Transcript of Interview with Nick Pope
A: Iain Collins - British radio and television presenter & journalist
B: Nick Pope – UFO Expert
C: spontaneous street interviews
A: Is there anything out there? Whether you’re a sceptic or a full on believer, join us today as we discuss all things alien. Hello and welcome to this live, interactive and even extra-terrestrial WebTV show, I’m Iain Collins. Now this week the video game XCOM Enemy Unknown was released, this is the reimaging of the classic strategy game XCOM which sees governments unite to form a secret paramilitary organization aiming to combat an extra-terrestrial attack but how much of this is science fiction and how much could be science fact. Well joining me to discover this is Nick Pope. Nick of course used to run the British governments UFO project at the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Originally a bit of a sceptic his investigations along with research of classic files soon had him convinced, Nick, great to have you with us, sir.
B: Thank you.
A: Good to see you. Now if you are total non-believer or a flying saucer fanatic we’d love to hear from you. We are live, so if you have any questions you want to put to Nick Pope please use the box on your screen and we’ll do our best to tackle them over the course of the next 15 minutes or so. If you’re tweeting while you’re watching the show please use the hash tag #StudioTalkTV and we’ll try and give you a mention. Now Nick, you’re known to be an authority on this figure, tell us a little bit about your background sir.
B: I worked for the British government for 21 years at the Ministry of Defence and for much of the early ‘90s I was running the MoD’s UFO project. I investigated two or three hundred sightings each year and my job was to see if there was any evidence any potential threat to the UK.
A: It’s quite clear that there are a lot of believers. Almost 60% according to a recent survey believe that we are not alone in the universe. Let’s have a little look and a listen to what people had to say on the subject.
C1: No, I don’t believe in aliens.
C2: I think there must be something out there space is too big just to have us in it.
C3: I wouldn’t say I believe in aliens but I think that it’s not realistic to think that humans are the only life in the whole universe, maybe but maybe not.
C4: I do believe in aliens because I believe I’ve seen some. I went camping once and I’ve seen aliens before. I can assure you that. There were red flashing lights in the sky. No one believed me but I thought it was real, personally.
C5: I don’t think any life will be discovered in my lifetime.
C1: 1 in 10 people feel they have seen a UFO I think something has been put in their cup of tea.
C2: I think there is loads of crazy people so the world is full of crazy people so how many have really been abducted by aliens? Probably very few but again if aliens are anything like us the first thing they are going to do is study us and the only way to do that is to borrow us for a while.
C6: I’d like to believe that there were UFOs there is a part of me that does want to believe that there are UFOs but somehow I don’t think so.
C2: If there was something here that they couldn’t explain the government wouldn’t tell us about it, definitely.
C7: I think they’d keep it quite then it would be on the telly in like, 10 years’ time about how they experimented on it and stuff. I wouldn’t be surprised.
C4: I recon they have already found them but they are just keeping it a secret. That’s what I think.
C8: I think the government would hide it I order to study it before releasing information to the public.
A: One or two there convinced but I would say, Nick Pope, most people are pretty sceptical about this.
B: What I think that it shows is that what whatever your views on the subject there is firstly a lot of interest in this and secondly it’s an issue that does divided people. Some people are clearly true believers others die hard sceptics but whatever their opinions on it they are strongly held I think in most of these cases.
A: Now when you were working for the Ministry of Defence people would call in and you would only imagine the kind of calls and letters you would have got lots of these reports, lots of what people thought were sightings turned out to be misidentifications or they could be explained away but there must have been a small percentage that actually did remain unsolved, some real mysteries.
B: Yes indeed. Most sightings as you say, misidentifications of aircraft lights weather balloons meteors, satellites, Chinese lanterns of course now days but around 5% over the years defied any conventional explanation sometimes these things were seen by police officers, pilots, military personal. Sometimes there were good photos, videos that we got at the MoD which our own technical experts said are not faked and some UFOs were tracked on military radar performing speeds and manoeuvres that seemed ahead of anything we had so there was certainly some cases in those real life X Files that gave me and my colleagues some pause for thought.
A: You have the pause for thought moment, what then happens, does it quietly disappear into the ether of the government, into dark corridors of power.
B: Yes, in a sense it does and it’s frustrating because when you are dealing with UFOs that you are able to explain and misidentifications or hoaxes you have effectively solved the case but unknown simply means unknown. So that 5%, unless some piece of new information comes to light, it’s a little bit like and unsolved crime in a police file.
A: Now here’s a question. This came through from Tony Downing: 'There is now doubt concerning the existence of unidentified flying objects but when will disclosure by mainstream governments of this phenomenon become a reality?'
B: Well, the question about disclosure really begs the further question what do you think it is to disclose? Now if, as some people believe, an alien space craft being hidden in an air force hanger somewhere yes, then there is something to say but what if the scary truth and I think this is where we are is that governments are actually just as in the dark about this as anyone else and no government wants to say they don’t know.
A: Of course for some people it’s not just about seeing an object flying around in the sky it actually goes further than that it’s about seeing alien life. We are going to have a little look at the footage of the video game and as we do just talk us through, Nick if you could, some of those examples where people actually claim to have had a visitation or a meeting with an alien.
