alien or ghost

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Should Scientists Take UFOs and Ghosts More Seriously?

Journalist Leslie Kean investigates topics that many consider to be beyond the pale

  • By John Horgan  on  May 18, 2020

Should Scientists Take UFOs and Ghosts More Seriously?

Like many long-time readers of  The New York Times , I was shocked when the staid old paper published, in 2017,  a front-page article  on Pentagon investigations of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs. This article,  plus a shorter sidebar  and  a 2019 follow-up , heartened those who believe that extraterrestrials have visited us and annoyed skeptics  like my friend journalist Keith Kloor . Last December, I met journalist Leslie Kean, a co-author of the  Times  articles and sole author of the 2010 bestseller  UFOs: Generals, Pilots, And Government Officials Go On The Record , at a week-long symposium on challenges to conventional scientific materialism,  about which I wrote here . At the meeting, which took place at the Esalen Institute in California, Kean talked about the possibility of life after death, a topic she explores in her 2017 book  Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife   (which includes chapters from other contributors). Kean and I hit it off. I told her that, although I have a hard time believing in ghosts and alien visitations, I admire the courage and professionalism with which she investigates these topics. I also enjoy talking to smart people whose views diverge from mine, like renegade biologists  Rupert Sheldrake  and  Stuart Kauffman . So last week, after the  Times  published  yet another UFO story  by Kean and her collaborator Ralph Blumenthal—which  triggered more pushback  from Kloor --I emailed Kean a few questions. – John Horgan

Horgan:  When I was a kid, I was obsessed with UFOs and the paranormal. Were you like that too?

Kean:  No, not until I was an adult. Although I do remember having mystical feelings about Santa Claus as a young child. It happened when I saw that my cookies, carefully placed next to the Christmas tree, had been nibbled on by Santa during his visitation into my world the previous Christmas Eve.  It was solid evidence that something magic, something “supernormal” had actually occurred. This fantastical being who could be everywhere at once had been in my living room and left behind a physical bite mark to prove his existence. The authorities of the day, my parents, confirmed it.  I felt momentarily transported, expanded, into a new level of connection to something big and mysterious. That may sound silly, but it was true. When I found out the truth about Santa later, I felt betrayed. Something precious had been taken away. My parents weren’t trustworthy because they lied to me. Maybe at some unconscious level this led me to want to find out what’s real and to prove the so-called authorities wrong. I’m not totally serious, but I suppose it’s possible.  

Horgan:  When and why did you first decide to write about UFOs? Was there any particular triggering event?

Kean:  My serious interest in UFOs as a journalist began in 1999 when I was working as an on-air host and producer for public radio and publishing as a freelancer. I unexpectedly received an explosive 90-page report titled  UFOs and Defense: What Should We Prepare For?  by retired French generals, police, scientists and an admiral. The report intended to “strip the UFO phenomenon of its irrational layer”. The group had spent three years documenting official military and aviation UFO cases. Most stunning was their conclusion: that the “extraterrestrial hypothesis” was the most valid and logical one to explain the data. Of course there was no proof, only an hypothesis. The authors were concerned about the national security implications of the phenomenon and proposed that pilots be trained on how to respond to UFOs to avoid future mishaps or even dangerous accidents. Given the stature and credibility of the group, I thought this was a huge story. I published a lengthy article based on the report, known as the COMETA Report, for the  Boston Globe  in May, 2000, which required overcoming the reservations of a very nervous editor. [See links to the COMETA Report  here  and  here .] That’s what set me on this path, and there was no turning back. And two decades later, I can hardly believe how things have changed. [See  this  Times  story  by Ralph Blumenthal for more background on Kean’s UFO coverage.]

Horgan:  One admirer of your book  UFOs  describes you as an “agnostic” on whether UFOs are actually piloted by aliens. When I met you at Esalen, you struck me as a believer, not an agnostic. Am I wrong? 

Kean:  Piloted by aliens? I have an open mind, but no, I don’t believe that and have never said that. But I also will not rule it out. There are many possibilities on the table. I have made the point over and over that we do not know what these objects are, and that’s where things stand. My book concluded that a phenomenon exists, without question, named “unidentified flying objects” by the US Air Force in the 1950’s. It’s physical, and well documented, even by our government. But what these objects are is another question. That’s what everyone wants to know, and that desire has led to all kinds of speculation. On that question my 2010 book was agnostic, and it was recognized as such. These flying machines, whatever they are, might not even have any drivers at all for all we know.

Horgan:  What is the best single piece of evidence that UFOs have an extraterrestrial origin?

Kean:  The extremely advanced technology that the objects have displayed since the 1950’s. They demonstrate tremendous speed and accelerations, the ability to make sharp right-angle turns, stand still in midair, zoom off and disappear in the blink of an eye, and operate under water.  They appear to defy the laws of aviation as we know it, since they have no wings or visible means of propulsion.  The documentation goes back more than 60 years, when no one on this planet had technology like this. In some cases, experts, such as officials from the French Space Agency, had enough data to rule out all conventional explanations (meaning it wasn’t something natural or man-made). These cases represent only a small fraction of those reported, but they are the ones that matter. So, what are we left with?

Horgan:  What’s your view of alien abduction experiences? 

Kean:  I find them fascinating and don’t know what to make of them. I know sane, intelligent people who report such events, and some even have physical evidence of them. Their lives have been turned upside down by these experiences. However, this is not something I have studied in-depth and it has never been the focus of my work as a reporter. I don’t feel qualified to draw conclusions about it. It points to the greater complexity of this issue which goes beyond any simple hypothesis.

Horgan:  Journalist Keith Kloor,  writing in  WIRED , calls your recent  New York Times  article on UFOs “thinly-sourced and slanted.” Astrophysicist Katie Mack,  in  Scientific American , says she doesn’t take alien spaceships seriously enough to debunk them. How do you respond to these critics?

Kean:  People are entitled to their opinions. As one of three people writing the  Times  stories, which include scrutiny by fact-checkers and multiple editors, I simply don’t agree with Kloor’s statement. We stand by all our reporting at the  New York Times  and will continue to cover the topic whenever we can. Our first story in Dec. 2017 reverberated around the world and has made the subject respectable for many who would not have touched it before. It opened the door to classified briefings on the Hill and a chain of events involving the Navy issuing new reporting guidelines and acknowledging the anomalies in the videos.

I don’t think Katie Mack and I stand that far apart. She writes, “It’s not that we don’t think aliens exist. To the best of my knowledge, most of us do.”  But the leap to alien spaceships in our atmosphere is another matter, for many reasons which she spells out. I respect her position. I have never claimed that UFOs are alien spaceships. Unfortunately, this is the takeaway for many people from our stories in the  Times , even though this is not what is actually written and even though we include counter statements to this idea. So I would respond to Katie Mack that any question about alien spaceships misses the point. These are unknowns, plain and simple. But they are physically real. They interact with military pilots and commercial aircraft. Therefore, they deserve investigation.

Horgan:  Why did you write  Surviving Death ? Did your own paranormal experiences attract you to this topic?

Kean:  During the ten years I was investigating UFOs, I had been intrigued by the question of the possible survival of consciousness when we die. I had poked around into some of the research, especially the work of Ian Stevenson at the University of Virginia studying young children with verified past life memories. After completing work with a film company on a History Channel special based on my book, my publisher (Crown/Random House) invited me to write a second book. Before they made that invitation, I had just completed a draft of a proposal for a book on evidence for possible survival after death, and had planned to give it to my literary agent the very week that they contacted her. It was an amazing synchronicity. 

So, it wasn’t so much my own experiences that drew me to this, it was my interest in learning more and synthesizing the best, most rigorous material into one volume for the general reader, sort of like I had done for UFOs . This was another big mystery facing human beings: what happens when we die? It was the natural topic for me to pursue next, and it was a much bigger challenge than UFOs. Most of my “paranormal” experiences occurred during the time I was involved in the research, which began in 2012. I opened a door and didn’t know where it would take me. The experiences I had were beyond my imagination. They were life-changing. Some of them were precipitated by the sudden death of my younger brother in early 2013, a tragedy that deepened my quest for personal answers, as well as intellectual ones. So writing  Surviving Death  was a journey of discovery which unfolded while I was writing it, whereas UFOs represented a culmination of ten years of investigation without me ever seeing a UFO. The two books turned out to be very different as a result.

Horgan:  Do you ever worry that your claims about life after death will discredit your claims about UFOs, or vice versa?

Kean:  Yes, I was worried about that question regarding the material in  Surviving Death . However, I didn’t make any “claims about life after death” that I felt could discredit me, at least in terms of reporting on research and drawing conclusions. I invited others to write their own chapters, and they said things that I didn’t say. My conclusion was that the evidence was suggestive, but not definitive, and I never claimed that we survive death. I pointed out that we all have our own criteria for “evidence” which is strongly impacted by personal experience. 

I “tested” mental mediumship, received what appeared to be after-death communications from my brother, saw an apparition, and experienced genuine physical mediumship. I thought about whether to make myself vulnerable by including these things. But I think my narrative would have remained one-dimensional and abstract without this personal element. So, I stepped inside this investigation through first-hand examination, and not just from the perspective of a detached observer who studies data and peers into a strange world from the outside. Yes, it could be professionally risky to expose these very personal events, but I felt it was my obligation to do so. It would have been dishonest to omit them, because they impacted my thinking and my effort to come to terms with many remarkable phenomena. However, I was also careful to step back from them, remaining as analytical and discriminating as I was with everything else. The tricky aspect lies in the interpretation of the extraordinary events, not in their reporting.

So far, I have not felt that my work on UFOs has been discredited by my more recent endeavors. I approached  Surviving Death  with journalistic rigor, and this is its strength. 

Horgan:  When we discussed ghosts and other supernatural phenomena at Esalen, you seemed to be a believer, not an agnostic. Can you clarify your position?

Kean:  It depends what you mean by a believer. Paranormal phenomena exist. People have capabilities and experiences that have been labeled “paranormal“. They seem to operate outside the limits of the current materialistic framework adapted by most scientists, while at the same time, nobody can explain what consciousness actually is. So the existence of “paranormal phenomena” is not a matter of belief. I find it astonishing that there are still some scientists who adapt the position that it can’t be, therefore it isn’t. I don’t have that choice, because I have witnessed many paranormal phenomena myself, and I know they exist. Those who don’t want to believe these things will dismiss them no matter what they read, and they are unlikely to open themselves up to their own encounters with these phenomena.

I think believing comes into play when one tries to establish what the phenomena are, how they work, where they are generated from, why they occur - when addressing the bigger question of what they mean. Beliefs can operate on both sides of the spectrum, from extreme, black and white denial, as we see in so many skeptics, to extreme belief in an afterlife involving claimed “direct knowledge”. In fact, none of us knows very much about these big mysteries.

Horgan:  What is the best evidence you’ve seen for life after death?

Kean:  That is a huge question. The evidence that I have pulled together in  Surviving Death  comes from so many places, historical and contemporary, experiential and scientific. It’s the full gestalt that provides the best evidence. I think cases of very young  children who report accurate details of a past life , complete with nightmares about the previous death and knowledge from the previous career, are compelling when the memories can be verified and the previous person is identified. If one does not accept rebirth as an explanation, then something else very “paranormal” is going on. Cases of responsive apparitions are also interesting - these “forms” demonstrate intelligence by reacting to multiple human observers, and sometimes provide information through telepathy about their lives on earth which are verified to be true.  There are “actual-death” experiences, as resuscitation scientist Sam Parnia calls them, involving patients who are “dead” yet still return, even after spending hours as a corpse. Mediumship can also be evidential, especially when accurate information is provided that is not known to the recipient but is verified later by a family member. Even if this is a result of the medium’s own psychic abilities and does not involve communications from dead people, this is extraordinary in itself. The famous trance medium Mrs. Leonora Piper was studied by experts all over the world, including Willam James. In her sittings, scientists and other discriminating sitters had extensive conversations with their deceased friends and family. 

Drop-in communicators, who show up unexpectedly within a physical seance with no connection to any of the sitters or the medium, provide strong evidence for survival. In two famous cases, these communicators, who spoke through the entranced medium, provided detailed information about their lives on earth that were later verified. In the case of the  Icelandic medium Indridi Indridason , the communicator spoke in a language unknown to the medium and provided the name Emil Jensen. Jensen’s identity was verified decades later by psychologist Erlendur Haraldsson, after searching through records in Copenhagen.

