar manner, but with the subconscious mind intruding into the waking landscape and adding unreal elements, making the real world temporarily magical. As with a lucid dream, a heightened sense of vividness follows, but as the dreamer returns to conscious reality during a waking lucid dream it is far more likely to be interpreted as a real-life experience than a lucid dream, which starts and ends within a normal dream state.
Many UFO sightings involve ordinary objects misperceived: a person sees what might be the Full Moon yet perceives a disc-shaped craft with aliens getting out. The ‘X State’ theory proposes that something intervenes to cause intelligent witnesses to grossly misperceive something that 99 per cent of the time they would correctly identify but which now acts as the source of an extreme event. Clues suggest that an ‘X State’ might trigger the misperception, as witnesses often speak of dissociation, loss of sense of time and a sensory isolation during which, for example, ambient sounds disappear.
‘Y projects’ are said to be secret experimental craft using advanced technology still some years from public knowledge. Examples include ion propulsion engines and inertia dampening fields, allowing for extreme acceleration and manœuvrability. Some UFO researchers claim these are reverse-engineered from captured UFO hardware that has been hidden away. Others think that government and industrial bodies maintain secrecy during tests by allowing – or even fostering – the belief that what was seen was alien, rather than Earthly, technology.
Some researchers speculate that the antics of alien entities during close encounters (abducting, conducting tests, or observing humans as we might watch monkeys in the wild) suggest a Zoo hypothesis: Earth is being treated as a nature reserve and we are the wildlife under observation, visited by beings from elsewhere who treat us with indifference or disdain according to their temperament.