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Room 101


Nick Pope :: A "Room 801" Interview

This fortnight in Room 101, we present the second in our series of special text interviews. I'll be interviewing none other than former MoD UFO expert and author Nick Pope. For those left a bit confused by the title, "Room 801" is a legend in British Ufology. Located on the ninth floor of the former Hotel Metropole, the top secret room was where all British reports of UFOs were allegedly collected and studied by the Air Ministry in the 1950s. These investigations largely marked the beginning of what would eventually become the MoD UFO project where Nick Pope worked.

Much like our first interview guest Nick Redfern, as another fellow Brit, Nick Pope seemed like the obvious choice for our next interview. I grew up watching his numerous appearances on the BBC and Sky TV, so it was very exciting when he quickly agreed to do an interview. In a field littered with colourful characters making incredible claims, here was a chance to interview a real government insider. Here we go...

Richard: First things first, thank you very much for giving us the time to answer these questions, I truly appreciate it and I'm sure our readers will find whatever you have to say (or not say) very interesting.

Perhaps the most interesting case you have been associated with is that of the 1980 Rendlesham Forest incident in Suffolk, England. Jacques Vallee has suggested that this may have been some kind of psyop, pointing out that the American soldiers who went out to investigate the UFO that night were told to leave their guns behind. What do you think of this theory?

Nick Pope: As much as I respect Jacques Vallee, the psyop theory is extremely unlikely to explain the Rendlesham Forest incident. I worked at the Ministry of Defence for 21 years. One of my jobs involved working closely with the Defence Intelligence Staff, while my final post was in a security-related job. If this had been a psyop, there is absolutely no way that the authorities would have allowed a paper trail to be generated in the way that it was. The affair would have been allowed to play itself out, but the moment people started putting things in writing, those running the psyop would have had a quiet word and stopped anything from being committed to paper. Any documents had had slipped through the net would have been quietly withdrawn.

Richard: The other major case you are associated with is the 1993 Cosford incident. Do you think this or any other major cases in the UK (e.g. the 1974 Berwyn Mountain Incident) could be explained by black projects in our skies, British or otherwise?

Nick Pope: For obvious reasons, the issue of black projects isn't something that I can discuss in any great detail. Clearly there are aircraft and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (both experimental and operational) the existence of which are not yet public knowledge. However, there are ways of eliminating this possibility from any official investigation into a UFO sighting. To give one example, we know where we test fly our own experimental craft (in various special ranges and danger areas), so can take this into account.

Richard: In other interviews I have heard you say that, during your time on the MoDs UFO project, you never had any indication that there was some secret UFO group - an MJ UK if you will - operating above you. However, what about in other countries. Did you ever get any hint of any secret UFO groups (of whatever scale) active abroad, not just in the US but anywhere?

Nick Pope: It's certainly true that I never got any indication that there was any clandestine UFO group operating in the UK, having access to material that was somehow being withheld from me and my colleagues in the Defence Intelligence Staff. So far as the situation in other countries is concerned, I must answer "no comment."

Richard: You yourself have compared the MoDs UFO project to the US Air Force's defunct Project Blue Book. It is widely believed in Ufology that Blue Book was, far from a serious attempt to investigate UFOs, simply a PR exercise aimed at debunking UFOs in the eyes of the public. Hypothetically, if a UFO had crashed somewhere in the UK (during your tenure at the MoD UFO desk) do you think you would have been told? Perhaps more interestingly who do you suspect would have been?

Nick Pope: Firstly, I disagree with the view that Project Blue Book was a PR exercise. While it had its faults and was, on occasion, conclusion-led, I think that generally speaking most of those involved did their best to investigate sightings in an open-minded way. While they found no evidence that UFOs were extraterrestrial in origin the fact that they couldn't explain a sizeable percentage of reports shows they weren't debunking the phenomenon. The MoD's investigative efforts mirrored Blue Book in relation to both terms of reference and methodology.

In relation to a UFO crash, I believe that as the SME (Subject Matter Expert) I would have been told. I would then have briefed up the chain of command to Service Chiefs and Defence Ministers. A key priority would have been to bring in MoD scientists, to ensure there was no biological or chemical hazard.

Richard: We've been having something of a new UFO wave in the UK recently. In an interview with The Sun, you went as far as calling for an official inquiry into the sightings over Shropshire. Is this still your position or has it changed in hindsight? Also, what's your take on the recent Police helicopter UFO sighting near Cardiff, Wales?

Nick Pope: My call for a public inquiry was not the result of a single sighting, but a response to the wave of sightings over the UK this summer, coupled with unprecedented media and public interest. Some sightings have clearly been caused by Chinese lanterns, but the MoD appear to be using this as an excuse not to investigate. It would be simple to ensure that witnesses are interviewed, photos and videos analysed and radar tapes checked, yet these basic things are not happening. This is why we need an inquiry. Whatever one believes about UFOs, cases such as the incident involving the police helicipter show that there are air safety issues involved.

