Where Have All The Aliens Gone?
As UFO-hunters from around the world descend on a small Scottish town for their annual convention, Magin McKenna goes in search of little green men ... and is shocked by what she discovers.
It is easier to get whisked off into space by a band of little green men in flying saucers than it is to get Bonnybridge locals to divulge their close encounters with aliens.
Peter Stuart, a slight 80-year-old, spends his Saturdays sipping whisky inside the Royal Hotel pub that overlooks the sleepy town's main drag of mortar cottages. 'I've never seen anything like that,' Stuart says, winking a wide brown eye. 'Ask me in a couple of hours and I'll tell you the truth.'
But after a few more sips, his steely resolve begins to weaken.
'A few friends have told me what they've seen,' he whispers, and points skyward. 'They're all good people. I believe them. People here don't want to talk about the UFOs because they're afraid of the ridicule.'
In truth, they needn't be afraid. Town councillor Billy Buchanan says he has heard 60,000 stories of UFOs appearing in the skies above the Stirlingshire town over the past decade, and there are many shady tales detailing alien abductions. But last night, as alien-hunters flocked to a dark moor on the fringe of the town in search of extra-terrestrials, puffy grey storm clouds were the most threatening object in the skies.
Locals have been seeing strange balls of light and linking them to ETs since 1992, making Bonnybridge the ideal place for Malcom Robinson, a self-styled investigator of strange phenomena, to organise his national UFO convention. Even more eerily, the town also boasts the highest proportion of lottery winners in Scotland.
Robinson took an interest in the unexplained about a decade ago, when he set out to prove that the causes of such phenomena could be explained rationally through science. Somehow the skeptic got sucked into the absurd, and now Robinson holds workshops on everything from haunted houses to poltergeists.
At least one of his scary abduction stories could give you a mild dose of the chills. So could Billy Buchanan's. The town councillor, who says his political career has been subject to constant ridicule because of his zeal for the extra- terrestrial, is now in negotiations to set up an alien theme park for the town.
Locals, he says, have divulged countless yarns of their experiences with UFOs to his eager ears over the years -- the most memorable being the tale of a young man who claimed he and the woman with whom he was having an affair were abducted from their car and forced to have sex with a blob of alien jelly.
Buchanan has also shot footage of what he claims is a UFO flying over his house. The snowy footage shows a bright ball of light bouncing around a black sky. The image could be a trick of the light, but is nevertheless eerie. Also, nobody has stepped forward to authenticate it, leading Buchanan to wager: 'If anyone can disprove my footage, I'll give them £50,000 and resign my post.'
But the most famous Bonnybridge stories, of black triangles whizzing over empty fields or stark bright discs weaving in and out of the clouds after dark, make perfect fodder for the small community of investigators who regularly monitor them. Luckily, that's the crowd Robinson runs with -- although he is adamant they are not gawking at the unexplained. Rather, they are desperate to explain it.
'People have been seeing low- level balls of light hovering above the hills for years,' Robinson said. 'We don't understand it, but we hope we will eventually.'
Research shows that at least 95% of unidentified flying objects can be identified as aircrafts, helicopters or natural patterns of lights. But chasing down the remaining 5% is what keeps people such as Robinson coming back to peer up at the skies in Bonnybridge.
His partner, Judy Jaafar, describes herself as a sceptic and is vice- chairperson of the British UFO Research Association, making her living disproving the existence of UFOs. Still, even she had an experience in Bonnybridge two summers ago that still makes her squirm.
As Jafaar describes it, the creepy encounter echoes a scene from a sci-fi movie. It was in a field below a flight path that investigators say is the most popular for UFO sightings. 'We were in a murky, misty light and couldn't see anything,' she says. 'After two hours of this we began to see a single white light slowly moving through the sky, moving in and out of the clouds on a horizontal trajectory. It hovered just above the top of the hill, then completely disappeared.'
The weaving went on for two hours when the white light morphed into a beam of red light which shone brightly through the clouds.
'The light split in two and broke away from each other, and they both shot up into the open sky.'
That night Jafaar and Robinson also saw a 'massive flash of electric blue cobalt light' for miles across the sky. They have not been able to explain either phenomenon, but Jafaar thinks it might have something to do with the crystalline composition of the region's rocks.
Jafaar makes it clear she does not attribute the phenomenon to extra-terrestrials. She is working to find scientific explanations for the occurrences at Bonnybridge, and hopes to eventually debunk the alien hype that lays thick over the town -- and much of Central Scotland.
If she succeeds, Jafaar will certainly upset VisitScotland, which launched a campaign this summer to attract visitors to Scotland by touting the country's unusually high number of UFO sightings.
And it's not as if Bonnybridge minds the extra attention. Last winter, some residents set up a webcam on the roof of the Royal Hotel in the hope of finding out a little more about what was really out there. The digital photographs reveal a black orb circling a patch of clouds that hang above a prominent hill in the town's centre.
The hotel management decided to hang the photographs at the bar, using the blurred image more as an odd conversation pitch than proof of strange sightings.
'It's good for business,' said manager Brendan Debaney. 'It's not worth anything more than that.' After all, there's not a great deal else going on in Bonnybridge. Never mind what's true, he says -- the hype 'is good for the area. It puts the place on the map'.
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