There is a wealth of literature on all of this, and much more evidence. And I like to refer to the words of William James:  “If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, you mustn’t seek to show that all crows are black; it is enough if you prove one single crow to be white.” Everyone has to find their own white crow.

Horgan:  In  Surviving Death , you say “there are still aspects of Nature which are neither understood or accepted, even though their reality has profound implications for understanding the true breadth of the human psyche and its possible continuity after death.” I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, and yet I am, I confess, skeptical of claims about alien visitations and life after death. Am I simply close-minded? Do you ever worry that you are too open-minded?

Kean:  You’re not closed-minded. Skepticism is a good thing. I too am skeptical about claims of alien visitations as being the simplistic answer to the UFO question. I was a skeptic about the afterlife when I began my work on that topic; it was my personal experiences that opened my eyes. I don’t know how many paranormal events you have witnessed or experienced that might have been totally baffling to you. But I know you have studied consciousness and related phenomena for years, and your skepticism is true for you, and who I am to judge that? Can one be too open-minded? Or are you talking about gullibility? I think I’m grounded, and good at discrimination. Ultimately conclusions about my approach are up to my readers and those who know my work.

Horgan:  Are there any pop-culture shows on UFOs and/or the paranormal that you especially like? Dislike?

Kean:  I dislike most of the ones I’ve watched, but there are many that I haven’t seen. I loved the movies  Close Encounters of the Third Kind , and M. Night Shyamalan’s  Unbreakable . I enjoyed the  X-files  until it veered too much away from UFOs and into monsters and freakier territory. I didn’t like the History Channel series  Project Blue Book , premiering in early 2019, because of its distortions and ridiculous plot lines. Ralph Blumenthal and I  critiqued that show for the  New York Times  and reported on the real story of Project Blue Book, the Air Force project investigating UFOs in the 50’s and 60’s. One of my favorite UFO movies was  Unidentified Flying Objects , made in 1956, with some real people as themselves, which accurately reflected the Blue Book files at the time. I suspect younger people will think this is lame! But that movie was true to fact.  Surviving Death  is the basis for a six-part documentary series which will air this fall on a major streaming platform, so I guess it will become part of pop-culture.

Horgan:  Are there any other topics, besides UFOs and life after death, that you think scientists and journalists should take more seriously?

Kean:  It’s not so much “life after death” because that is not something science could ever definitely prove. It’s more about questions around the nature of human consciousness and its manifestations that appear to transcend the limitations of the brain, like a crossing over from the unseen world to that of the seen. Who are we really? Biological robots, or something else? I think all aspects of “superhuman” functioning - precognition, clairvoyance, telepathy, psychokinesis, and energy healing – should be taken seriously. They have been well documented. Where is the curiosity among scientists about the mysteries of the unknown? The challenge they provide to the status quo should make their study even more compelling!  Sadly, it’s the opposite. I would also love to see more attention paid to mediumship, in all its forms, although I recognize this is not something that can be easily studied in the laboratory. More surveys on near-death experiences could be conducted, along with end-of-life experiences that occur within hospices. Some “parapsychologists” and other scientific investigators are doing brilliant work on all of this, but they are hampered by the mainstream scientific community’s irrational disrespect. Someday that dam will break.

Further Reading :

Brilliant Scientists Are Open-Minded about Paranormal Stuff, So Why Not You ?

Scientific Heretic Rupert Sheldrake on Morphic Fields, Psychic Dogs and Other Mysteries

Freeman Dyson, global warming, ESP and the fun of being "bunkrapt "

Can Mysticism Help Us Solve the Mind-Body Problem ?

Mysticism and the Mind-Body Problem: Other Views

Do We Possess a Transpersonal Imagination?

Mind-Body Problems   (free online book, also available as  Kindle e-book  and  paperback ). See in particular my chapter on  chaoplexologist Stuart Kauffman .

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

alien or ghost


John Horgan , who has written for Scientific American since 1986, comments on science on his free online journal Cross-Check . He has also posted his books Mind-Body Problems and My Quantum Experiment online. Horgan teaches at Stevens Institute of Technology.

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Richard E. Cytowic M.D.

How Real Are Ghosts, Aliens, and Spirits?

Are there rational explanations for the strange things we see and sense.

Posted September 16, 2018

Updated May 31, 2020

Richard E. Cytowic

One patient in a psychiatric hospital, a black woman, always covered her face with white makeup because she believed she was an angel. She also missed her late husband terribly. From time to time she claimed she could still see him. “I can feel him — you know, like he’s still around. One morning I woke up and I saw him — standing by the wardrobe — a ghost.”

History thought ghosts were real

Throughout history, ghosts were accepted as a given. Shakespeare and his contemporary dramatists featured them liberally. Macbeth reacts to Banquo’s ghost, and the ghost of Hamlet’s father sets in motion the action of that play. As culture became more scientifically minded, seeing ghosts came to be considered more of a psychological phenomenon. Readers took the three ghosts in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol , for instance, as figments of Scrooge’s imagination rather than actual disembodied spirits.

But just because something is psychological doesn’t mean it isn’t real to the person who experiences it. Scrooge’s encounters change him profoundly. The grieving widow above wanted to feel her husband’s touch again, hear his footfalls and the sound of his voice. She even wanted to have sex with him again. Her unconscious mind wasn’t about to recognize death as an obstacle to her wishes.

Imagination is more powerful than people realize

For centuries hallucinations such as seeing ghosts were used as proof of madness, an objective marker of mental abnormality. But what people typically think of as objective reality is in fact a compromise. A one-to-one correspondence between outer reality and inner brain events does not exist. Outside stimuli impinge on sense receptors, and the brain then interprets the results. This makes reality subjective through and through.

Each eye has a blind spot located about 18 degrees off to either side if one is staring straight ahead. Normally the eyes are also in continuous but imperceptible motion (ocular jitter) so that the light receptors in the retina experience continual boundary changes between light and dark. The retina’s detection of light boundaries and changes in contrast are among the earliest elements in a series of events that build in complexity to create the sensation we call seeing.

The eye is not a camera

Unlike a camera that indiscriminately records everything in its field of view, the retina is highly selective in what it passes on to the brain downstream. Compared to the sharp acuity of central vision provided by the fovea (20/20), peripheral vision is quite poor (20/400). We should see a shaky, blurry world of dissolving edges and missing parts. Instead, we see a panoramic scene that seems stable and in focus wherever we look. We see this picture because an enormous amount of unconscious editing took place before visual information even enters our awareness. The brain fills in gaps. It compensates for head and body movement. It makes educated guesses about what we’re looking at, and its editing is highly biased by expectations, history, context, and desires.

About 5 percent of adults experience occasional hallucinations but never seek medical attention . They go about their business and accept their hallucinations as a matter of fact. In elderly individuals who suffer some loss of vision, highly detailed, unemotional visual hallucinations are common enough that the phenomenon goes by the name of Charles Bonnet syndrome . Affected individuals see people or animals that they readily acknowledge aren’t there. Similarly, about a third of Americans claim to have seen angels, a proportion that may seem high but is consistent with the fact that a third of children have imaginary friends.

There is no reason why factors of bias , expectation, and desire should not play a similar role in individuals who claim to see ghosts, aliens or other strange entities. Critics are quick the dismiss the experience itself, when what it really at issue is that person’s interpretation of the experience. An individual may misinterpret the meaning of an unusual experience that is more often than not imbued with emotion , but that doesn’t make it any less real.

Send queries to [email protected] or to the links below to request a free copy of "Your Brain on Screens."

Frank Tallis, 2018. The Incurable Romantic and Other Tales of Madness and Desire. New York: Basic Books

Richard E. Cytowic M.D.

Richard E. Cytowic, MD, MFA , professor of neurology at George Washington University, is known for returning synesthesia to mainstream science. Wednesday Is Indigo Blue , with David Eagleman, won the Montaigne Medal.

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Aliens, ghosts and secret societies have a lot to say about humanity, highlights:.

UFO abduction and racial issues appear often to be intertwined.

Unexplained does not equal unreal, as the “Kentucky meat shower” of 1876 demonstrates.

Far from being a recent development, secret societies and conspiracy theories have long been a part of the American political scene.

alien or ghost

“I was researching for a class I was teaching and stumbled across a mention of how [English writer and philosopher] Sir Thomas Browne’s skull was stolen from his grave,” explains Dickey. “I then discovered that the composers Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn had their heads stolen as well. I started asking myself, ‘Wait, is this a thing?’”

This discovery became his first book,  Crankioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius  ( Unbridled Books, 2010), which explores how bizarre practices like grave-robbing connect with larger cultural phenomena like phrenology, whose adherents believed skull shape says something about personality or intellect. Slave-holders, for example, often used phrenology to falsely assert the inferiority of Africans based on pseudoscientific examination of skulls, and to argue against emancipation.

“What I found is that even if something seems bogus, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a real impact on our world. We think it’s all weirdos and whackos, but fringe culture has real implications,” says Dickey, whose most recent book is  The Unidentified: Mythical Monsters, Alien Encounters, and Our Obsession With the Unexplained  (Penguin Random House, 2021).

He recently sat down to discuss aliens, ghosts, secret societies, and what we can learn from them about our fears, prejudices and fantasies.

Let’s talk about your most recent book, The Unidentified , which looks at paranormal events. What do you think belief in aliens says about our society?

alien or ghost

Aliens often seem to exist in our culture to help someone promote their preferred sense of reality as an inevitable. Some of the earliest alien contacts describe blonde-haired, blue-eyed aliens spreading the word about a Utopian or Christian society.

Contactee Gloria Lee, a flight attendant, claimed to be speaking with an alien named J.W. who transmitted spiritual teachings to her. She couldn’t just tell people her ideas as a flight attendant and get taken seriously, but using this extraterrestrial invests the ideologies with importance.

There’s also a racial erasure in ufology. Two of the most famous abductees are Betty and Barney Hill, a biracial couple. Their experience has become the standard template for abductee stories. A movie was made about them that is clearly also about the racism they experienced, but that component was ignored by audiences.

It seems the stereotype of an “alien contactee” is of a geeky white guy who watches The X-files .

Which is wrong because some of the most famous people in the history of contactees are Black men. [Nation of Islam leader] Louis Farrakhan and [jazz musician] Sun Ra both had elaborate narratives around their contactee experiences.

We don’t talk about that and it raises some questions: What’s an acceptable purpose around contactees? Who gets to have contactee experiences? Are people not talking about these experiences because of their prejudice about who they think aliens want to contact?

The Unidentified  mentions something called “the Kentucky meat shower,” which sounds incredibly weird. Can you explain what that was and what the reaction to it suggests about human nature?

The Kentucky meat shower happened in 1876, when a woman and her grandson witnessed chunks of meat raining down in her yard. Nobody knew where they came from. This wasn’t a hoax; this is something that really happened. In fact, a newspaper reporter showed up and tried to convince someone to taste a piece. There are explanations, but none of them are that great.

In the 19th and into the 20th century there was this disenchantment with the world. Suddenly, everything could be explained scientifically or theologically. So, things start happening that seem to resist explanation. And, I definitely think there is still something important about keeping your eyes open to wonder.

Your previous book Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places  is all about ghosts. Do you know a good Los Angeles ghost story?

Most haunted places are old Victorian houses, but in Los Angeles we have haunted hotels like the Biltmore or the Roosevelt.

While writing this book, I spent time in the Westin Bonaventure hotel, which is purportedly haunted by a girl in a red dress. We probably say its haunted partly because it’s awkward and disorientating; it feels like a prison. It’s not a good place to be in, and we attach ghosts to places we feel uncomfortable in: prisons, asylums, cramped spaces. There’s actually a whole philosophy around prison architecture — to build places that inspire melancholy.

Are you working on another book project?

I’m currently writing a book on secret societies, real and imagined, in America — things like the Underground Railroad, Freemasonry, The Illuminati and the New World Order, the CIA and the FBI — and how conspiracy theories form our understanding of such societies.

People think the recent rise of conspiracy theories and secret societies just came out of nowhere, but we’ve had moral panics forever. There was the Satanic ritual panic of the 1980s [in which day care providers were accused of molesting children as part of Satanic gatherings], which actually put people in jail. [Former U.S. Attorney General] Janet Reno made her career prosecuting people for alleged satanic crimes in the 1980s in Miami.

We also think of 2016 as the first “conspiracy theory” election, but it wasn’t. There was an  Illuminati scare during the election of 1800 , in which Federalist opponents of Republican presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson accused him of being part of the illuminati — only to have their own accusations turned back upon them by a disgruntled ex-Federalist.