Richard: Out of all the recently declassified British UFO files, what is the most interesting to you?

Nick Pope: A few cases spring to mind:

26th April 1984: Members of the public report a UFO in Stanmore. Two police officers attend the scene, witness the craft and sketch it.

13th October 1984: a saucer-shaped UFO is seen from Waterloo Bridge in London by numerous witnesses.

11th September 1985: 2 UFOs tracked on a military radar system travelling 10 nautical miles in 12 seconds.

4th September 1986: a UFO passes an estimated 1.5 nautical miles from the port side of a commercial aircraft.

The National Archives asked me to review the files prior to their release and pick out cases of potential interest to the media and the public. These are some of the cases I selected.

Richard: Other than those we've already discussed are there any other UFO cases you are particularly impressed with and if so, why?

Nick Pope: As you'd expect, given my background, I tend to be more interested in cases involving the military and cases where visual sightings are corroborated by radar evidence. Other cases that spring to mind include the sightings over Belgium in 1989 and 1990, where F-16s were scrambled; the RAF Lakenheath/RAF Bentwaters radar/visual cases from August 1956; the 1995 near-miss between a UFO and an aircraft on approach to Manchester Airport; Captain Zaghetti’s Sighting from 1991 – another near-miss between a UFO and a civil aircraft; a case from November 1990 involving RAF pilots sighting a UFO over the North Sea, with other sightings and unusual radar returns across Europe; all the cases featured on the Coalition for Freedom of Information's website; and finally, some cases that I can't discuss until MoD releases the files, over the course of the next 3 years.

Richard: What do you think the future of the MoD UFO desk will be, in your December interview for BoA:Audio you said it would almost certainly be shut down soon?

Nick Pope: I'm reasonably sure that the MoD will formally disengage from the UFO issue. They may well do this once they finish the process of releasing the archive of UFO files in about three year's time, but they may well do so before then. They will probably justify this by reference to the US experience and Project Condign. That said, one does not have to have a formal UFO project to look at the phenomenon: any sightings from civil and military pilots are still likely to be investigated and any unusual radar returns will be examined. But inevitably, a lot of potentially interesting cases (i.e. those involving the public) will no longer be looked at.

Richard: Abductions: what are your thoughts on them? Do you think something physically real, metaphysical, psychological or a combination of these is happening? Is there any particular case that you find most compelling?

Nick Pope: Just as the UFO phenomenon has no single explanation, I believe there are various different explanations for the alien abduction phenomenon. Some cases will be hoaxes and some may be attributable to some form of hallucination or delusion. To this we can probably add vivid dreams, sleep paralysis, false memory syndrome and various other factors. However, this doesn't explain all the cases and I suspect there's some other factor at work here. Scientific studies of the abductees show no evidence of psychopathology or falsehood and suggest that in recalling their experiences they exhibit physiological reactions (e.g. increased heart rate and perspiration) not seen in control groups of non-abductees. My own case files on this run to about 100 incidents. The most compelling involves a young woman called Brigitte Grant (a pseudonym), who I worked with for a number of years. There's some information about her on the internet, but she's dropped out of ufology now and witness confidentiality precludes my saying anything not already in the public domain.

Richard: I know that you've also shown an interest in ghosts, crop circles and the cattle mutilation phenomenon, but what about other esoteric subjects? Do you have any thoughts on the Yeti, Loch Ness Monster or any other mysteries?

Nick Pope: I'm interested in the unexplained and the paranormal as a whole. Inevitably, constraints on my time preclude my investigating everything, but I've looked into and commentated on remote viewing, the Bermuda Triangle and a whole host of other mysteries. Cryptozoology is fascinating, though not my specialist subject. I keep an open mind on all this.

Richard: I hear that pop star Robbie Williams is a big Nick Pope fan. What do you think of this and has he ever contacted you?

Nick Pope: Robbie and I have exchanged a few emails over the last year or so. I met him at the UFO Congress in Laughlin this year. He's a nice guy and genuinely interested in the UFO phenomenon.

Richard: I always try and tie in Doctor Who to Richard's Room whenever I can. You've written some excellent sci-fi books and seem to be a bit of a fan, so what's your favourite Doctor Who monster and/or story and why?

Nick Pope: As a successful sci-fi author myself I've been greatly influenced by Doctor Who. The revival of the franchise has been brilliant and stories such as Blink, The Girl in the Fireplace and The Family of Blood have been phenomenal, in terms of script, acting, SFX and direction. TV heaven. However, I'll always look back on Genesis of the Daleks as the all-time classic story. I'd love to see this remade or revisited in some way.

Richard: Thanks again, I look forward to any future media appearances, books or articles.

Richard Thomas, BoA UK Correspondent and Columnist.

Contact Richard :: boxstacker(at)aol.com

Richard Thomas is also a columnist for Alien Worlds magazine. Check it out !

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