It's not always a dark and stormy night. In fact, quite often it's on a day
just like any other that people report seeing unidentified flying objects or
Hundreds of North Americans believe
they have seen alien spacecraft or encountered beings from another planet.
Many even claim they were abducted by space aliens, providing more grist for
the supermarket tabloids.
Tom Theofanous documents dozens of
UFO reports across Ontario every year as assistant director of the Mutual UFO
Network in Toronto. The organization has offices around the world and works
with more than 1,000 consultants in researching mysterious sightings.
The subject is "starting to become
treated as real science, a scientific enigma," he says, "which it always
should have been."
Theofanous, who has never claimed to
have seen a flying saucer or encountered aliens, says his office receives
about 200 calls a year.
Of those reported sightings, 85 to 90
per cent can be explained by natural phenomena such as stars, planets and
meteor showers. The rest have not been explained.
Forty per cent of the unexplained sightings, he says, are reports from people
claiming to have met or been abducted by aliens.
"We know something is occurring to
these people, but we don't know what," Theofanous says.
Despite people's reluctance to step
forward with UFO stories, a 1993 study by Nicholas Spanos, a late Carleton
University professor, suggested that those who believe they have had a close
encounter with aliens are just as intelligent and psychologically healthy as
Some, like musician Richard Cote of
London, who claims he saw a spacecraft and may have been abducted in 1993,
turn to the television show "Unsolved Mysteries" for help.
Tim Hogan, co-ordinating producer of
the U.S. show, says the program receives hundreds of calls a year from people
Hogan says that while the show has
been helpful in solving many crimes and mysteries, it has failed to come up
with any clues about UFOs and reported alien abductions.
The National Research Council of
Canada has been recording UFO sightings since 1947. NRC officials say they
receive about 100 sightings annually -most of which are forwarded from the
RCMP, Transport Canada and the Defence Department.
Some of those convinced of alien
abductions say government officials are hiding the truth about UFOs and
Not all aircraft in Canadian airspace
can be identified, but unidentified craft are not assumed to be alien
spaceships, says 2nd Lieut. Mike Bellavy, who works in the public affairs
division of Norad's Canadian region headquarters in North Bay, Ont.
In most cases, he says, it may be a
legitimate aircraft that could not be identified quickly enough, or drug
smugglers skilled in avoiding detection.
While the total number of the
"unknowns" is classified information, Norad will say that 22 unidentified
craft were charted in Canadian airspace in the last three months.
Psychologist Robert Baker says there
is no conspiracy. Baker, a retired professor at the University of Kentucky, is
a specialist in hypnosis and has done extensive research on the paranormal.
Alien abduction reports can be
explained by a sleep disorder experienced by 45 per cent of the public, says
Baker, a member of the Scientific Committee for the Scientific Investigation
of Claims of the Paranormal.
He dismisses evidence like bruises,
scratches and puncture marks, saying people can "simulate these marks quite
Many abductees claim to have been
used in breeding experiments with aliens.
"We can't even breed with
chimpanzees, which are our closest relatives. How in heavens are we supposed
to breed with aliens?" says Baker. "The stories these people tell reveal a
terrible ignorance of science."
In direct opposition to Baker is John
Mack, a Harvard professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning psychiatrist. His new
book, "Abduction: Human Encounters With Aliens", suggests abduction claims are
He says the number of people abducted
by aliens may be nearly three million.