- The first published book to use the term “UFO” was Donald E. Keyhoe’s 1953 book, Flying Saucers from Outer Space.
- Between 1947 and 1969, 12,618 UFO sightings were reported to Project Blue Book, a UFO research agency that was headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Today, 701 of those sightings remain “unidentified.”
- UFOs were initially called “flying saucers,” but the more neutral phrase “unidentified flying objects,” or UFOs, was later coined by the U.S. Air Force in 1953 to include shapes other than “saucers” or “discs.”
- Most mainstream scientists consider UFOs (in their popular sense as extraterrestrial visitors) as so extraordinarily unlikely (though not impossible) as to deserve no investigation.
- Peru’s air force is reopening an office responsible for investigating UFOs due to increased reports of anomalous aerial phenomena. The Department of Investigation of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena (DIFAA), which was created in 2001, was dormant for five years until now.
- Most flying objects that are listed as a UFO and later identified as an object on Earth can then be called an “IFO,” or identified flying object.
The term "flying saucer" was coined in 1947
- The modern UFO era began in 1947 when pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine disc-shaped objects flying over Mt. Rainer, Washington. A reporter labeled them “flying saucers,” and the term entered mainstream consciousness.
- Over half of all UFO reports from the late 1950s through the 1960s were accounted for by manned reconnaissance flights (namely U-2) over the United States.
- Area 51’s nickname “Dreamland” was allegedly derived from an Edgar Allan Poe poem by the same name. It warns that “the traveler, traveling though it,/ May not—dare not openly view it;/ Never it mysteries are exposed/ To the weak human eye unclosed.”
- Most alien-encounter movies fall into one of two subcategories: 1) alien-invasion movies in which humanity must fight against hostile extraterrestrials (e.g., the 1979 movie Alien) or 2) technological angel-type movies in which friendly extraterrestrials try to help humanity in some way (e.g., the 1989 movie The Abyss). A less common but not unusual third category includes films in which terrestrials help aliens.
- The Aetherius Society is probably the best known and organized UFO religion. It was founded by George King in 1954. King claimed he received a command from interplanetary sources to become “the Voice of Interplanetary Parliament.”
- An important line of speculation that has split from the mainstream UFO community is the “ancient-astronaut” school. Their basic tenet is that “ufonauts” visited our planet in the distant past.
- In 1967, British authorities investigated six “flying saucers” in a perfect line across southern England. It turned out to be a hoax perpetuated by engineering students.
- An unidentified flying object (UFO) is an unexplained anomaly in the sky. It can also be on the ground, as long as it is observed hovering, landing, or departing into the sky.
When you follow the path of the unknown, you never know what you may find.
- Sondra Faye
- The Bermuda Triangle is an area in the Atlantic Ocean within which unusual events occur. One popular explanation (among many) is that there is a secret undersea UFO base in the area and that there is something about the comings and goings of UFOs that is responsible for the destruction/disappearance of Earth’s ships and planes.
- Carl Jung interpreted the phenomena of flying saucers, which often appear in the form of circular disks, as mandala symbols, reflecting the human mind’s desire for stability in a confused world.
- The last significantly funded UFO study in the U.S. was the 1968 Condon report. After examining hundreds of files from the Air Force’s Project Blue and civilian UFO groups (NICAP and APRO), the report concluded the study of UFOs was unlikely to yield any worthwhile scientific studies. However, many ufologists argue that the government was not interested in investigating UFOs; rather, they only wanted to debunk UFO phenomenon.
- Though astronomer Carl Sagan was an arch debunker of UFOs and the paranormal, he was enthusiastic about the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project, which searches for radio signals from outer space.
- On July 8, 1947, the public information office in Roswell, New Mexico, announced the recovery of a crashed “flying disc” from a ranch near Roswell. The government said it was an experimental balloon that was part of a classified program. However, critics say the government was covering up the discovery of an extraterrestrial spacecraft and its occupants.
The UFO film Barbarella popularized Fonda as a "sex kitten"
- The 1967 Jane Fonda film Barbarella was based on a risqué French comic strip heroine. Although not about flying saucers or alien invaders, it is a useful example of how the outer space sci-fi genre acts as an inkblot for human projections, including sexual fantasies.
- Captain Thomas Mantell, a 25-year-old pilot in the Kentucky Air National Guard, crashed and died on January 7, 1948. He was chasing a supposed UFO. Because he was an experienced pilot who flew in WWII, the circumstances of his accident are a matter of dispute among ufologists.
