They popped up during World War Two, crashed in the New Mexico desert back in the late-'40s, zipped around Washington, D.C. in 1952, scared the life out of a French farmer in the 1960s, landed in a UK forest in 1980, and got the Belgian military in a state of concern a decade later. What are they? Aliens, extraterrestrials, little bald guys with big black eyes. Get the picture? And while some cases can be dismissed as hoaxes and mistakes, others are pretty intriguing. And a few are downright historic. Welcome to our top 10 best UFO encounters.
R is for Roswell
Most intriguing of all about the world's most famous saucer saga - Roswell - is the US Government's response. In 1947, the military claimed it recovered a "flying disc" from remote ranch-land in New Mexico. That explanation was hastily replaced by a weather-balloon. In 1994, the weather-balloon was gone and the military was talking about a secret balloon to monitor Soviet atomic-bomb experiments. In 1997, after years of refusing to comment on tales of "alien bodies" found at the site, the government claimed they were merely crash-test-dummies. Four explanations? No wonder saucer-seekers see Roswell as the Numero Uno of UFOs.
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Aliens in the woods
It was just before Christmas 1980 and something strange appeared in the skies over Suffolk, UK. Nope, it wasn't Father Christmas and his reindeer. According to numerous military personnel it was nothing less than a real-life UFO. And it landed in Rendlesham Forest. A spaceship in the woods, tales of little creatures appearing out of a vehicle from another world, airmen silenced by the Men in Black, and a government cover-up that extended from Downing Street to the Pentagon: these are just a few of the significant claims made about the case that is, without doubt, the definitive British Roswell.
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UFOs invade France
Imagine the scene: it's early one morning, you are a farmer, working in your field, and you hear a whistle. You look around, puzzled, and you're amazed to see an egg-shaped, car-sized object, sitting on the ground. Not what you expect to encounter every day, right? It gets worse: a pair of weird-looking creatures appear on the scene and blast you with a futuristic weapon that causes temporarily paralysis. They then race back to their vehicle and soar away. Nope, it's not science-fiction. It happened, in 1965, to a French farmer named Maurice Masse. And it's a classic for UFO-spotters.
UFOs over Europe
Any mention of the word "UFO" inevitably makes people think: "flying saucer!" Right? Well, UFOs actually come in all sorts of shapes. In the last three decades more and more people have been reporting sightings of huge, black, triangular-shaped UFOs. Throughout March 1990, this particular brand of UFO caused havoc for the Belgian military when its airspace was invaded by a fleet of such craft, and fighter-planes were scrambled to intercept them. But it was no good: the UFOs easily outperformed the country's finest Top-Guns and quickly vanished. And, in Belgium, many UFO sceptics quickly became full-on believers.
A really close encounter
In March 1993, Wayne Elliott was the meteorological-officer at RAF Shawbury, Shropshire, UK. It was late one night that month when Elliott witnessed from the base something incredible. It was a triangular-shaped vehicle, flying at a height of barely 200 feet, and at approximately a similar distance from the perimeter fence of Shawbury. That is, until it suddenly shot away at high speed, in total silence, and was gone. Most amazing of all, the huge UFO was near the size of a Jumbo Jet. A credible witness who was an employee of the RAF: what more could you ask for?
Destination: Washington, D.C.
Remember the graphic scenes in Independence Day when UFOs ominously hovered over the major cities of our world? Something very much like that happened in July 1952. Over two weekends, the skies of Washington, D.C., were invaded by UFOs that sparked a major military alert, amid fears the Russians were launching a sneak attack. But these invaders were stranger than anything the Kremlin could dream up. The Air Force took to the skies, frantic radar-operators tracked the UFOs on their screens, and even the FBI got worried. It wasn't quite War of the Worlds, but it was close.
UFOs in wartime
It was bad enough that our lads had to take on Adolf Hitler in the Second World War. But aliens? Maybe. A formerly-secret UK military document housed at the National Archive, Kew, tells an amazing story of the type that would have had Fox Mulder foaming at the mouth. It was November 1942 when the crew of a Lancaster bomber - returning home after a raid on Turin - encountered a massive UFO described, incredibly, as 200 to 300 feet in length and flying at 500 mph. It's safe to say this had nothing to do with the Nazis!
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Aliens on the mountain
As Roswell suggests, the aliens are pretty poor pilots. But that famous case is not the only one where E.T. might have fallen and burned. In May 1978, the CIA got in a state of excitement when reports surfaced from Bolivia of a strange object having crashed on a mountain not far from the city of Bermejo. Could it have been a satellite, a rocket-booster, or a meteorite? Not according to the CIA, who, initially, described it as metallic, egg-shaped and around 15-feet in diameter. Not surprisingly, the official story, today, is very different: nothing but a hoax. Right...
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From saucers to seeds
If there's a group of people it's hard to dismiss when it comes to seeing UFOs, it's astronauts. One such person who claimed a saucer encounter was Gordon Cooper, one of NASA's original Project Mercury astronauts. Back in 1951, when Cooper was a pilot stationed in Germany with the U.S. Air Force, he and several of his colleagues encountered high-flying, saucer-shaped craft criss-crossing Europe that amazed and astounded all of them. But the high-ups had an answer for the mystery: nothing but "seed pods" sailing in the wind. Really? Is that the best they could come up with?
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Chasing a saucer
It's not every day that a military agency will admit to not only having tracked a UFO on radar, but to having ordered its pilots to chase the thing too! But, exactly that happened on July 22, 1985 after the Zimbabwe Air Force went on a state of high alert. The reason: a fast-moving, circular vehicle was in the nation's airspace causing havoc and concern. When a pair of Hawk jets were launched, the UFO took action. No, it didn't blast them out the sky. It chickened out and fled the scene, going from 7,000 to 70,000-feet in a flash!
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