Wednesday, December 10, 2014
CHASING THE UNBELIEVABLE
In June 1956, an unidentified flying object was seen by hundreds of north-east residents in broad daylight. At about 7am, a huge sphere estimated to be 800 feet in diameter appeared in the sky, initially off the coast of Fraserburgh but then moving to about a mile off the Aberdeen coastline.
At 11am, two RAF jets were seen approaching the object and then encircling it in a wide arc four or five times – a manoeuvre many suspect was carried out to photograph the object.
Soon after the jets departed, the object seemed to climb to a higher altitude and disappeared from sight. But as the military jets’ contrails drifted in the morning’s westerly winds, the UFO returned to full view for spectators below before finally, at approximately 2.30pm, disappearing for good.
It was a shocking and perplexing sight that has stuck in the mind of Aberdeen resident Ian Taylor. He was then a young pupil at Bankhead Academy and remembers watching the enigmatic scene unfold.
“It was golden and metallic,” he said. “It was a beautiful thing. From the ground perspective, it looked like a sphere.”
Mr Taylor recalls the incident being reported in the local press, although there were scant details to write about. The shape and motion of the UFO certainly did not match anything seen before.
The Met office confirmed it had not been one of its weather balloons. In fact, nobody could offer an explanation as to what had hung in the sky that day.
Further light was shed years later when Mr Taylor compared notes with James Stewart – at the time a scientist at the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute in Aberdeen and who in his spare time was a keen a UFO researcher.
Mr Stewart had also seen the strange object in 1956 but through a high-powered optical device.
Mr Taylor said: “James said it came to a point on the top, but the underside was almost like a semi-sphere. It was quite rounded.
“He saw no appendages and no markings. It was a very highly polished surface that reflected in the sun.
“And it had a bobbing motion, very slow, and a slight pendulating motion at the same time. It wasn’t completely stationary – it moved up, down and sideways, which is quite typical of these craft sightings.”
The craft Mr Taylor referred to are those of extraterrestrial origin, and his fascination with them has followed him throughout his life, from his initial role as an air-defence mechanism officer in the RAF to his later career as a product designer.
His suspicions solidified further during his short spell at RAF Buchan when he was in his late teens. He began asking about the 1956 incident but was quickly given a dressing-down by his squadron leader for making inquiries.
Mr Taylor recalled: “He said, ‘I believe you have been investigating UFOs. If you continue this, you will be in trouble’.
“They stopped me in my tracks from discussing that matter further. It was enough to show me they were taking it very seriously.”
While he asked no more questions of the military, Mr Taylor has never stopped looking elsewhere for answers.
THERE ARE NO BOUNDARIES
The Aberdonian ufologist’s research over the decades has been widespread. Such is his knowledge of the topic, he has become recognised as a leading expert in the north of Scotland, often called upon by the media to comment on sightings that are made from time to time.
Public interest in UFOs has risen and fallen over the years, from the “flap” of the 1950s and 1960s, when activities in New Mexico dominated the news, to the relative lows we are currently experiencing, with fewer sightings reported.
Mr Taylor’s enthusiasm has remained constant, though, spurred on in part by delving deeply into some of the most famous and still-inexplicable incidents from around the world.
They include the cases of “Billy” Eduard Meier in Switzerland and Polish-born American George Adamski – both of whom said they had come into direct contact with alien beings and produced reams of photographs and reports to support their claims.
Equally motivational to Mr Taylor have been the numerous sightings he made before and after the Aberdeen incident. From regular sightings of odd lights in the night sky over the city and out in the countryside, he has developed a keen eye for spotting north-east phenomena.
In fact, this region has seen a wealth of activity, with many reports being made through the years – although Bonnybridge, near Falkirk, maintains its standing as Europe’s UFO capital.
There have been pockets of high activity – such as a high-profile series of bizarre sightings in Muchalls, south of Aberdeen, between 1968 and 1975 – varying from lights in the sky to glowing figures floating off the ground.
“I don’t think any nation of the world is free of this and Aberdeenshire is just another area where activity goes on,” Mr Taylor said.
“There are no boundaries. It’s just a case of people being able to note their presence or report it. And a lot of people don’t report it.”
Fear of ridicule is one deterrent when it comes to reporting, but general observational skills have also drifted, in Mr Taylor’s opinion.