The Illuminati theory tends to refer to anything that’s uncomfortable or unexpected around democracy. When something doesn’t go your way in politics, you can step back and reexamine yourself or you can say there’s a plot against you, which means you don’t have to self-examine.

Halloween is coming up. How do you like to celebrate?

I’m definitely planning to re-watch some favorite Japanese horror movies. However, I actually do most of my ghost stuff around Christmas. Telling ghost stories in the winter is a very old tradition,  which we’ve sort of lost .

The arrival of Scottish and Irish immigrants into America brought the holiday of Samhain, a pagan celebration of the dead that occurs in the late fall, and so Americans eventually shifted their association with ghost stories and the supernatural to what’s now known as Halloween.

On Christmas Eve, I have friends over and we sit around to tell ghost stories. The most famous ghost story of all is, of course, actually set during Christmas: Charles Dicken’s  A Christmas Story .

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What lies behind ghosts, demons and aliens – according to sleep researchers

alien or ghost

Professor of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London

Disclosure statement

Alice M. Gregory is Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her book Nodding Off: The Science of Sleep from Cradle to Grave, on which this article is based, was published by Bloomsbury in June, 2018. She has provided guidance and educational content for, a website partially supported by Johnson and Johnson, who do not have any influence over content and do not advertise on it. She has previously received funding to support her work from multiple sources including the MRC, ESRC, Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy.

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If you believe in the paranormal you might not be surprised if you hear stories of deceased loved ones appearing during the night, huge explosions heard just as someone is drifting off with no obvious cause, and other peculiar occurrences. But what if you don’t?

My interest in the paranormal started with an impromptu coffee with a colleague, Chris French , who researches reports of paranormal experiences. He told me stories of countless people who had recounted such events. These experiences tended to start while lying in bed. Then something unusual would happen – perhaps a demon would appear or the environment would seem strange or there would be a sensed presence. The person having this experience might also report being glued to their mattress, tarmacked into the bed, totally unable to move.

It’s unsurprising that people who experience such things might interpret them as paranormal. But certain phenomena such as sleep paralysis provide an alternative to paranormal explanations for such occurrences. Hence my interest in the subject, as a sleep researcher.

  • Sleep paralysis

When we sleep, we cycle through different stages. We start the night in non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep – which gets progressively deeper. We then cycle back until we hit rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During REM sleep we are most likely to have vivid dreams. At this stage we are also paralysed, perhaps as a safety mechanism to stop us acting out our dreams so that we don’t end up attempting to fly.

But during sleep paralysis, features of REM sleep continue into waking life. Those who experience it will feel awake yet might experience dream-like hallucinations and struggle to move. This experience is pretty common, occurring in around 8% of people (although estimates vary dramatically depending on who we are asking). It’s even possible to induce sleep paralysis in some people, by disrupting their sleep in specific ways.

Certain researchers, French among them, believe that this explains a huge number of paranormal accounts. Information about sleep paralysis is finally seeping into public awareness , but we now need to understand more about this common complaint.

Our preliminary work, which I recount in my new book Nodding Off: The science of sleep from cradle to grave , hints at possible genetic and environmental explanations for why some people are more likely than others to experience sleep paralysis. This now needs to be replicated using much larger samples. Reviewing the literature, we have also highlighted a host of other variables associated with this common experience , including stress, trauma, psychiatric difficulties and physical illnesses.

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Exploding head syndrome

Sleep paralysis aside, how else are sleep researchers helping to explain paranormal experiences? People sometimes describe experiencing huge explosions during the night which simply can’t be explained. There is no sign that a shelf has fallen down or a car has backfired. There is no one playing the electric guitar next to their head.

Again, this can be linked to our sleep - this time explained by “ exploding head syndrome ”, a term coined relatively recently by the neurologist JMS Pearce. When we fall asleep, the reticular formation of the brainstem (a part of our brain involved in consciousness) typically starts to inhibit our ability to move, see and hear things. When we experience a “bang” in our sleep this might be because of a delay in this process . Instead of the reticular formation shutting down the auditory neurons, they might fire at once.

As with sleep paralysis, this phenomenon is also under-researched. For this very reason, in 2017 my colleagues and I joined forces with BBC Focus and Brian Sharpless , a leading expert on this phenomenon, to collect data on this topic.

Imps and ghouls

Finally, what might scientists make of precognitive dreams? We might dream of a friend we haven’t seen for years only to have them call us the very next day. French thinks science can provide an explanation for this too. Referencing work by John Allen Paulos that focuses on probabilities, he explains how such an occurrence may be surprising on any single day, but over time, quite likely to occur.

Researching my book, I spoke to Mrs Sinclair, who is 70, and lives alone. She told me about what she had thought was a ghost living in her house, an imp throttling her during the night and other things that had left her petrified. Having scientific explanations provided her with immense comfort and she no longer believes in paranormal explanations for the things that she experienced.

Our hope is that scientific explanations of paranormal experiences might help others by lowering anxiety. Decreasing anxiety has also been hypothesised as a potential method by which to reduce sleep paralysis. So, perhaps providing more information about these unusual experiences might even mean that things are less likely to go bump in the night.

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9 things we learned about aliens in 2021

A bombshell UFO report, the "alien junk" in our solar system, and more new clues about extraterrestrial life.

Two aircraft reported seeing a bright green UFO over Canada in July 2021.

A " doughnut UFO " in the skies over Switzerland. Strange green lights vanishing into the clouds above Canada. A saucer-shaped blob plunging suddenly into the ocean.

The year 2021 gave truth-seekers and alien hunters no shortage of mysteries to ponder. But it also gave them answers — from a hotly anticipated Pentagon report on military UFO sightings, to new insights on habitable exoplanets, to the truth about a so-called "alien signal" from the sun's nearest neighboring star. Here are 9 things we learned about aliens (and where to look for them) in 2021. 

1. UFOs are real (and the government knows it)

In June, the Pentagon released a highly anticipated report detailing 144 UFO encounters between 2004 and 2021. The report was meant to assess "the threat posed by unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP)," and officially confirmed several UFO sightings that had, until then, only been shared through viral media. On one hand, the brief, 9-page assessment confirmed that "most of the UAP reported probably do represent physical objects," which range from birds and balloons to foreign surveillance equipment and top-secret U.S. government projects. However, anyone hoping for an acknowledgement of extraterrestrial intelligence may have been let down when the report failed to link any of the 144 encounters to alien activity. 

Read more: Long-anticipated 'UFO report' finally released. No, it's not aliens.

2. Black holes could be alien powerhouses 

While alien hunters spend plenty of time searching for habitable planets beyond our solar system , a study published in July in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society warns that scientists shouldn't overlook nature's most extreme objects: Black holes . Because black holes can radiate up to 100,000 times more energy than a star like our sun, they may make tempting targets for alien civilizations looking to power their interstellar enterprises, the study authors wrote. To do this, aliens could use high-tech structures called Dyson spheres (giant, energy-siphoning orbs first proposed in the 1960s) to steal energy from the disc of white-hot matter swirling around a black hole's horizon, then radiate that energy outward into space. That re-radiated energy would create a distinct wavelength signature that astronomers could detect from Earth , the study authors suggested. The researchers are currently developing algorithms to search through existing telescope data in search of those telltale signatures.

Read more: Alien 'Dyson spheres' could be harvesting the power of black holes

3. Alien planets may look nothing like Earth

Typically, the search for alien life begins with the search for Earth-like planets — but there may be another class of alien world that is just as conducive to life, a study published in the Astrophysical Journal in August contends. "Hycean" planets, which are up to 2.5 times larger than Earth and sport huge oceans of liquid water beneath hydrogen -rich atmospheres, could be the ideal spot for microbial life similar to the "extremophiles" that thrive in some of Earth's harshest environments (such as hydrothermal vents), the study authors said. Not only are these planets abundant in the Milky Way galaxy, but they are also incredibly diverse, some orbiting very close to their host star, others orbiting far away. Both could potentially host itty-bitty life beneath their waves, the authors wrote, meaning there may be a whole new avenue of exploration for alien planet hunters.

Read more: Alien life could thrive on big 'Hycean' exoplanets

4. One of Saturn's moon still holds potential for life

The methane wafting from Enceladus, Saturn's sixth largest moon, may be a sign that life teems in the moon's subsurface sea, a June study found. In 2005, NASA's Cassini Saturn orbiter discovered geysers blasting particles of water ice into space from "tiger stripe" fractures near Enceladus' south pole. That material is thought to come from a huge ocean of liquid water that sloshes beneath the moon's icy shell — but it wasn't just water the orbiter found; numerous other compounds, including dihydrogen (H2) and a variety of carbon -containing organic compounds, including methane (CH4), also appeared in the geysers. 

In the new study, researchers ran a series of models to determine whether those compounds could be evidence of microbes that "eat" dihydrogen and produce methane as waste. The team found that methane-farting microbes could indeed be contributing to the planet's gassy geysers — meaning life can't be ruled out on the icy moon.

Read more: Methane wafting from 'tiger stripes' on Saturn moon could be sign of alien life, study suggests

5. Scientists may be ignoring "alien junk" in our own solar system

According to Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb's recent book "Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth" (published in January by Mariner Books), the strange, cigar-shaped object 'Oumuamua — which zoomed through our solar system in 2017 — is almost certainly a piece of alien technology. In his book, Loeb argues that the object's unusual, elongated shape (unlike any known comet), extreme brightness and apparent acceleration away from the sun suggest that 'Oumuamua is not natural in origin, but a piece of alien technology — possibly jettisoned into our solar system accidentally. 

"A buoy. A grid of pods for communication… Other intelligent living organisms' defunct technology or discarded technological trash," Loeb wrote. "These all are plausible explanations for the 'Oumuamua mystery — plausible because here on Earth, humanity is already doing these things, albeit on a far more limited scale." (A majority of astronomers who have studied the object favor natural explanations, calling it a cosmic "dust bunny" or just a really odd comet).

Read more: An alien machine already visited us, Harvard astrophysicist still contends

6. Thousands of alien worlds could have watched humans grow up

While human efforts to find alien civilizations among the stars have only kicked off in the last century or so, more than 1,700 alien civilizations could have been watching us for thousands of years prior. According to a study published in June in the journal Nature , 1,715 nearby star systems have had a perfect viewing angle of Earth over the last 5,000 years — and more than 1,400 of them still have a clear view today. 

All of these stars sit within about 300 light-years of our planet, and 75 of them orbit less than 100 light-years away. Given that humans have been transmitting radio signals for about 100 years, any of those 75 star systems are near enough that "our radio waves would have washed over them already," lead study author Lisa Kaltenegger, an associate professor of astronomy and director of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University, told Live Science at the time. Whether or not any hypothetical civilizations living in those star systems want to communicate with us is another question.

Read more: Aliens in 1,700 star systems could have seen civilization emerge on Earth

7. There's no "best" way to communicate with aliens

If aliens are watching us from relatively closeby, what's the best way to tell them where we live? Live Science writer Joanna Thompson investigated this question in December, finding that no one method is flawless. On one hand, radio waves are a tempting way to communicate with extraterrestrials because these signals fit in a convenient gap in the electromagnetic spectrum called the "water hole" — a frequency between 1420 and 1720 megahertz that's relatively free of cosmic background noise. 

On the other hand, radio waves broaden as they travel, meaning any message we send will become more diluted the farther from Earth it gets. Laser light does not have this problem — however, laser signals require incredible precision, and are unlikely to reach any alien observers unless we target our message directly to their star system. Both methods have their advantages — and neither are perfect.

Read more: How would we give aliens directions to Earth?

8. Our own technology might be getting in the way

On April 29, 2019, astronomers detected a signal beaming toward Earth, it seemed, from Proxima Centauri — the nearest star system to our sun and home to at least one potentially habitable planet. Because the signal fell into a narrow band of radio waves that are rarely made by human aircraft or satellites, researchers interpreted it as a possible sign of alien technology. But the signal never repeated — and a study published this October in the journal Nature Astronomy explains why: The signal was actually coming from a malfunctioning computer or cellular device located near the telescope that detected it. 

In the new study, the researchers looked over the 2019 data again and found several "lookalike" signals that seemed to be missing components of the so-called alien transmission; together, these signals fit a range of frequencies "consistent with common clock oscillator frequencies used in digital electronics," the researchers wrote. In other words, this alien message seems to have been a human computer on the fritz — but studying and identifying it still gives scientists valuable experience in separating real deep-space signals from Earthly noise.

