Friday, November 11, 2005

Maddocks: Seeing UFOs But Not Much Else

By Philip Maddocks
Natick Bulletin & Tab

     I couldn't help noticing (in Sunday's MetroWest Daily News, "UFO sightings close to home but far out") there had been two reported sightings of unidentified flying objects in the MetroWest this year.

      I also couldn't help noticing that one of those reported sightings occurred early in the morning "while driving back from a dance."

      But you take these sightings when you can get them - especially these days - because these are trying times for ufologists.

     To begin with, UFO magazine was forced to close last year following the sudden death of its editor Graham Birdsall, a disaster from which the close-knit UFO-spotting community has reportedly yet to recover.

      And this past August Chris Parr, coordinator of the Cumbrian branch of the British UFO Hunters, chilled the weakened souls of ufologists further with his announcement that his group may be forced to wind up. The problem, he said, was a lack of UFO sightings.

      "In Cumbria we have gone from 60 UFO sightings in 2003 to 40 in 2004 and none at all this year," Parr told a British newspaper. "It means that the number of people keeping their eyes on the skies is greatly diminished. We are a dying breed in this part of the country. I put it down to the end of 'The X Files,' a lack of military exercises in the area that would produce UFO sightings, and a lack of strange phenomena."

      Parr's statement echoes those of UFO groups in Indiana and New Jersey, where ufologists and their sightings seem to have also been summarily plunged into a celestial darkness.

      Meanwhile, a leading Scandinavian ufologist has suggested that "maybe people are just fed up with the UFO hysteria."

      The sceptics reckon that it isn't just Birdsall who has died.

      "The whole UFO thing is a kind of meme," says Susan Blackmore, a psychologist who studies paranormal activity. "It's a craze, a bit like sudoku. UFOs were just a rather long-lived version. But crazes thrive on novelty, and eventually that dies out. It's taken a long time, but it's good that the UFO era is over. My prediction is that it will go away for a long time and then come back."

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