“How many people look up these days?” he said. “Most people today are too busy looking down at their mobile phones. You have to be aware and constantly watching what’s happening in the night sky.”
A PRIVATE JOURNEY
To a large extent, Mr Taylor’s journey to find out all he can about UFOs has been a private one. He was happy to discuss his beliefs and research at length with me in person, but preferred not to be photographed for this article.
He has taken a more visible role in the past when providing commentary on the topic – even appearing on a Grampian TV panel show years ago – but his participation has left him slightly disillusioned with the state of the UFO debate in general.
We are caught, he finds, in a cycle of reviewing disparate evidence and then debunking it in equal measure.
“People’s mindsets make it difficult for you to have any conversation about it, whether at the dinner table or just socially, unless you meet someone who has a real interest in it,” Mr Taylor said.
“People listen and smile often. It often ends up becoming a bit of a laugh. Once that happens, it’s game, set and match. You can’t go on.”
He finds that the people who argue against the possibility of extraterrestrial life tend to be the people who have researched the subject the least. They are “creating an argument for the sake of it”, he said.
But having borne witness to many UFO sightings in the north-east throughout his life, he holds firmly to his views.
“Most people say there must be a simple explanation,” Mr Taylor said. “And my answer is, yes, there is a simple explanation – we could be dealing with hardware from elsewhere rather than shooting stars, optical illusions or temperature inversions, or lenticular clouds.
“I know all about those things, being a former aviator. I’m a good observer. I’ve been trained in it.”
However, he understands why many brush aside the thought of aliens and UFOs. Religious beliefs and a “restricted” understanding of biology and physics loom large in the reasons for people rejecting the possibility of life outside of Earth – both of which Mr Taylor appreciates.
It is also why he considers his journey largely to be a largely private one.
“It’s nothing to do with intellect or intelligence,” he said. “People just aren’t able to conceive of the dimension of this, so they just put it to one side and forget about it.
“So you have to detach yourself from others. It’s a private journey until you meet people that are on the same path, people who have a serious interest in this.”
EARTH IS AN ENTERPRISE
Thankfully, over the years, Mr Taylor has found a small handful of like-minded individuals, and he even hopes to arrange a symposium in Aberdeen one day to enliven the UFO debate.
One such close collaborator of Mr Taylor’s is author Timothy Good – a widely recognised thought leader on the topic of extraterrestrial life.
Mr Taylor and Mr Good have investigated many cases and sightings and Mr Taylor was even invited to have his recollections of the 1956 Aberdeen sighting laid out in Mr Good’s latest book, Earth: An Alien Enterprise.
Together, the experts have formed hypothetical theorems on what life “out there” might look like and considered the implications on life “down here”.
In their opinion, Earth is an enterprise to these alien life forms. It could be the Earth’s natural resources, or the human race. Either way, they believe that the outsiders have an agenda – but not necessarily one that is harmful to us.
“They seem to want to reveal themselves to us,” Mr Taylor said.
“It’s like if you imagine a very primitive tribe in South America that has never seen anything from outside of their domain, not even a jet in the sky, and then suddenly one of the most advanced nations on Earth find these people. How would they approach that tribe?
“They might maybe approach one member of the tribe, such as a leader, and make themselves known gradually so as not to scare them. And you can draw a parallel there. These higher intelligences are maybe slowly showing us that we are not alone. That makes sense to me.”
One thing Mr Taylor and Mr Good suspect strongly is that these alien life forms have bases of operation very nearby – whether on the moon, under the sea or in the world’s many mountainous regions, such as the Highlands.
Another firm belief is that many of their craft are capable of interstellar travel. Much as we would hop on a plane to Rome, they may be able to traverse galaxies in a matter of hours.
“This sounds like science fiction, but it really isn’t,” Mr Taylor said. “There’s a reality to this.”
Whether people believe this is science fiction or not, Mr Taylor holds true to his fascination undeterred.
“I can’t think of any reason why I wouldn’t be interested in it,” he said. “It’s just an incredible thing to contemplate. It’s a quantum leap away from many people’s view that we must be the only inhabited planet.
“I hold the view, as many others do, that the universe is probably awash with life. Why can’t it be? So it’s difficult not to be interested in it. It’s just the way I am.
“I’m always chasing the unbelievable. But is it really so unbelievable?”