B: Well there are many cases where people say it wasn’t just lights in the sky, I have seen an entity and there was a photo of an alien once taken on Ilkley Moor a very famous photo doing the rounds all over the net. There are many people of course who claim they have been taken on board space ships, abducted by aliens and that they have been subjected to some sort of medical procedure. Again we heard in some of the footage there people were saying ‘well, they’d study us, wouldn’t they.’
A: It’s all a bit sketchy isn’t it? People have these kind of vaguesh sort of recollections of this stuff. Nobody has got that shiny glossy 10 x 8 photo of them standing of Folkestone sea front with an alien.
B: No and indeed if they did people would probably say, it’s too good to be true therefore it must be faked. What people I think want and need is some absolutely definitive piece of proof. You basically want and artefact, something that says made in Alpha Centauri or something.
A: Here’s a question from Jeanette Burke. Jeanette says ‘2012 seems to have seen a huge increase in UFOs in your opinion Nick, how do you think this is? Why is it so? Or are these all complete hoaxes in their selves?'
B: Well I think there are a lot of UFO stories around in the media at the moment. Part of that is because there are a lot of sightings. Part of it may have something to do with peoples interest in 2012 and what the Mayans may or may not have believed about the end of the world it’s really focused a lot of people’s attention on perhaps esoteric and strange things but part of it is just that question - are we alone or not in the universe?, continues to be one of the biggest questions we can ask ourselves and clearly people are fascinated by it and are going to debate that as much as they care.
A: Now in 2007 the Ministry of Defence themselves actually said ‘we are going to come clean with you guys’, a lot of people very sceptical about why they were doing this, ‘and we are just going to release everything that’s ever been reported, it’s out there.’ So no mystery anymore, no conspiracy.
B: Well this is a very interesting story because when the Freedom of Information Act came into force in the UK the Ministry of Defence found that they were getting more requests about UFOs than any other subject and that’s why yes, they decided to declassify and release the entire archive. That process is nearly complete, not quite. Now there are a lot of conspiracy theorists, some people say this is just a smoke screen or all the good stuff has been held back. Some files including files covering a period of Britain’s most famous UFO case, the Rendlesham Forest incident, have been inadvertently destroyed so there are a lot of new conspiracies doing the rounds, actually ironically as a result of the MoD disclosing this information.
A: but the interesting thing about that is that research shows that a quarter of people simply don’t believe what the government are telling them. They think there is some kind of cover up going on
B: Yes I think it’s interesting to speculate why that might be. My own view is that I think people in this day and age are much more cynical and distrustful of not just governments but authorities and I think that that plays into the UFO subject and the idea that somewhere there is a crashed spaceship is very appealing to people.
A: Lots of questions coming in from you, here’s another one from Eric J Gates, the author of Full Disclosure. He says 'there will be no official acknowledgement about ETs until the US president makes a disclosure announcement. Do you think this will ever happen?' First of all you’d better tell us what a disclosure announcement is.
B: Well people in the UFO community have this kind of fantasy that one day they’ll switch on their TV and there’ll be an announcement saying 'there’s a special broadcast coming through' and then the President will appear and will say 'My fellow Americans, people of the Earth, we are not alone. UFOs are real, we are being visited.' Now the problem with that sort of thing isn’t so much the President saying 'yeah there are aliens.' The problem is saying 'and therefore we’ve lied to you about it for the last 50 or 60 years' because people believe that this goes back to 1947, to whatever it was that crashed at Roswell. So again I’m sceptical that this idea of Presidential disclosure will ever happen.
A: And tell us, just sticking with the United States, Area 51 of course, a little shot at the beginning of this program of what that looks like. What’s the deal with that place? I mean is it a great way for a government to rooster its own feathers and say look we’ve got something big going on here, we’re not going to tell you. Is there really something very very secret going on there?
B: Well Area 51 exists, it’s real. Conspiracy theorists and UFO believers think there’s alien technology there, perhaps technology that we’re back engineering. Some people even think that there are aliens working with us there, that it’s a joint alien-human facility. Sceptics say no look it’s a military base and they just test flying new spy planes and things. One thing that I’m certain about given my government background is the moment something like Area 51 becomes public knowledge, the real game, the real secrets move somewhere else. So the real question now isn’t what’s going on about area 51, what about area 52, 53 and 54?
A: They’re next-door neighbours one assumes
B: Or somewhere we don’t know about.
A: Perhaps. Another interesting aspect if you like that seems to have sort of gone off the radar a bit, crop circles. There was a huge, almost a daily story about these magnificent patterns being carved out in cornfields, lots of it in the United Kingdom of course and these we’re quite extraordinary. You look at them from an aerial shot and you think there’s no way any human being was ever able to knock out one of those in about eight hours. They are amazing to see, they throw up a whole bunch of questions and nobody, unless you can tell us differently Nick, has ever fully explained a crop circle.