Read more: Sorry folks: 'Alien' signal from Proxima Centauri was likely just a broken computer on Earth

9. Alien "abductions" could be lucid dreams

Lucid dreaming, in which people are partially aware and can control their dreams during sleep, could explain so-called alien abduction stories, a study from July suggests. Claims of such abductions date to the 19th century; the circumstances of the kidnappings often sound dreamlike and trigger feelings of terror and paralysis. Certain dream states are also known to produce such feelings, so Russian researchers wondered whether dream experiments could provide clues about alleged extraterrestrial experiences. 

The scientists prompted 152 lucid dreamers to dream about encounters with aliens or UFOs, and found that a number of sleepers reported dreams that resembled actual descriptions of alleged alien abductions. Of those who described their dream encounters as "realistic," 24% also experienced sleep paralysis and intense fear. Such emotions often accompany reports of supposed alien abductions, and though individuals who describe being kidnapped by aliens might truly believe that what they experienced was real, these people were likely experiencing an extraterrestrial meeting while in a lucid dream, the study authors reported.

Read more: 'Alien abduction' stories may come from lucid dreaming, study hints

Originally published on Live Science.

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Brandon Specktor

Brandon is the space/physics editor at Live Science. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Reader's Digest,, the Richard Dawkins Foundation website and other outlets. He holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona, with minors in journalism and media arts. He enjoys writing most about space, geoscience and the mysteries of the universe.

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How UFO Sightings Went From Conspiracy Theory To A Serious Government Inquiry

Bill Chappell

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In an image from video footage from 2015, an unexplained object is seen at center as it soars among the clouds, traveling against the wind. "There's a whole fleet of them," a naval aviator tells another, though only one indistinct object is shown. Department of Defense via AP hide caption

In an image from video footage from 2015, an unexplained object is seen at center as it soars among the clouds, traveling against the wind. "There's a whole fleet of them," a naval aviator tells another, though only one indistinct object is shown.

Are we alone? Have alien spacecraft been buzzing across Earth's skies? Those are the questions being asked in the U.S. government's new report on unexplained aerial phenomena — its preferred term for what many of us call unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.

So far, it looks like the answers in the report will leave UFO spotters and conspiracy theorists unsatisfied. U.S. officials and analysts who examined video footage from U.S. Navy planes and other records say the evidence doesn't point to alien technology — but they also say they can't explain the unusual phenomena.

The report's release is still pending; after The New York Times first reported news of its findings Thursday night, a senior U.S. official confirmed to NPR that details in the newspaper's story are accurate.

Intelligence officials: The airborne vehicles weren't made by the U.S.

One of the report's only substantial conclusions is that the craft encountered by the military — objects that showed unusual flight capabilities — were not created by classified programs run by the U.S. government or the Pentagon.

That finding jibes with statements previously made by Luis Elizondo, the former leader of the Pentagon's Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. He spoke to NPR in 2017 after the release of a previously classified video taken by a camera aboard a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet.

In the footage, pilots struggled to explain what they were seeing as an object on their sensors maintained a high speed — and then, for no apparent reason, rotated.

"Look at that thing!" one pilot exclaimed.

Earlier, the same pilot remarked they might be seeing some type of drone.

"There's a whole fleet of them," the other pilot said.

"My gosh!" the first pilot replied.

Discussing that footage in an interview with NPR, Elizondo confessed he didn't know the origin of the craft.

"If you're asking my personal opinion from here, look, I've got to be honest with you, I don't know where it's from. But we're pretty sure it's not here," Elizondo said. "Now does that mean it's 'out there'? Whether or not it's Russian or Chinese inside or little green men from Mars or frankly your neighbor's dog, I wanted to purposely steer away from that because I wanted to focus on truly the raw science: What were we seeing, and did it pose a threat to national security?"

When UFOs went legit

Interest in the idea that alien beings might be visiting Earth from off-planet has skyrocketed in recent years, particularly after the Pentagon verified that several videos showing what look to be objects moving at incredible speeds and with remarkable agility had indeed come from official U.S. Navy sources.

In 2017, news of the existence of a secretive Pentagon program that was established to examine sightings of unexplained aircraft and phenomena ignited public interest. It also brought new legitimacy and definition to an area of research that for decades was defined by speculation — and stereotypes of UFO enthusiasts running around in tinfoil hats.

The Pentagon reportedly began its Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program in an early form in 2007. Congress then funded it , and Elizondo took it over in 2010. But the Defense Department halted it in 2012.

In April 2020, the Department of Defense officially released footage from the Navy fighter pilots' on-board cameras.

The department said it was releasing the videos to clear up misconceptions about whether footage that had already been circulating is real.

"The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as 'unidentified,' " the Defense Department said .

Americans, it seems, are ready to believe. A 2019 Gallup Poll found that a third of U.S. adults agreed with the idea that "some UFOs have been alien spacecraft visiting Earth from other planets or galaxies."

Why the government report is coming out now

The new report on UFOs is poised to be released to Congress this month by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

U.S. intelligence agencies and the Defense Department are required to report on what they know about unusual aerial phenomena because of a stipulation in the massive COVID-19 relief and government funding bill that Congress approved last year.

In a section titled Advanced Aerial Threats, the spending bill calls for federal agencies to submit a report on "unidentified aerial phenomena (also known as 'anomalous aerial vehicles'), including observed airborne objects that have not been identified."

When former President Donald Trump signed the bill on Dec. 27, he also triggered the start of a 180-day deadline for the director of national intelligence to send the report to Congress.

The report will go to the Intelligence and Armed Services committees in each chamber of Congress.

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Linda Looney wipes her face outside the Alien Research Center, a gift shop on the Extraterrestrial Highway, in Crystal Springs, Nev., in 2019. The tiny desert town is near Area 51, a secret government facility some believe is a research center devoted to studies of space aliens. John Locher/AP hide caption

Linda Looney wipes her face outside the Alien Research Center, a gift shop on the Extraterrestrial Highway, in Crystal Springs, Nev., in 2019. The tiny desert town is near Area 51, a secret government facility some believe is a research center devoted to studies of space aliens.

We've been looking for aliens for decades

Speculation about extraterrestrial beings coming to Earth — and potentially colonizing our planet, as humans have done to one another for millenniums — has long been fuel for movies and pulp novels. But fiction or not, the military has also been intrigued by the idea.

Americans' fixation with UFOs has its roots in July 1947. According to UFO enthusiasts, that's when the U.S. Air Force allegedly recovered an alien spacecraft — and its occupants — near Roswell, N.M.

As with more recent efforts, the U.S. military worked to determine whether an alien force had arrived on our planet — or whether the sightings potentially indicated unexpected gains in aeronautics and engineering by some rival power.

"The UFO craze began in the summer of 1947," journalist Annie Jacobsen told NPR in 2011 when she published a book about the mysterious Area 51 in Nevada. As speculation about that incident grew, Jacobsen added, the Army intelligence corps went on a search for former Third Reich aerospace designers who were said to have created a flying disc.

That same year, the Air Force started a program to investigate UFO sightings, called Project BLUE BOOK . Over the next two decades, 12,618 strange sightings were reported to the project. When it was phased out in 1969, around 700 sightings were still categorized as "Unidentified," according to the National Archives.

Correction June 4, 2021

A previous version of this report incorrectly said Area 51 was in New Mexico. In fact, the facility is in Nevada.

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‘I don’t know if I was abducted by aliens or not. The whole point of my work is to describe what happened to me’: Whitley Strieber.

‘What I saw that night was real’: is it time to take aliens more seriously?

The Pentagon has been quietly investigating unidentified flying objects since 2007. The fact that they think they might exist is good news to those who claim to have seen them

I n June, the US government published a long-awaited report into UFOs . Although the report did not, as many had hoped, admit to the existence of little green men, it did reveal that not only were objects appearing in our skies that the Pentagon – which controls the US military – could not explain, but some clearly pose “a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to US national security”.

The Pentagon also revealed that it has been taking UFOs so seriously that in 2007 it discreetly set up the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), which has been gathering data on Unexplained Aerial Phenomena (UAPs) ever since.

The unclassified version of the report (there was also a classified version seen only by US lawmakers) found “no clear indications that there is any non-terrestrial explanation” for the sightings. But neither did it rule it out. The report offered five typically mundane possible explanations for the UFOs and, crucially, one catch-all “other” bin.

It’s that “other” bin that has arrested the attention of stargazers and conspiracy theorists. If the US military has been quietly and seriously investigating UFOs (or, as the Pentagon would have it, UAPs) since 2007, and if the Pentagon’s official report cannot rule out the existence of extraterrestrials, is it time we looked again at claims of close encounters and the people who have made them?

Enthusiasm for UFOs and ETs has permeated popular culture ever since a US air force balloon crashed near Roswell in 1947. Conspiracy theorists confused the balloon for a UFO; the US government did a lousy job debunking those claims, and they quickly captured the public’s imagination. Fast forward to 1961, when Barney and Betty Hill told the world’s first alien abduction story.

Andrew Abeyta, professor of psychology at Rutgers University, co-authored We Are Not Alone , a study into why some of us want to believe in aliens. Abeyta explains that belief in aliens is akin to religiosity: unfounded beliefs in unfalsifiable ideas, which require a leap of faith. “People have a need to feel like their lives are meaningful, and these beliefs might suggest that there’s something bigger out there; there’s something more important going on,” Abeyta says

I tell Abeyta about an interview I carried out with a young man in Florida. The man, who did not want to be named, described an ambiguous close encounter that took place during his sleep. When I asked him what he preferred the truth to be – a real encounter or merely a vivid dream – the young man said he would prefer it to be true because that would mean he was “special”.

“I can imagine being a protagonist in an alien-abduction story seems pretty meaningful, like a meaningful achievement, an accomplishment,” Abeyta says. That feeling of specialness plays an important role in these stories. “Feeling like your unexplained experience is a result of an alien abduction just seems more exciting and more important than a natural explanation.”

Still, the topic of alien encounters remains sensitive. I discovered just how sensitive when author Whitley Strieber, who some claim was abducted by non-humans in 1985, terminated our call after learning that I had not read his books. In a subsequent email, he wrote: “I don’t know if I was abducted by aliens or not. The whole point of my work is to describe what happened to me and attempt to understand what it was. I was turned into ‘alien abductee Whitley Strieber’ by the media. That is not my position.” He added: “You are lost in space when it comes to this subject, my friend – all of you.”

After I got off on the wrong foot with Strieber, though, he did come back and introduce me to highly decorated former US navy cryptologist Matthew Roberts. He was stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt when fighter jets recorded the infamous “Gimbal” and “Go Fast” videos of unexplained objects off the Florida coast during 2015, which went a long way to prompting the Pentagon’s UFO report.

Now retired from the military, Roberts is unmoved by the debunkers. “These things are picked up by multiple sensors that are sometimes from different manufacturers, so to think that they would all be glitching in the same way at the same time would just be impossible – it just doesn’t happen that way.”

Mick West, a science writer and video game programmer turned conspiracy-theory debunker, offers his own, more down-to-earth explanations for the objects: arguing that mundane things – tech glitches, camera glare, balloons and birds – are more likely than aliens.

However, now even the Pentagon has conceded there’s more to UFOs than that. In its nine-page report it states: “Most of the UAP reported probably do represent physical objects given that a majority of UAP were registered across multiple sensors, to include radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers and visual observation.” In other words, there was something out there and the images were not technical glitches. I ask Roberts about a theory put forward by West that the Gimbal object was glare caused by a nearby aircraft. “All aircraft – nationally, internationally – have to broadcast who they are. If they’re not broadcasting that, that’s very unusual. Mick West, bless his soul, he has never been in the military,” he says.

Roberts explains that, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, unidentified air tracks escalate very quickly. “It will go to the captain, it will go to the admiral, and they’ll want to know what that is because the thought would immediately be: ‘Is this a commercial airliner? Has it been hijacked?’ We’re not as incompetent as Mick West would have you believe. If something is unidentified, it absolutely has to be identified immediately.”

Despite the debunkers and proliferation of more mundane explanations for UFOs, reports of close encounters have persisted for decades. Terry Lovelace, a retired assistant attorney general in Vermont, USA, and author of Incident at Devil’s Den , kept his abduction to himself for 40 years due to fear of losing his job. He had a close encounter in 1977 while serving in the US air force.

