Philip Mantle has met many people who claim to have seen ufos, including those who claim they were abducted by aliens. Neil Hudson lifts the veil on the mystery that won’t go away.
The strange light filmed hovering over Leeds recently has reignited the debate about UFOs. Though the sighting is unlikely to answer any fundamental questions, one Yorkshireman is convinced these unexplained phenomena have a deeper meaning.
Whatever your views on UFOs (unidentified flying objects), it cannot be denied that it’s a subject which continues to ignite our imaginations.
Philip Mantle might not fit the bill in terms of the stereotypical UFO hunter. The son of a coal miner, he works in the complaints department at a well-known high street bank and is nothing if not pragmatic.
He interest in ‘the unknown’ goes back to childhood - while other children would play cops n robbers, Philip was quite content attending the local spiritualist church with his friend’s grandmother.
“I’ve always loved sci-fi,” says the 55-year-old father and grandfather. “I can remember seeing Close Encounters and I thought it was nice but I wasn’t mad on it. By co-incidence, the very same week there was an advert in the Yorkshire Evening Post for a new Yorkshire UFO society and they were having their first meeting on North Street, Leeds. That was 1979.
“It was started by two brothers, Gordon and Mark Birdsall, and they had a good mixture of people in the room, including architects, a police officer and so on. It was at that point I thought that perhaps this is not the crazy subject that it’s been made out to be.
“This was long before the birth of the internet but it was people coming together to ask serious questions about things which were unexplained. I’ve always been one to ask questions, if there’s a big red button saying ‘do not press’, I’m the one who wants to know what happens if you press it.”
The group began to produce its own material and launched its own investigations, many of which looked at reports of UFO sightings in and around Skipton, North Yorkshire.
“We would go out and speak to people, we befriended a good number of farmers. We would reports but in terms of finding an answer, I can’t give you one.”
It’s the kind of sober response which sums up Philip’s approach, which he takes very seriously.
Commenting on the UFO footage on the YEP website posted last week he said: “It looks to me like a model aircraft, based on the way it moves.
“One of the frustrating aspects of todays UFO research is that there are more cameras than ever before but the images of alleged UFOs seem to get worse. Why is that I wonder?”
He’s fully aware of the media bandwagon which infrequently rolls into town and all that goes with it.
“There’s a lot more to it, once you start looking, you find it’s not what you thought. The Roswell incident in 1947 is the most famous UFO case but it wasn’t the first. About a week before it happened, a US fighter pilot called Kenneth Arnold was flying over the Cascade Mountains near Washington looking for a crashed aircraft which had a reward when he observed a flash of light and then saw several objects flying in a V-formation. They appeared to have no wings but were moving very fast. He timed them as they travelled between two mountain peaks and later concluded they were travelling faster than anything which was around at that time.
“This was a pilot who served during the Second World War, he had no reason to make something up like that, he was as reliable as they come. His description described their movement as ‘like a saucer skipped across a pond’, from which the term ‘flying saucer’ was derived.
“When I first started out I thought it wouldn’t be long before I got all the answers and while I may have found some, there’s more still waiting.”
He’s co-authored several books on the subject, among them Russia’s Roswell Incident and Without Consent: True Life Stories, which deals with accounts of ‘unexplained abduction’.
The most famous abduction case is probably that of Whitley Streiber, whose book Communion chronicles his alleged abduction by aliens and while the book was turned into a film starring Christopher Walken in 1989, but there are other abduction tales which originate much closer to home.
Take the account of former North Yorkshire police officer Alan Godfrey, who, in 1977, had an altogether unusual experience. PC Godfrey had been out looking for some lost cows in Todmorden when he came upon an object blocking the road.
He pulled up and stopped and even sketched the object, which as far as he could tell was hovering above the road. He remembered seeing a flash of light and the next thing he knew, he was driving away from the scene and the object was gone.
The account, which is part of UFO folklore, was partially backed-up by the reports of three other police officers, who had been on the moors above Halifax on the same night when they observed a UFO in the sky.
Philip took up the story: “What’s interesting about that is PC Godfrey is a credible witness. When he got back to the station, he discovered the sole on his shoe was split and he had a burn mark on his instep. Also, he could not account for about 30 minutes.
“Under hypnosis, he related he had been taken aboard the object. This loss of memory is known as ‘missing time’.”
Which leads us onto Philip’s latest venture, Once Upon A Missing Time, a solo-project and something he calls ‘faction’, because while it is in essence a work of fiction, it is based upon years of first-hand witness accounts of alleged abductions.
“I would like to think it will serve to give the topic publicity.”
In addition to his book, he has just launched a new digital UFO magazine, UFO Today, which is available at www.ufotoday.net or #looktotheskies.
He added: “I think it’s important we record such things. We might not be able to explain them yet but we have to think that we’ve only been flying for the last 100 years - there are breakthroughs all the time in things like anatomy, medicine, astronomy. It’s my job to record these things, perhaps someone else will make sense of them.”
When it comes to UFOs, it would seem that the truth is still very much out there.
ENCOUNTER WITH UFOLOGY
Nuances aside, ‘UFO’ is the acronym used to denote ‘unidentified flying objects’, a phenomenon which has its roots in Roswell, America in 1947, although these days there are also an increasing number of reports of ‘USOs’, which refer to unexplained phenomenon at sea.
There are an average of 70,000 reported UFO sightings every year, worldwide.
The most famous incident in UFO history is Roswell, in July 1947. After the incident, the US Air Force announced being in possession of a flying saucer but later changed its statement, saying it was a weather balloon.
Mass UFO sightings sometimes happen - one of the most famous was that of November 1989, in Belgium, witnessed by dozens of people. The Belgian Air Force even sent some F-16 fighter jets to intercept the objects seen in the sky. The pilots attempted to chase the objects for over an hour but were continually out-manouevred. One pilot described how, at one point, the object dropped from 10,000ft to 500ft in under five seconds.
USOs are unidentified submerged objects, reports of which have increased in recent times. In one case, a Russian wreck-hunter claims to have found an underwater object which looks as though it may have crash-landed at some point.
In February 1942, just three months after the attack on Pearl Harbour, which drew America into the Second World War, US radar operators picked up a series of shapes heading toward them in a V-formation. The incident is known as the Battle of Los Angeles. The objects got to within a few miles of the coast and then vanished. At the time, it was assumed it was another attack from Japan but this was later discounted and the true identify of the objects has never been properly established.
Whitley Strieber is an American writer who claims to have been adbucted in 1985, although in his book he never claims this was done by aliens but rather leaves the question open. He wrote a book about his alleged experiences in 1987 called Communion, which was later made into a film starring Christopher Walken.