B: Well I’m a little bit more sceptical on crop circles than UFOs and I think we have seen, particularly if you get a large group of people together and they work in a team, they are capable of creating some fairly good patterns and I think most of them are made by people. But again as with UFOs, for anyone that’s sceptical on the subject, you’ve only got to have one of these things have a non-conventional explanation. The believers effectively only have to be right once and it’s a real game changer.
A: Paul sends a question, he says 'are most UFOs really other countries’ air force planes just spying on the United Kingdom or the United States?'
B: Well, good question, and of course the flipside of that is, are some of them our own spy planes being test flown? So the question I always had to ask at the MoD with some of the UFO Sightings was could it be one of ours that maybe I didn’t have a need to know about? But I would have probably been tipped off or told no need to worry about this one or a foreign military one. I can’t go into huge details on this subject because it touches on intelligence matters.
A: Come on you can, nobody will mind
B: I’ll get a knock on the door. Suffice to say we have a pretty good idea of what’s flying out there, whether it’s ours or whether it belongs to someone else.
A: Great question here from Dominic – we had lots of questions on Rendlesham Forest, we won’t go into the whole story of Rendlesham Forest but it is a very famous US military base in East Anglia that there’s claims there was an alien visitation, a craft visited. Dominic says on that point 'binary code left behind at Rendlesham, what do you make of this Nick?'
B: Well yes, this is Britain’s most famous and compelling UFO case. It was a landing, there were dozens of military witnesses, two of them got close enough to touch the side of the thing. They saw strange symbols, which looked a bit like Egyptian hieroglyphs and one of the witnesses claimed that when he touched the object he received a sort of telepathic download of 1s and 0s. Now this so called Rendlesham Binary Code is still being looked at by a number of experts and scientists and cryptographers and all sorts of people and there’s lots of controversy. Is it as some people believe it's a latitude and longitude..
A: So what he was given this code psychically?
B: Some sort of telepathy, some sort of compulsion, we really don’t know. Suffice to say, that many people believe it is a message of some kind, and the challenge then becomes what does it say?
A: So when you hear these kinds of stories, they’re incredibly compelling to hear stuff like that, particularly from witnesses who are senior military officials but you’re still forced to question why there are no unequivocal photographs, videos showing without a centile of doubt that it’s out there. Do you think in our lifetime, we’re ever likely to see that 100% pure pedigree piece of evidence that shows that is a UFO and that is an alien?
B: I’d like to think so and I think indeed in relation to Rendlesham Forest the UFO was filmed and photos were taken but it was so bright and there was radiation at the landing site that apparently some of the pictures didn’t come out. Now I know that always makes conspiracy theorists suspicious but I think it’s a fair explanation, I think we might get some definitive piece of proof and like I said previously you’ve only got to have one occasion that is definitive, you can take that to the bank, proof positive and our world changes forever.
A: Why are we so fascinated by this? What’s the reasoning behind it?
B: I think it’s that question, are we alone or not in the universe is the biggest and most profound question we can ask ourselves. I think we’re also afraid, we’re very afraid the answer might be we are alone and therefore, as the old X-Files slogan used to say, “I want to believe” and I think people do want to believe.
A: A question came in about the Phoenix lights which happened in the USA in about 1997 we’ve had in on Twitter, in fact a few people did mention that. @aliensthetruth, that came from.
B: Very very interesting case and what was fascinating about that is that at the time the Governor went and held a press conference and debunked the whole thing. Years later it emerged that the Governor who was an ex-United States Air Force pilot himself had actually seen the UFO himself but had felt that there was such hysteria and panic developing over this, he felt that as Governor he needed to step in and diffuse the situation, but when you get pilots and Governors and politicians seeing these things it really does make you wonder.
A: Now part of your job at the MoD was to assess if we need to have plans for some kind of alien attack, now that entire department mysteriously or otherwise has been closed down. When you left they said that’s it, we’re not going to bother with this anymore, so it’s gone, so what kind of thing would happen? What do you think we need and should plan for when it comes to defences if at all?
B: Well I suspect that even though the MoDs UFO project was, as you say axed, victim of defence cuts like a lot of things these days. I suspect that if pilots and military personnel see things they are still being investigated. I’ve heard for example they’ll use phrases like ‘unconventional aircraft’ or ‘unusual helicopter’ to avoid creating a freedom of information paper trail on this but yes, I think there should start thinking about what would happen if we did encounter aliens and that’s again why, in a sense games like XCOM Enemy Unknown kind of make us think about this. Would encounters with extra-terrestrials be benign or would it be that sort of nightmare alien invasion scenario and as long as the probability of that is non-zero, which clearly it is, it does make some sense to think about things. You know Ronald Reagan some time ago in a speech to the United Nations said ‘I occasionally think how quickly we would set aside all our differences if we faced some alien threat from beyond this earth’ and if the President of the United States can make a speech like that to the United Nations I think, did he know something? Did he suspect something or did he just believe something personally. I don’t know but it’s worth thinking about.
A: and on that Presidential note, Nick Pope thank you sir, nice to have you with us our thanks to Nick, thanks to you as well for joining us. If you’d like to find out any more about XCOM Enemy Unknown very simply just go to www.xcom.com/enemyunknown. Thanks to you for watching. Goodbye.
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