Lovelace, now 67, was on a camping trip in Devil’s Den state park in northern Arkansas with a friend and colleague named Toby when things got strange. They were sitting around a fire, struggling to chat over the din of buzzing crickets and croaking tree frogs before everything went quiet. “That sounds kind of clichéd – out of a movie – but that is exactly what happened to us,” he says.

Three bright lights appeared on the horizon and moved in their direction. When the lights were overhead, they could see that they were emanating from a black triangular prism as wide as two city blocks.

A blue laser beam darted over them, which Lovelace thought was scanning them. When it shut off, they became sleepy. Next thing, he woke and saw Toby peering out of the tent. The triangle was hovering above what appeared to be a dozen children standing in a meadow below them. “What are these kids doing out here in the middle of the night?” said Lovelace.

“They aren’t little kids. Don’t you remember they took us and they hurt us?” Toby answered.

Lovelace says the moment Toby said that, fragmented memories of being inside the UFO flashed in his mind. Years later, hypnosis helped him fill in more blanks and he recalled actually encountering creatures while inside the UFO.

‘People who were previously disbelieved and ridiculed should be listened to and given a hearing’, says Nick Pope.

For some, the fact that the Pentagon has finally admitted it cannot explain the behaviour of the objects may have been a surprise but, for PC Alan Godfrey, 73, it merely proves what he already knows.

On a windswept and wet West Yorkshire evening in November 1980, Godfrey was in hot pursuit of a herd of escaped cows in Todmorden’s housing estate. Instead of cows, he stumbled across a giant levitating diamond that would change the course of his life. Godfrey’s close encounter with this UFO went viral worldwide and transformed Todmorden into Britain’s Roswell.

Godfrey, a no-nonsense Yorkshireman born and raised in Oldham, is long retired from the force but still recalls the events of that night when he came face to face with the peculiar object – a diamond-shaped aircraft hovering 5ft off the ground while spinning on its axis.

He just had time to sketch the UFO on his notepad before he was blinded. In his next moment of conscious awareness, he was sitting in his patrol car. The UFO was gone. “I got out of the car, looked at the road surface, and it was like a whirlpool,” he says. The UFO’s rapid revolutions had arranged the dead leaves, twigs and other debris into an autumn-themed spiral.

In the aftermath of his encounter, he had visits from the Ministry of Defence, correspondence from a Russian scientist and interest from the world’s press. He even underwent hypnosis to uncover memories of his abduction.

Godfrey was ridiculed for years – many who claim to have had encounters with UFOs are reluctant to go on the record for fear of the same treatment – but things are changing. High-ranking government officials such as Christopher Mellon, a former US secretary for defence in intelligence, and Luis Elizondo, former director of AATIP, insist that there are aircraft in our skies that don’t obey the known laws of physics. Even Barack Obama has gone on record on the subject, talking to CBS this year: “There’s footage and records of objects in the skies, that we don’t know exactly what they are, we can’t explain how they moved, their trajectory. They did not have an easily explainable pattern. And so, you know I think that people still take seriously trying to investigate and figure out what that is. But I have nothing to report to you today.”

When it comes to abduction stories, sceptics will say these encounters are either hoaxes or accounts of vivid dreams or hallucinations. Christopher French, emeritus professor of psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, has spent years studying the paranormal and argues that sleep paralysis is a better explanation for many of these stories. “In some cases, you get associated symptoms, and they include a sense of presence; a very strong feeling that there’s something in the room with you,” French says. He adds that sufferers might hallucinate and “see strange lights moving around the room or strange figures or shadow people”.

That doesn’t fit for Godfrey’s story – he was driving and on duty at the time. “I think in Alan Godfrey’s case, he was sleep-deprived; he had been on duty for a long time. The most likely explanation is some kind of hallucinatory experience due to tiredness,” says French. What about the story he told under hypnosis? “The thing with hypnotic regression is that it is one of the best ways known of generating false memories. If you go for hypnotic regression expecting to recover memories of alien abduction, there’s a very good chance that’s what you’ll get.”

But Nick Pope, a former UFO investigator for the Ministry of Defence, is not convinced and thinks that Godfrey is genuine. “He had a lot to potentially lose by coming out with this and yet stuck to his guns.”

Doesn’t a hallucination explain what he saw? “I get that people do have hallucinations, but they tend to be the result of either mental illness or some sort of hallucinogenic substance, and this guy was on duty and was, by all accounts, rational. And so those explanations don’t seem to apply – I’m stumped when it comes to that particular case. Ask yourself: how many times have you been tired and come to the end of a long day? We’ve all been in that situation, and we don’t suddenly construct bizarre narratives about spacecraft and aliens.”

Is it time to start taking these stories more seriously? “I’m not saying that I believe it’s literally true that these are alien spaceships,” says Pope. “But at the very least, these people who were previously disbelieved and ridiculed should be listened to and given a hearing.

“For everyone who tells you these people are attention seekers after fame and fortune, I would say, ‘What fame? What fortune?’ Who outside the UFO community has heard of Alan Godfrey or Terry Lovelace?”

Does Pope think ETs are among us? “I don’t know. I am certain that they are out there, but whether they’re down here or not? I don’t know. I think it’s much more likely that we’re dealing with unmanned probes.”

If not hallucinations, equipment glitches or mistakes, many will say black ops, conducted by the US, China, Russia, or other militaries, are a more plausible explanation than aliens. “I accept that most military personnel won’t have sight of every single black project and, therefore, won’t necessarily know about every secret prototype, aircraft or drone that’s flying,” says Pope. “But the military and government, and the intelligence community have a pretty good idea of roughly where the ceiling is in terms of technology. So, when these expert military witnesses describe the sorts of speeds, accelerations, manoeuvres that are reported with these sorts of incidents, I sit up and take note.”

Whatever one thinks about the veracity of these stories, many of the people who tell them believe they are real, and some suffer from severe mental illness in the aftermath. Chris French says the levels of psychological arousal in people living with PTSD go “through the roof” when they’re asked to retell their stories. “If you do the same thing with the alien abductees, you get the same thing.”

Lovelace’s night in Devil’s Den changed his life and the life of his friend Toby. The US air force got wind of their ordeal and, per military protocol, separated and reassigned them. Lovelace ignored his orders and visited Toby to say goodbye. “Toby was falling apart,” Lovelace says. The two embraced. Toby said: “It happened, didn’t it?” “Yes, my brother, it really happened. You’re not losing your mind,” Lovelace replied.

Lovelace has suffered enormously since that night. “I’ve had 40 years’ of nightmares. I still have a phobia of crossing open ground. I still sleep with a light on and a gun beside my bed.” But he feels vindicated by acknowledgments made by the US government, military personnel and Obama. “I’ve got a long list of people that I’m going to email and say, ‘I told you so.’”

For Godfrey, it’s 40 years too late. He is adamant about what he saw that morning in Todmorden. “I’ve had all sorts: you fell into some sort of trance when you were driving – all that shit. No, it was real. It left debris on the road – my headlights were reflecting off it, as were the blue lights. This was a real incident. I didn’t need the Pentagon to tell me there are things out there. I know what I saw that night was real, nuts and bolts. If I’d got out and thrown a brick at it, it would have gone, ‘Clang!’ It doesn’t change what happened to me and how I was treated back then.”

  • The Observer

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The science of ghosts, here’s what may explain why some people see, hear or feel a spooky presence.

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People love scary, spooky stories of spectral phantoms. While there’s no science to support the existence of ghosts, research does provide plenty of explanations for why we might genuinely sense a supernatural presence.

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By Kathryn Hulick

October 31, 2019 at 5:45 am

A shadowy figure rushed through the door. “It had a skeletal body, surrounded by a white, blurry aura,” recalls Dom. The figure hovered and didn’t seem to have a face. Dom, who prefers to use only his first name, had been fast asleep. Just 15 at the time, he panicked and closed his eyes. “I only saw it for a second,” he recalls. Now, he’s a young adult who lives in the United Kingdom. But he still remembers the experience vividly.

Was the figure a ghost? In the mythology of the United States and many other Western cultures, a ghost or spirit is a dead person who interacts with the living world. In stories, a ghost may whisper or groan, cause things to move or fall, mess with electronics — even appear as a shadowy, blurry or see-through figure.

alien or ghost

Ghost stories are lots of fun, especially on Halloween. But some people believe that ghosts are real. Chapman University in Orange, Calif., runs a yearly survey that asks people in the United States about their beliefs in the paranormal. In 2018, 58 percent of those polled agreed with the statement, “Places can be haunted by spirits.” And almost one in five people from the United States said in another survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., that they’ve seen or been in the presence of a ghost.

On ghost-hunting TV shows, people use scientific equipment to attempt to record or measure spirit activity. And numerous creepy photos and videos make it seem like ghosts exist. However, none of these offer good evidence of ghosts. Some are hoaxes, created to fool people. The rest only prove that equipment sometimes can capture noise, images or other signals that people don’t expect. Ghosts are the least likely of many possible explanations.

Not only are ghosts supposed to be able to do things that science says are impossible, such as turn invisible or pass through walls, but also scientists using reliable research methods have found zero evidence that ghosts exist. What scientists have discovered, though, are lots of reasons why people might feel they have had ghostly encounters.

What their data show is that you can’t always trust your eyes, ears or brain.

‘Dreaming with your eyes open’

Dom began having unusual experiences when he was eight or nine. He would wake up unable to move. He researched what was happening to him. And he learned that science had a name for it: sleep paralysis. This condition leaves someone feeling awake but paralyzed, or frozen in place. He can’t move or speak or breathe deeply. He may also see, hear or feel figures or creatures that aren’t really there. This is called a hallucination (Huh-LU-sih-NA-shun).

Sometimes, Dom hallucinated that creatures were walking or sitting on him. Other times, he heard screaming. He only saw something that one time, as a teenager.

Sleep paralysis happens when the brain messes up the process of falling asleep or waking. Usually, you only start dreaming after you’re fully asleep. And you stop dreaming before you waken.

A sitting woman looks down at her dreaming self

Sleep paralysis “is like dreaming with your eyes open,” explains Baland Jalal. A neuroscientist, he studies sleep paralysis at the University of Cambridge in England. He says this is why it happens: Our most vivid, lifelike dreams happen during a certain stage of sleep. It’s called rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep. In this stage, your eyes dart around under their closed lids. Though your eyes move, the rest of your body can’t. It’s paralyzed. Most likely, that’s to prevent people from acting out their dreams. (That could get dangerous! Imagine flailing your arms and legs as you play dream basketball, only to whack your knuckles on the wall and tumble to the floor.)

Your brain usually turns this paralysis off before you wake up. But in sleep paralysis, you wake up while it’s still happening.

Faces in the clouds

You don’t have to experience sleep paralysis to sense things that aren’t there. Have you ever felt your phone buzz, then checked to find there was no message? Have you heard someone calling your name when no one was there? Have you ever seen a face or figure in a dark shadow?

These misperceptions also count as hallucinations, says David Smailes. He’s a psychologist in England at Northumbria University in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He thinks that just about everyone has such experiences. Most of us just ignore them. But some may turn to ghosts as the explanation.

We’re used to our senses giving us accurate information about the world. So when experiencing a hallucination, our first instinct is usually to believe it. If you see or feel the presence of a loved one who died — and trust your perceptions — then “it has to be a ghost,” says Smailes. That’s easier to believe than the idea that your brain is lying to you.

The brain has a tough job. Information from the world bombards you as a mixed-up jumble of signals. The eyes take in color. The ears take in sounds. The skin senses pressure. The brain works to make sense of this mess. This is called bottom-up processing. And the brain is very good at it. It’s so good that it sometimes finds meaning in meaningless things. This is known as pareidolia (Pear-eye-DOH-lee-ah). You experience it whenever you stare at clouds and see rabbits, ships or faces. Or gaze at the moon and see a face.

a wall with three bricks that look like they have faces

The brain also does top-down processing. It adds information to your perception of the world. Most of the time, there is way too much stuff coming in through the senses. Paying attention to all of it would overwhelm you. So your brain picks out the most important parts. And then it fills in the rest. “The vast majority of perception is the brain filling in the gaps,” explains Smailes.

What you see right now isn’t what’s actually out there in the world. It’s a picture your brain painted for you based on signals captured by your eyes. The same goes for your other senses. Most of the time, this picture is accurate. But sometimes, the brain adds things that aren’t there.