- According to Gallup Polls, over 90% of the American public acknowledges an acquaintance with the topic of UFOs. In fact, more people recognized the term “UFO” than remembered the name “Gerald Ford” in a poll taken just six months after Ford left the presidential office.
- In the Soviet Union, sightings of UFOs were often prompted by tests of secret military rockets.
- In 1948, the U.S. Air force began Project Sign, a UFO investigation agency. Within a year, it was succeeded by Project Grudge which, in 1952, was replaced by the longest-lived of the official inquiries into UFOs, Project Blue Book. From 1952 to 1969, Project Blue Book gathered more than 12,000 reports of UFPO sightings or events. About 6% of the 12,000 sightings remain unsolved.
- A 1996 Gallup poll indicated that 71% of Americans believe that the government knows more than they are telling people about UFOs.
- Some claim that an early UFO sighting occurs in the Bible, when the prophet Ezekiel describes a “great cloud with fire enfolding itself, a wheel in the middle of a wheel that descended and fired lightning bolts into the earth.”
- The first photographs of a UFO were taken in 1883 by astronomer Jose Bonilla in Zacatecas, Mexico.
- The Otis Air National Guard base near Cape Cod, MA, has been said to be involved in several UFO reports, such as the disappearance of the F-94C Starfire. The Air Force never confirmed those claims.
- The 1961 made-for-TV movie The UFO Incident was one of the first films to show an actual alien rather than just the saucer. The aliens had huge heads with elongated eyes and gray skin. In previous decades, aliens were usually described in a variety of ways such as little Smurf-sized aliens, large robots, or reptilians. By the 70s and 80s, the “Greys,” as they became known, dominated reports. Greys however, were much less common in other countries. For example, in Russia, aliens tended to have a tiny head, which was an inverse of the big-headed, frail-body image in America.
Grey aliens are also referred to as "Roswell Greys"
- The 1898 book War of the Worlds was the first true appearance of alien invaders. It pioneered the concept of hostile extraterrestrial contact and inspired a radio broadcast that terrified thousands of listeners. It helped create an alien invasion meme in the U.S. and began a distinctly American strain of UFO panic.
- While the first UFO film was the low-budget 1951 Man from Planet, the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still (later in 1951) featured one of the first instances of the now iconic flying saucer. The movie was a plea for peace during the Cold War.
- The flying saucer frenzy peaked in 1958. Soon after, reported sightings began to decline.
- The legacy of the movie Earth vs. The Flying Saucer (1958) is its flying saucers. These flying saucers were the first to have a dome top with counter-rotating panels (the top panels spin in one direction and the bottom spin in another direction). These saucers were so impressive that other movies used licensed footage from the movie in their own saucer scenes.
- Leonard Nimoy narrated the documentary series “In Search of . . .” from 1976-1982). Its sober, 60 Minutes-like tone and open-ended findings fed into the nation’s resurgent interest in UFOs. This show paved the way for new UFO believers. It also helped that Nimoy’s voice lent a certain gravitas to the show.
- The 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind featured two key elements in UFO culture: 1) massive government cover-ups and 2) more big-headed “Greys.”
- In the 1960s, popular culture shifted its focus from flying saucers to their pilots. There were more reports of talking to aliens face to face or visiting their usually friendly home worlds. By the 1970s, aliens were more menacing and had turned to crime, such as mutilating cattle, gouging arcane symbols into farmland, and kidnapping humans.
Nearly 4 million people believe they have been abducted by aliens
- A 1991 Roper poll shows that 4 million people believe they have been abducted by aliens.
- The first alien abduction claimed to have happened in 1961 when Betty and Barney Hill said they were taken from a New Hampshire road.
- The 1988 novel Communion is referenced by ufologists as one of the few in-depth primary sources on the nature of alien contact and includes such memes as abductions, repressed memories, etc. The fact that the author is a science fiction writer doesn’t seem to matter to its status as a primary source for ufologists.
- The 1993 movie Fire in the Sky recounts the 1975 abduction of Travis Walton. Before the credits of the movie begin, a title card notes that Walton recently passed a lie detection test about the incident. However, the tests were actually arranged by the studio to generate publicity for the movie’s release. Walton failed or had inconclusive results on lie detector tests administered by authorities.
- Some researchers note that the popular TV series The X-files (1993-2002) marked the end of the Enlightenment because it depicted a world veering toward “superstition and religion” and away from reason and science.
- “Foo fighters” and, more rarely “kraut fireballs,” were terms Allied aircraft pilots in WW II used to describe different kinds of UFOs or other mysterious aerial phenomena.
