It was like any other day... except for the mysterious sky object

Sunday, July 24, 1994
Page C6

By Huth Dunley
London Free Press/CP

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 extraterrestrials.

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 others.

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 like Cote.

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 extraterrestrials.

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 easily."

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 true.

He says the number of people abducted by aliens may be nearly three million.


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