For example, when you mishear the lyrics in a song, your brain filled in a meaning that wasn’t there. (And it will most likely continue to mishear those words even after you learn the right ones.)

This is very similar to what happens when so-called ghost hunters capture sounds that they say are ghosts speaking. (They call this electronic voice phenomenon, or EVP.) The recording is probably just random noise. If you listen to it without knowing what was supposedly said, you probably won’t hear words. But when you know what the words are supposed to be, you might now find that you can discern them easily.

Your brain may also add faces to images of random noise. Research has shown that patients who experience visual hallucinations are more likely than normal to experience pareidolia — see faces in random shapes, for instance.

In one 2018 study, Smailes’ team tested whether this might also be true for healthy people. They recruited 82 volunteers. First, the researchers asked a series of questions about how often these volunteers had hallucination-like experiences. For example, “Do you ever see things other people cannot?” and “Do you ever think that everyday things look abnormal to you?”

a face that hidden in a busy black and white image

Next, the participants looked at 60 images of black and white noise. For a very brief moment, another image would flash in the center of the noise. Twelve of these images were faces that were easy to see. Another 24 were hard-to-see faces. And 24 more images showed no faces at all — just more noise. The volunteers had to report whether a face was present or absent in each flash. In a separate test, the researchers showed the same volunteers a series of 36 images. Two-thirds of them contained a face pareidolia. The remaining 12 did not.

Participants who had initially reported more hallucination-like experiences were also more likely to report faces in the flashes of random noise. They were also better at identifying those images that contained face pareidolia.

In the next few years, Smailes plans to study situations in which people might be more likely to see faces in randomness.

When people sense ghosts, he points out, “They’re often alone, in the dark and scared.” If it’s dark, your brain can’t get much visual information from the world. It has to create more of your reality for you. In this type of situation, Smailes says, the brain may be more likely to impose its own creations onto reality.

Did you see the gorilla?

The brain’s picture of reality sometimes includes things that aren’t there. But it can also completely miss things that are there. This is called inattentional blindness. Want to know how it works? Watch the video before you keep reading.

The video shows people in white and black shirts passing a basketball. Count how many times the people in white shirts pass the ball. How many did you see?

Partway through the video, a person in a gorilla suit walks through the players. Did you see it? About half of all viewers who count passes while watching the video miss the gorilla completely.

If you too missed the gorilla, you experienced inattentional blindness. You were likely in a state called absorption. That’s when you are so focused on a task that you tune out everything else.

“Memory does not work like a video camera,” says Christopher French. He is a psychologist in England at Goldsmiths University of London. You only remember things you’re paying attention to. Some people are more likely to become absorbed than others. And these people also report higher levels of paranormal beliefs, he says, including beliefs in ghosts.

How could these things be related? Some strange experiences that people blame on ghosts involve unexplained sounds or movements. A window may seem to open all by itself. But what if someone opened it and you just didn’t notice because you were so absorbed in something else? That’s a lot more likely than a ghost, French says.

In one 2014 study, French and his colleagues found that people with higher levels of paranormal beliefs and higher tendencies to get absorbed are also more likely to experience inattentional blindness. They also tend to have a more limited working memory. That’s how much information you can hold in your memory at once.

If you have trouble keeping lots of information in your memory or paying attention to more than one thing at once, then you risk missing sensory cues from the environment around you. And you might blame any misperceptions that result on a ghost.

The power of critical thinking

Anyone may experience sleep paralysis, hallucinations, pareidolia or inattentional blindness. But not everyone turns to ghosts or other supernatural beings as a way to explain these experiences. Even as a child, Dom never thought he had come face to face with a real ghost. He went online and asked questions about what might have happened. He used critical thinking. And he got the answers he needed. When an episode happens now, he uses a technique that Jalal developed. Dom doesn’t try to stop the episode. He just focuses on his breathing, tries to relax as much as possible and waits for it to pass. He says, “I deal with it far better. I just sleep and enjoy sleeping.”

Robyn Andrews is a psychology student at the University of South Wales in Treforest. She wondered if people with stronger critical-thinking skills might be less likely to believe in the paranormal. So she and her mentor, psychologist Philip Tyson, recruited 687 students for a study about their paranormal beliefs. The students majored in a wide range of different fields. Each was asked how strongly he or she agreed with statements such as, “It is possible to communicate with the dead.” Or “Your mind or soul can leave your body and travel.” The research team also looked at the students’ grades on a recent assignment.

a woman sitting on a chair looking at a ghost twin image sitting in front of a window

Students with higher grades tended to have lower levels of paranormal beliefs, this study found. And students in the physical sciences, engineering or math tended not to believe as strongly as those studying the arts. This trend also has been seen in research by others.

This study did not actually assess the students’ ability to think critically. “That’s something we would look into as a future study,” says Andrews. However, previous research has shown that science students tend to have stronger critical-thinking skills than art students. That’s probably because you need to think critically in order to conduct scientific experiments. And thinking critically can help you scout out likely causes for an unusual experience without involving ghosts (or aliens, or Bigfoot).

Even among science students and working scientists, though, paranormal beliefs persist. Andrews and Tyson think that’s a problem. If you can’t judge whether a ghost story or spooky experience is real or not, you may also get fooled by advertisements, bogus medical cures or fake news, says Tyson. It’s important for everyone to learn how to question information and seek reasonable, realistic explanations.

So if someone tells you a ghost story this Halloween, enjoy it. But remain skeptical. Think about other possible explanations for what was described. Remember that your mind may fool you into experiencing spooky things.

Wait, what’s that behind you? (Boo!)

Kathryn Hulick has been a regular contributor to Science News for Students since 2013. She’s covered everything from laser “photography” and acne to video games, robotics and forensics. This piece — her 43rd story for us — was inspired by her book: Strange But True: 10 of the world’s greatest mysteries explained. (Quarto, October 1, 2019, 128 pages).

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Americans think ghosts are more likely than aliens on Earth

Kathy Frankovic

Nearly one-third of Americans say they've possibly seen a ghost

Nearly half of us believe in ghosts. That’s more than the percentage in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll who think aliens have landed on earth, and more than think you can put a curse on somebody. But have we seen ghosts? Just 15% say they have.

alien or ghost

Women are much more likely than men to believe in ghosts. But they are no more likely to think they have seen one.

alien or ghost

As many people who know they have seen a ghost say they might have seen one. Seeing is believing. 95% of those who have seen a ghost believe; so do 79% of those who might have seen one. Just a quarter of those who have never seen a ghost believe they exist.

Belief in ghosts is in part a matter of age: 55% of those under the age of 30 believe in ghosts, compared with only a third of those 65 and older. The least religious are the most skeptical. A majority of those who say religion is important in their lives believe in ghosts, a majority of those who say the opposite don’t.

Religious Americans are also more likely to say they believe you can be cursed. Overall, 30% say that is the case, compared with 37% of those who say religion is very important in their daily lives. A majority of Hispanics (56%) think you can put curses on other people. 34% of women, and 26% of men say some people can curse others.

alien or ghost

But if you believe in ghosts, you are more likely to believe in curses. Half of those who believe in ghosts say you can be cursed; only 15% of ghost skeptics agree.

As for interplanetary or interstellar visits from an alien, only a third think that has happened. On this question, there are only small gender, age, religious or political differences.

alien or ghost

But one thing is clear. Belief in ghosts or curses or alien visits are all related. 56% of those who believe in ghosts also believe aliens have visited earth; just 16% of ghost skeptics agree. Those who believe in curses are twice as likely as those who do not to think aliens have landed on earth.

So look out for ghosts, for curses, and for alien visitors this Halloween!

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Extraterrestrial life in Miami? No, police say viral video shows human being | Fact check

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The claim: Video shows aliens at Miami mall

A Jan. 6 Instagram video ( direct link , archive link ) shows an aerial view of numerous police vehicles with their emergency lights flashing parked outside a Miami shopping center.

"We got it y'all," says a man who appears in the video, pointing to a shadowy figure moving across the screen. "Y'all see it? I know you all see it."

The video's on-screen caption reads, "Footage of aliens in miami."

The Instagram post was liked more than 2,000 times in three days. Similar videos of the incident have been shared thousands of times across social media platforms.

More from the Fact-Check Team: How we pick and research claims | Email newsletter | Facebook page

Our rating: False

The video shows a person walking, not extraterrestrial life, a Miami police spokesperson said. The significant police presence was for juveniles who reportedly set off fireworks on Jan. 1 at Bayside Marketplace in Miami.

No aliens at Miami mall, police say

Rafael Horta , a Miami police spokesperson, said the claim that the video shows aliens at the shopping center is false.

"It's actually just a person walking with a shadow," Horta said in a Jan. 5 Instagram video posted by the Miami Police Department. "So I can confirm to you all here today right now that there are no aliens in Miami in Bayside Marketplace – at the moment."

Police went to the mall Jan. 1 in response to a group of about 50 juveniles who had been shooting fireworks at people, Horta said. Officers had trouble containing the group and called for citywide reinforcements, resulting in a significant police presence, he said.

Fact check : No, episode of 'The Simpsons' did not predict solar superstorm in 2024

Michael Vega , another police spokesperson, told CBS News Miami there were no aliens, airport closures or power outages connected to the events at the shopping center

The Miami Herald reported four teens were arrested as a result of the incident, which involved fireworks, riots and fights.

The Instagram user who shared the video did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

PolitiFact also debunked the claim.

Our fact-check sources:

  • Miami Police Department, Jan. 5, Instagram video
  • CBS News Miami, Jan. 5, Rumors of 'shadow aliens' at Bayside Marketplace go viral after large fight among teens creates chaos
  • Miami Herald, Jan. 6, Miami cops arrest teens after fireworks, riots, fights erupted at Bayside Marketplace

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35 of the most famous alien, monster and unexplained photographs ever taken.

We've tracked down some of the most famous alien and monster photographs ever taken to show just how weird and wonderful the world can be.

Since the dawn of time, the human race has seen mystery and intrigue around every corner. Mysterious events have been put down to the supernatural, the paranormal and even the extra-terrestrial.

One things for sure, there have been a lot of unexplained mysteries over the centuries and with modern technology giving people greater access to photography and previously unexplored parts of the galaxy, there are bound to be plenty more cropping up.

  • The most famous ghost photographs ever taken
  • 23 of the best astronomy photographs that are out of this world

The Tunguska event (1908)

The Tunguska event has since led to much discussion about asteroid impact avoidance and has helped to spawn a multitude of science fiction films.

In June 1908, a massive explosion happened near the Stony Tunguska River in Russia. The explosion flattened 770 square miles of forest, toppling around 80 million trees and yet somehow resulted in no loss of human life.

It has been theorised that the Tunguska event, as it has been designated, was caused by an air bursting meteoroid but no one really knows for sure. There was no impact crater, so the conjecture is simply that it broke up in the atmosphere somewhere between three and six miles above the Earth's surface. The explosion is calculated to have been 1,000 times greater than that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

The Tunguska event has since led to much discussion about asteroid impact avoidance , a growing fear of  extinction-level events  and has helped to spawn a multitude of science fiction films.

The Dyatlov Pass incident (1959)

In 1959, in the Ural Mountains of Russia, an experienced group of trekkers died under mysterious circumstances which were never adequately explained.

In 1959, in the depths of the Ural Mountains of Russia, an experienced group of trekkers died under mysterious circumstances which were never adequately explained. Investigators discovered that the victims had cut a hole through their tent and run away from something while wearing minimal clothing despite the temperatures being around -30 degrees Centigrade.

A number of the victims died from hypothermia but some had inexplicable fatal injuries including a fractured skull, major chest fractures and one victim had brain damage despite no visible injury to their skull. Another of the victims was found with major injuries as well as missing tongue, eyes and lips. Several theories have been offered as to what caused the hikers to run and what eventually killed them, but none have been conclusive and their deaths remain a mystery.

Ectoplasm séances (1912)

Fraudsters took to manipulating their audiences with a variety of tricks and illusions aimed at duping them out of their hard-earned cash.

During the 19th and 20th Centuries, spiritualism took a grip on society with many people believing that mediums could help communicate with the dead. Fraudsters took to manipulating their audiences with a variety of tricks and illusions aimed at duping them out of their hard-earned cash.

Strong favourites at the time came in the ability to produce convincing ectoplasm, apparitions and manifestations that couldn't easily be explained by the average person. In this photo, Marthe Béraud apparently conjures an inexplicable light between her hands and ectoplasm above her head.   