- UFOs have inspired many clubs and organizations, such as the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), and the Fund for UFO Research.
- On November 23, 1953, First Lieutenant Felix Eugene Moncla, Jr., was sent to intercept an unidentified flying object over Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. After getting close to the object, Moncla’s plane disappeared from the radar screen and was never found.
- On November 16, 1986, a Japan Air Lines cargo jumbo plane reported three unidentified objects while flying over Alaska. The pilot, Kenji Terauchi, reported that he saw two lights measuring no more than 8 feet across. He said a third, larger light was also visible on the craft.
- The study of crop circles is known as “cereology.” The first known crop circle appeared in Queensland, Australia, in 1965. Crop circles nourished UFO myths, and the UFO myths added meaning to the otherwise incomprehensible signs in the grain fields.
Crop circles are also known as "flying saucer nests"
- On December 9, 1965, reports in several states described a fireball that left behind streaming metal debris. In Kecksburg, PA, eyewitness reported they saw a large acorn-looking object landing. An Army investigation would later fail to turn up any evidence.
- Studies have shown that most UFO reports misidentified objects or natural phenomena—such as aircraft, balloons, noctilucent clouds, nacreous clouds, meteors or, to a lesser extent, hoaxes. Between 5%-20% of reported sightings remain unexplained.
- According to records released on August 5, 2010, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill did not allow a report of an alleged UFO incident involving an RAF plane during WWII because he worried it would create mass panic. He is said to have made the orders during a secret meeting with General Dwight Eisenhower.
- The first known use of the word “saucer” in association with a UFO occurred on January 25, 1878, when the Denison Daily News noted that John Martin, a local farmer, reported seeing a large, circular dark object “about the shape of saucer” that looked like a balloon flying at a “wonderful speed.”
- A UFO religion is a religion that believes in the existence of extraterrestrial entities operating UFOs. Notable UFO religions are the Aetherius Society, Church of the Sub Genius, Heaven’s Gate, Raëlism, Scientology, Unarius Academy of Science, and the Universe People.
- Thousands of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that U.S. agencies collected and still collect information on UFOs. These agencies include the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), FBI, CIA, NSA, and military agencies of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
The War of the Worlds is one of the earliest stories that depict a conflict between humans and an extraterrestrial race
- In the late 1930s, Orson Wells’ radio show The War of the Worlds was so realistic that hundreds of people thought America had really been invaded by aliens and UFOs.
- The term ETV (Extraterrestrial Vehicle) is used to distinguish earthbound objects from unidentified flying objects.
- The Maury Incident was a hoax in 1947. Harold A. Dahl originally said he saw objects flying in the sky over Maury Island in Puget Sound. Dahl later said his story was a hoax. It was one of the earliest reports that included the meme “ Men in Black.”
- “Men in Black” is an American popular culture motif. In UFO conspiracy theories, men dressed in black suits who claim to work for a government agency harass or threaten UFO witness to keep them quiet. In some cases, it is implied that they may be aliens themselves. The term may also generally refer to any unusual threatening individual whose appearance is linked with a UFO sighting.
- The expression “Oz factor” refers to the sensation of being transported into another reality during a UFO sighting.
1“10 Famous American UFO Reports: Fact or Fiction?” CBS News. 2013. Accessed: October 22, 2013.
2“Area 51 Declassified Facts.” National Geographic. 2013. Accessed: October 22, 2013.
3Collyns, Dan. “Peru’s UFO Investigations Office to Be Reopened.” October 27, 2013. Accessed: October 30, 2013.
4Copping, Jasper. “UFO Enthusiasts Admit the Truth May Not Be Out There after All.” The Telegraph. November 4, 2012. Accessed: October 22, 2013.
5Giere, Ronald N., et al. Understanding Scientific Reasoning. Wadsworth Publishing, 2006.
6Hough, Andrew and Peter Hutchison. “UFO Files: Winston Churchill ‘Feared Panic’ Over World War RAF Incident.” The Telegraph. August 5, 2010. Accessed: October 22, 2013.
7Keyhoe, Donald E. Flying Saucers from Outer Space. 1st ed. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1953.
8Kowalski, Dean A.The Philosophy of the X-Files. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2011.
9Lewis, James R. UFOs and Popular Culture: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Myth. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2000.
10Sofge, Erik. “The 10 Most Influential UFO-Inspired Books, Movies, and TV Shows.” Popular Mechanics. 2013. Accessed: October 22, 2013.
11Vallee, Jacques and Chris Aubeck. Wonders in the Sky: Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times. New York, NY: Penguin Group Inc., 2009.