Summary: In September of this year (1992) the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA) celebrates its 30th Anniversary. With this in mind, now might be a good opportunity to review British UFOlogy today.
In September of this year (1992) the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA) celebrates its 30th Anniversary. With this in mind, now might be a good opportunity to review British UFOlogy today. As my primary involvement has been with BUFORA and with the Northamptonshire UFO Research Centre my comments may be biased towards these two organisations.
The UK has experienced a number of UFO flaps, with fairly major flaps in 1967 and 1977. The number of members of BUFORA and possibly other UFO organisations rises and falls with the number of reports. In the late 1960s BUFORA membership approached 1000. In the 1970s it fell to around 500, being boosted towards the end of the 70s to around 800. In the early 1980s membership of many organisations fell drastically, BUFORA fell to only 270 members.
In the early days of BUFORA two to three hundred reports were recorded each year. In more recent years the level of reports has fallen to around seventy per year. Whilst there has been some fall off in UFO activity, the fall has not been as drastic as it appears at first sight.
Currently the case reports recorded represent properly investigated cases, where an experienced investigator has attempted to interview the witnesses and has carried out additional followup. In earlier years many cases were recorded which consisted of little more than an initial press report or letter from a witness. Many of the British groups have made great efforts over the past ten or so years to improve standards.
Over the past few months there have been numerous reports of cigar and bright saucer shaped craft. This flap appears to have been caused by a small fleet of airships newly imported by an advertising agency. These have been used with illuminated signs at night over several British cities. Although we have had a small number of reports of triangular UFOs, the UK did not benefit from the major wave of sightings which occurred over Belgium during 1990/1991.
In recent years there have been very few reports of abduction type phenomena from the UK. One particular case which springs to mind is known as the Aveley case, which concerns a family who had an abduction experience near Hornchurch in Essex during October 1974.
A growth area in recent years has been the study of crop field circles. BUFORA has been involved in the study of crop circles since 1980, when one of our investigators, Ian Mrzygold, followed up an article in a local newspaper about 'UFO landing sites'. He set out to find the true cause of these. Incidentally, one of the people he approached for advice was a local meteorological consultant Dr Terence Meaden. Meaden later developed the Vortex theory of circles formation. Crop Circles research seems to be going through the same kind of antagonism and in-fighting that mainstream UFO research did during the 1960s and 1970s.
BUFORA was formed in 1962 as the British UFO Association, adding the word Research to its title in 1964. It was a federation of eight of the regional UFO groups from throughout the UK. These included the British Flying Saucer Bureau (BFSB), Direct Investigation Group on Aerial Phenomena (DIGAP) and the London UFO Research Organisation (LUFORA). Both BFSB and DIGAP still exist as independent groups. The other organisations merged their identities into BUFORA. BFSB is thought to be the oldest of the British UFO Groups having been formed in 1953. At the time of the formation of the federation LUFORA was the largest of the British groups.
At the time of writing BUFORA has about 400 members mainly spread throughout the United Kingdom. BUFORA has recently sanctioned the formation of a branch in Ireland, our first branch outside the UK. Approximately 10 percent of BUFORA's members are distributed around the rest of the world. Over the years BUFORA has tried to promote objective Research and Investigation. BUFORA is the UK representative of the International Committee for UFO Research.
In addition to BUFORA there are a number of other groups in Britain. The other major national organisation is Contact UK, which is based in Oxfordshire. In common with many groups Contact now has a smaller membership than in the 1970s and early 1980s, but it still active and organises regular conferences in Oxford. A relative new member of the band of national organisations is ASSAP, the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena. ASSAP has a broader spectrum of interests than just UFOs, taking in many other paranormal events.
All of these national networks have their own investigation teams. There is a great deal of co-operation between the organisations, often an investigator for one organisation will cover a case originally reported to another organisation and the results will be shared. In a number of instances the area investigator for one national organisation is also an investigator for one of the other national or regional groups.
There are maybe two dozen reasonably large regional groups and probably many more smaller local groups. The larger groups include BFSB (Avon area), DIGAP (Cheshire), EMUFORA (Nottinghamshire), FUFOIG (Fylde Coast), IUN (Yorkshire), LUFOIC (Leicestershire), MUFORA (Manchester), NLUFOIG (Cumbria), NUFORC (Northamptonshire), PARASEARCH (West Midlands), SKYSCAN (Staffordshire), SPI (West Scotland), SRUFO (East Scotland), SSPR (Derbyshire) and YUFOS (Yorkshire).
Apart from BUFORA's UFO TIMES there are a wide variety of UFO orientated publications. The UFO Times is an A4 magazine produced six times per year. It is edited by Mike Wootten. The UFO Newsfile is an extract of newsclippings and is published six times per year by Michael Hudson on behalf of BUFORA.
Any discussion of other British UFO publications must start with discussion of the Flying Saucer Review (FSR). FSR was first published in 1955 and for many years was the world leader amongst UFO journals. The current editor of FSR is Gordon Creighton, who is also a former President of BUFORA. In recent years FSR has increased its format size to British A4 size. Formerly published six times per year, it has now moved to a four issue per year schedule.
There are a number of other publications, space limitations mean that only the major ones can be mentioned here. UFO Brigantia is an A4 publication produced four times per year by the Independent UFO Network. It is a mixture of case reports, reviews and theoretical articles. Current editor is Andy Roberts.
NUFON News is published by Jenny Randles. It is an A5 publication, 16 pages, six issues per year. The content is approximately 50 per cent case summaries. The rest of the material includes book reviews and news items. A recent addition is the UFO Debate. This is an A5 magazine published six times per year by David Barclay. Recently David has passed the editorship to Robert Moore. The mix of material is similar to UFO Brigantia, but the style less sceptical.
Although not strictly a UFO magazine, special mention should be made of the Fortean Times, which does carry some UFO orientated material. They have recently entered into a marketing arrangement with a national periodical publisher. This has placed the Fortean Times on many newsstands around the country. The initial reports seem to be that FT has been well received and sales good.
There are a number of publications which specialise in crop circles phenomena, however these are outside the scope of the current article.
The general impression in the UK is that most North American researchers are firmly convinced that the extra-terrestrial explanation is the only solution to the UFO phenomena. (Of course, this may be the wrong impression, but that is how it comes across.)
In the UK researchers have a wide spread on interests. There are still researchers interested in the ETH, but they are less prominent. We also have various groups of people interested in psychic explanations, UFOs as rare atmospheric phenomena, parallels between folklore and UFOs, and psychological explanations of UFO events. A number of British UFOlogist are also involved in the study of Crop Circles.
Like UFO theories, there are many different theories put forward to explain crop circles. These range from Meaden's Vortex Theory, through all circles are hoaxes to circles are caused by some mysterious intelligence. Each theory has its own group of supporters and this is a great source of rivalry between researchers.
In this short article it has only been possible to provide a brief overview of British UFOlogy. Hopefully it has shown that we are still alive, fairly active and working on all fronts.