The great alien reconnaissance (1952)

In 1952 air traffic controllers from several airports and air force bases near Washington D.C. reported seeing unidentified blips on their radar screens.

In 1952 multiple air traffic controllers from several airports and air force bases near Washington D.C. reported seeing unidentified blips on their radar screens. When questioning local pilots, the controllers were told that a number of "bright lights" had been seen in the sky nearby.

The next weekend, it happened again, this time with a dozen blips appearing on the radar screens. Fighter jets were scrambled to intercept but the jets were unable to match the speed of the unidentified flying objects. These sightings were added to list being investigated by the Government under  Project Blue Book  but nothing further was revealed.

NASA Lunar Pyramid (1972)

This photo was marked by NASA as "blank" but when enhanced appears to show what looks like a pyramid on the moon.

In 1972, Apollo 17's mission to the moon came back with several photographs from near Geophone Rock. This photo was marked by NASA as "blank" but when enhanced appears to show what looks like a pyramid on the moon.

This later led to many conspiracy theories that NASA was hiding what was really up there.

The Falcon Lake incident (1967)

Another year, another story about a UFO sighting. Stefan Michalak saw an unidentified alien craft land nearby when he was out prospecting for gold and silver.

Another year, another story about a UFO sighting. This time from Manitoba, Canada, where Stefan Michalak apparently saw an unidentified alien craft land nearby when he was out prospecting for gold and silver.

Stefan approached the craft and apparently heard human-like voices muffled by the engines. He went close enough to poke his head inside the craft and saw "a maze of lights" within. He was then startled when the craft took off and injured by a beam of heat that shot from the ship. The heat set fire to his clothes and severely burnt his chest. Doctors and authorities could not explain his injuries and this added credence to his story which he repeated in interviews until his death in 1999.      

The Solway Firth Spaceman (1964)

Jim Templeton took several photographs of his daughter, one of which, when developed appeared to show a man in a white space suit standing behind her.

While on a day trip to Burgh Marsh in Cumbria, England, Jim Templeton took several photographs of his daughter, one of which, when developed appeared to show a man in  a white space suit standing behind her . Jim swears there was no one else in the shot, but critics claim the photo is likely to be his wife overexposed in the background.

The Hook Island sea monster (1964)

While on a boat trip with his family in the summer of 1964, Robert Le Serrec saw a creature in the Australian waters that appeared monster-like in size.

While on a boat trip with his family in the summer of 1964, Robert Le Serrec saw a creature in the Australian waters that appeared monster like in size. Described as being around 80 feet in length, with serpent-like features and eyes on top of its head, the creature quickly became known as the Hook Island monster.

Many  theories have debunked the photograph  as being either fake or staged, but the myth lives on.

Bigfoot (1967)

Bigfoot is a legend that dates back as far as 1867 with several people reporting seeing giant, "wild men" wandering the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Bigfoot is a legend that dates back as far as 1867 with several people reporting seeing giant, "wild men" wandering the forests and mountains of the Pacific Northwest parts of the United States and Canada.

In 1967, filmmakers Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin captured the most famous and well-known footage of Bigfoot in existence. Its authenticity has been in much dispute in the decades that followed, but there's certainly something compelling about it.

The face of Mars (1976)

Here, the Viking 1 spacecraft captured photos of Mars' surface that appeared to show a face looking back at the spaceship from the ground.

Another NASA related mystery, this time centres around Mars and comes thanks to another photo snapped from outer space. Here, the Viking 1 spacecraft captured photos of Mars' surface that appeared to show a face looking back at the spaceship from the ground.

More recent photographs with higher resolution lenses have given a clearer picture o

The hospital demon

This blurry scene apparently came from a camera feed over a hospital bed. It seems to show a small demonic-like creature walking across the bed. Creepy. 

This blurry scene apparently came from a camera feed over a hospital bed. It's a bit hard to see, but seems to show a small demonic-like creature walking across the bed. Creepy. 

Unexplained Mars object (2017)

In 2017, the Mars Curiosity Rover captured an image which appears to show an unidentified object on the surface of Mars.

There are a few images of Mars which have raised questions about whether there was once life on Mars or indeed whether there still is.

In 2017, the Mars Curiosity Rover  captured an image  which appears to show an unidentified object on the surface of Mars. Doubters have suggested it's merely debris from the Mars Rover itself, but the conspiracy theorists take this image as proof of the existence of extra-terrestrial life.

The Portuguese Chupacabra (2016)

This appears to show a man-like beast walking through the desert and then disappearing behind a bush.

The legend of the  Chupacabra  finds it roots in the Americas, where a creature is said to wander the lands attacking and killing livestock and drinking the blood from their remains. Reports of Chupacabra have since come from all over the world and in 2016 a video was captured in the Portuguese desert.

The video appears to show a man-like beast walking through the desert and then disappearing behind a bush. Much like all the videos of Bigfoot, the footage is long-distance and low quality, so we'll leave it up to you to judge its validity.

The Loch Ness Monster (565 AD)

Nessie is the fabled creature that famously inhabits Loch Ness in Scotland. This monster might well be the oldest of the unexplained mysteries on our list.

Nessie is the fabled creature that famously inhabits Loch Ness in Scotland. This monster might well be the oldest of the unexplained mysteries on our list as the earliest reports of sightings date back to 565 AD.

Since that time, plenty of people have claimed to see the monster of the Loch but there have also been many false sightings, hoaxes and misidentifications that have included everything from trees to natural gases.

Nessie (2020)

Nessie has been "spotted" many times over the years. Claims are often only believed if undoctored images are provided as evidence. 

Nessie has been "spotted" many times over the years. Claims are often only believed if undoctored images are provided as evidence. 

In 2020 this photo was taken by tourist Steve Challice. It was thought to show the Loch Ness monster cruising the water. The photo didn't appear to be manipulated and quickly went viral. However, some were quick to point out the similarities to large catfish . Yes, this is likely just a fish, though a monster one at that. Shame. 

The death of Elisa Lam (2013)

In 2013, Elisa Lam was staying at the Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles. She went missing during her stay and was later discovered in the water tank on the hotel's roof. There were several unusual facts about the case which made it mysterious, including a video released by the LAPD of her getting into a lift, pressing multiple buttons and apparently trying to hide from someone.

Access to the hotel roof was blocked at the time of her death and both toxicology and coroner reports showed no visible trauma or reason for her passing. Though her death was officially labelled as "accidental drowning" there have been many other theories that include her being victim to a serial killer.

The Baltic Sea anomaly (2011)

In 2011, a Swedish diving team discovered a mysterious formation on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. People suggested that it looked like an alien spacecraft.

In 2011, a Swedish diving team discovered a mysterious formation on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Sonar imagery appeared to show a strange disc-like object 60 meters in diameter with many unusual characteristics that include a long runway running up it, a stairway at the side and a light soot covering.

Explanations for the object have included everything from a crashed UFO to a naturally occurring geological formation. It has even been likened to the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. Not much else is known about the object, though it is purported that it could be as much as 140,000 years old.

The Hubble Pyramid (2008)

One of the photographs of the moon, never officially released by NASA, appears to show a pyramid on the surface.

From around 1999, the Hubble telescope was pointed at the moon and captured a number of images. One of these photographs, never officially released by NASA, appears to show a pyramid on the surface.

This is the second sighting of a pyramid-like object on the moon, the first being captured during Apollo 17's mission, but neither has been accurately explained or had its authenticity confirmed by the authorities. Thus, the mystery of the moon pyramids continues.

Juvenile Bigfoot (2007)

This trail camera captured multiple images which appear to show some bears being chased off by an ape-like creature which resembled a juvenile Bigfoot.  

In September 2007, Rick Jacobs placed a motion-sensing camera in a tree along the game trails of Pennsylvania. This camera later captured multiple images which appear to show some bears being chased off by an ape-like creature which resembled a juvenile Bigfoot.  

Several witnesses have claimed to see Juvenile Bigfoot over the years, describing them as walking on four legs (unlike Bigfoot who is usually seen on two legs) which have led to them being dismissed as fake or likely to be another animal misidentified.

The Hessdalen lights (2007)

Over the valleys of Hessdalen in central Norway, a series of unexplained lights regularly appear through the day and night. Are they UFOs?

Over the valleys of Hessdalen in central Norway, a series of unexplained lights regularly appear through the day and night. Sometimes the lights appear for over an hour, sometimes they're there for just a few seconds. They're a regular occurrence and have had many UFO theorists claiming the lights to be of extra-terrestrial origin.

Scientists, however, have attributed the lights to a chemical and electrical reaction caused by the different metals and minerals in the local hillside reacting with the environment. Though it's not quite as exciting, it's certainly pretty.

The Raystown Ray (2007)

At Raystown Lake in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania a creature not too dissimilar to the Loch Ness Monster has been spotted and photographed many times over the years.

Another body of water said to contain an aquatic monster is the Raystown Lake in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Here, a creature not too dissimilar to the Loch Ness Monster has been spotted and photographed many times over the years.

Much like Nessie, there's not much proof beyond photographs taken from a distance that prove or disprove the existence of the creature, but it's certainly a popular local legend.

The Hinterkaifeck massacre (1922)

In the depths of Bavaria, Germany, in 1922 a horrific massacre took place where six people including women and children were murdered with a farming implement.

In the depths of Bavaria, Germany, in 1922 a horrific massacre took place where six people including women and children were murdered with a farming implement. There were several things that turned this tragic event into an unexplained mystery and a crime that was never solved.

A suspect was never found, despite over 100 people being questioned. There were several rumours about the farmstead being haunted and the attacks also happened shortly after the arrival of a new maid (who was also killed).

Each of the victims was apparently lured to the barn where they were killed one by one. The events were even more sinister when evidence was unveiled that suggested the murder(s) stayed in the house for several days after committing the crime before disappearing. Decades later, a multitude of investigations have been carried out with no further results.

The time travelling hipster (1941)

The picture apparently shows a man in modern clothing and wearing sunglasses in an era when most people were sporting suits. Time traveller?

There are a fair few stories and legends of time travellers throughout history. The most popular so far has proven to be this image from 1941 taken at the re-opening of the South Fork Bridge, British Columbia.

The picture apparently shows a man in modern clothing and wearing sunglasses in an era when most people were sporting suits. Though there have been many  arguments and explanations  which counter the theory it's still wildly popular on the internet.

The battle of Los Angeles (1942)

After the attack on Pearl Harbour, in the early hours of the morning 25 February 1942, an unidentified aircraft was spotted in the skies above Los Angeles.

Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, in the early hours of the morning 25 February 1942, an unidentified aircraft was spotted in the skies above Los Angeles. Fearing another attack, military forces fired over 1,400 anti-aircraft shells into the sky and apparently hit nothing.

Photographs from the event appeared to show a flying saucer-like object hanging in the sky and caught in the military searchlights. Of course, the Government denied the sighting and put it down to weather balloons.

The Babushka Lady (1963)

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in his motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Many conspiracy theories and wild claims have centred around the events of that day. Perhaps the least known of which relates to this woman nicknamed "the Babushka lady" (thanks to the headscarf she can be seen wearing in photographs).

Based on images taken from that day, the woman can be seen pointing a camera at the President's car at an angle that would have captured essential footage. Despite this, the woman apparently never came forward and the images from her camera have never been seen.

The McMinnville UFO photographs (1950)

In May 1950, a series of photographs were taken by Paul Trent at his farm near McMinniville, Oregon in the United States. These images appeared to show a metallic disk-shaped object moving slowly in the skies above the farm.

The event was witnessed by Paul Trent and his wife Evelyn. Despite many arguments that the  photographs were fake , the two witnesses maintained their statements that images were genuine right until their deaths in the late 1990's.

SS Ourang Medan (1947)

This legend from the high seas comes from June 1947 when two American ships received a distress call from the SS Ourgan Medan. Sent in Morse code, the message read "S.O.S. from Ourang Medan * * * we float. All officers including the Captain, dead in chartroom and on the bridge. Probably whole crew dead * * *."

The American ships went to offer aid but when they boarded the SS Ourgan Medan they found the crew were all dead, sprawled on their backs, mouths agape with no visible signs of injury. A fire then broke out on the distressed ship forcing the rescuers to abandon it before it exploded and sunk taking all evidence with it. What happened to the ship and crew remains a mystery.

An ancient visitor from outer space? (15th Century)

This painting by Domenico Ghirlandaio of "the Madonna with Saint Giovannino" dates back to the 15th Century and seemingly shows an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) hovering in the background.

It might be a bit of a stretch, but some have theorised that it's not a mistake in the painting or a cloud in the sky because if you look carefully, you can see a man standing below staring up at the object.

The Phoenix Lights (1997)

The Phoenix Lights event was probably the biggest known reporting of UFO sightings in history. On a single day in March 1997, thousands of people reported seeing lights above them in the skies over a 300-mile range through the American Southwest.

Witnesses claimed to have seen a huge V-shaped UFO passing overhead and making no sound as it moved. No reasonable explanation was offered as to the cause of the sightings and further reports of the UFOs came again in 2007 and 2008.

The Black Knight satellite (1998)

There is a myth among UFO conspiracy theorists and enthusiasts that an alien satellite exists and has been in Earth's orbit for around 13,000 years.

The so-called "Black Knight" satellite theory is based on a series of different stories around items of unknown origin orbiting our planet and extra-terrestrial radio signals being picked up on Earth. NASA and other space organisations claim the sightings and photographs are more likely to be space debris or remains of our satellites.

The Myakka Skunk Ape (2000)

The Myakka Skunk Ape is by most accounts, some sort of relation to Bigfoot. This large ape-like creature has been spotted many times over the years with the earliest sightings dating back to the 1960's but more recently it has been caught multiple times on video.

The Skunk Ape mostly inhabits regions of Florida and got its name due the stink that often accompanies its sightings. Sceptics of the sightings say that it's far more likely to misidentification of other wildlife including local black bears. Much like the footage of Bigfoot, recordings and photographs of the Skunk Ape are often shaky, low-quality or taken from an extreme distance.

In 2018, a giant dog-like creature was caught on camera stalking the street of Argentina. This long-legged beast was said to have killed both a pitbull and a German shepherd which had dared to go up against it. 

Though as with all these things, the only evidence is this grainy photo which likely needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. 

In 2012, this photograph came to light after apparently being discovered in the storage of an elderly lady who had passed away. It was bundled alongside a number of other images on projection slides that were thought to have belonged to an important person as they included images of Dwight Eisenhower, Bing Crosby and Clark Gable. 

The people who discovered it were convinced it was the body of an alien creature that was, for some reason, being displayed in a glass cabinet. 

Sadly, some years later, SmartDeBlur Pro software was used which cleared up the text on the placard near the body's leg that read:

"Mummified body of a two-year-old boy"

UFOs spotted by US Navy Pilots

In 2020, the US Department of Defence officially released three videos from different events where US Navy pilots had seemingly encountered "unidentified aerial phenomena". 

These videos (and images from them) had previously been leaked and published by the New York Times, but were now officially in the world. The events happened between 2004 and 2015 but were now confirmed by the Government. However, they don't really give away much other than a flying object that can be seen on infrared systems flying nearby. Sometimes at high speed. 

There's also a UFO documents index you can browse if you're curious.

The Salem UFOs (1952)

On 16 July 1952, Shell R. Alpert, U.S. Coast Guard photographer managed to photograph four luminous UFOs passing overhead in a V formation. 

On 16 July 1952, Shell R. Alpert, U.S. Coast Guard photographer managed to photograph four luminous UFOs passing overhead in a V formation.  At the time they were passed off as the result of weather phenomena or optical and radar illusions.

Explanations for the "Shadow People" Phenomenon

Is it just the mind playing tricks, or something more?

There's a growing interest in the phenomenon of shadow people. What are they? Ghosts? Inter-dimensional beings? Time travelers? Something else?

You were reading, sitting comfortably on your sofa in the dim light when some movement across the room caught your attention. It seemed dark and shadowy, but there was nothing there. You returned to your reading—and a moment later there it was again. You looked up quickly this time and saw the fleeting but distinctly human shape of the shadow pass quickly over the far wall—and disappear.

What was that?

Was it a natural shadow? Your heightened imagination? Or a ghost? Maybe it was something that seems to be a spreading phenomenon—apparitions that are coming to be known as "shadow people" or "shadow beings." Perhaps this is an old phenomenon with a new name that is now being discussed more openly, in part thanks to the Internet. Or maybe it's a phenomenon that, for some reason, is manifesting with greater frequency and intensity now.

Those who are experiencing and studying the shadow people phenomenon say that these entities almost always used to be seen out of the corner of the eye and very briefly. But more and more, people are beginning to see them straight on and for longer periods of time. Some experiencers testify that they have even seen eyes, usually red, on these shadow beings.

The mysterious sightings have become a hot topic of conversion in paranormal chat rooms, message boards, and websites, and it is given widespread attention on paranormal talk radio.

Several theories have been offered as to what shadow people are, and where they come from.

A Figment of the Imagination

The explanation we get from skeptics and mainstream science—and who are usually people who have never experienced the shadow people phenomenon—is that it is nothing more than the active human imagination. It's our minds playing tricks on us, our eyes seeing things in a fraction of a second that isn't really there—illusions. Real shadows caused by passing auto headlights, or some similar explanation. And without a doubt, these explanations probably can account for some if not many experiences. The human eye and mind are easily fooled. But can they account for all cases?

To call these entities ghosts demands first a definition of what we mean by ghosts. But by almost any definition, shadow people are somewhat different than ghost phenomena. Whereas ghost apparitions  are almost always a misty white, vapor-like or have a decidedly human form and appearance (very often with discernible "clothing"), shadow beings are much darker and more shadow-like. In general, although the shadow people often do have a human outline or shape, because they are dark, the details of their appearance is lacking. This is in contrast to many ghost sightings in which the witness can describe the ghost's facial features, style of clothing, and other details. The one detail most often noted in some shadow being sightings are their glowing red eyes.

Demons or Other Spirit Entities

The dark countenance and malevolent feelings that are often reported in association with these creatures have led some researchers to speculate that they may be demonic in nature. If they are demons, we have to wonder what their purpose or intent is in letting themselves be seen in this manner. Is it merely to frighten?

Astral Bodies

One theory suggests that shadow people are the shadows or essences of people who are having  out-of-body experiences . According to Jerry Gross, an author, lecturer, and teacher of astral travel , we all travel out of the body when we are asleep. Perhaps, this theory says, we are seeing the ephemeral astral bodies of these twilight travelers.

Time Travelers

Another theory is that people from the future could have found the means to travel to the past—our time. However they are able to accomplish this incredible feat, perhaps in that state, they appear to us merely as passing shadows as they observe the events of our timeline.

Interdimensional Beings

Even mainstream science is fairly convinced that there are dimensions other than the three we inhabit. And if these other dimensions exist, who or what (if anything) inhabits them? Some theorists say that these dimensions exist parallel and very close to our own, although invisible to us. And if there are inhabitants in these other dimensions, it is possible that they have found a way to intrude on our dimension and become, at least partially, visible? If so, they could very well appear as shadows. It has long been held by psychics and other sensitives that beings on other planes of existence are of different "vibrations." Science is beginning to look at reality, on a quantum level, in the same way—that particles of the smallest size exist as vibrations. Perhaps, some theorize, the vibrations of our existence are beginning to mesh with those of another dimension, which accounts for the increase in such phenomena as ghosts, shadow people, and possibly aliens.

The alien and abduction phenomena are so bizarre that it's no surprise that extraterrestrials are suspects as the shadow people. Abductees have reported in many cases that the alien grays seem to be able to pass through walls and closed windows and to appear and disappear abruptly, among other otherworldly talents. Perhaps, too, they can go about their alien agenda disguised in the shadows.

There's a good deal of overlapping among the above ideas, of course. Aliens and ghosts could be inter-dimensional beings, or aliens could be time travelers—and some believe demons are responsible for all of these disturbing phenomena.

Simply a Mystery

There is no way to prove or disprove any theories about a phenomenon that is so mysterious, that happens so quickly and without warning. Science finds it virtually impossible to catalog or study such phenomena in any methodical way. All we can do, at present, is to document personal experiences and try to piece together what the shadow people phenomenon might be. Perhaps it's an old mystery becoming more recognizable—perhaps it represents a doorway to and from different planes of existence... or perhaps they simply are just shadows.

  • Encountering the Shadow People
  • How Do I Get Rid of a Shadow Person?
  • Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid of Spirits
  • How a Psychical Research Group Brought Philip the Ghost to 'Life'
  • Photos That AREN'T Paranormal
  • Learn About "Old Hag" Syndrome
  • What Do We Know About Deathbed Visions?
  • Invasion of the Black-Eyed People
  • Contact with a Shadowman
  • Best Real Ghost Pictures Ever Taken
  • The Top 10 Most Mysterious Creatures of Modern Times
  • Not All Shadow People Are Scary
  • Is Paranormal Activity Real? What the Movie Got Right
  • Disappearing Object Phenomenon
  • Signs of the Zodiac in Ghosts
  • The Most Mysterious Anomalies of Mars

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Scariest alien movies.

A list of the scariest alien movies. I have this list ranked in scare or fear factor, rather than what's best. In my opinion, of course.

  • Movies or TV
  • IMDb Rating
  • In Theaters
  • Release Year

1. Fire in the Sky (1993)

PG-13 | 109 min | Biography, Drama, Fantasy

An Arizona logger mysteriously disappears for five days in an alleged encounter with a flying saucer in 1975. His co-workers endure ridicule and contempt as they are wrongly accused of murder.

Director: Robert Lieberman | Stars: D.B. Sweeney , Robert Patrick , Craig Sheffer , Peter Berg

Votes: 27,905 | Gross: $20.10M

2. Alien (1979)

R | 117 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

The crew of a commercial spacecraft encounters a deadly lifeform after investigating a mysterious transmission of unknown origin.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Sigourney Weaver , Tom Skerritt , John Hurt , Veronica Cartwright

Votes: 936,267 | Gross: $78.90M

3. A Quiet Place (2018)

PG-13 | 90 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

A family struggles for survival in a world where most humans have been killed by blind but noise-sensitive creatures. They are forced to communicate in sign language to keep the creatures at bay.

Director: John Krasinski | Stars: Emily Blunt , John Krasinski , Millicent Simmonds , Noah Jupe

Votes: 572,869 | Gross: $188.02M

4. A Quiet Place Part II (2020)

PG-13 | 97 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

Following the events at home, the Abbott family now face the terrors of the outside world. Forced to venture into the unknown, they realize the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats lurking beyond the sand path.

Director: John Krasinski | Stars: Emily Blunt , Millicent Simmonds , Cillian Murphy , John Krasinski

Votes: 265,772 | Gross: $160.07M

5. The Thing (1982)

R | 109 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi

A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Kurt Russell , Wilford Brimley , Keith David , Richard Masur

Votes: 458,920 | Gross: $13.78M

6. Nope (2022)

R | 130 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi

The residents of a lonely gulch in inland California bear witness to an uncanny and chilling discovery.

Director: Jordan Peele | Stars: Daniel Kaluuya , Keke Palmer , Brandon Perea , Michael Wincott

Votes: 256,351 | Gross: $123.28M

7. Signs (2002)

PG-13 | 106 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi

A widowed former reverend living with his children and brother on a Pennsylvania farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields, which suggests something more frightening to come.

Director: M. Night Shyamalan | Stars: Mel Gibson , Joaquin Phoenix , Rory Culkin , Abigail Breslin

Votes: 382,072 | Gross: $227.97M

8. Aliens (1986)

R | 137 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Decades after surviving the Nostromo incident, Ellen Ripley is sent out to re-establish contact with a terraforming colony but finds herself battling the Alien Queen and her offspring.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Sigourney Weaver , Michael Biehn , Carrie Henn , Paul Reiser

Votes: 753,649 | Gross: $85.16M

9. Dark Skies (2013)

PG-13 | 97 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

As the Barrett family's peaceful suburban life is rocked by an escalating series of disturbing events, they come to learn that a terrifying and deadly force is after them, one which may have arrived from beyond the stars.

Director: Scott Stewart | Stars: Keri Russell , Jake Brennan , Josh Hamilton , Dakota Goyo

Votes: 79,211 | Gross: $17.41M

10. The Fourth Kind (2009)

PG-13 | 98 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi

A thriller involving an ongoing unsolved mystery in Alaska, where one town has seen an extraordinary number of unexplained disappearances during the past 40 years and there are accusations of a federal cover up.

Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi | Stars: Milla Jovovich , Elias Koteas , Will Patton , Hakeem Kae-Kazim

Votes: 81,179 | Gross: $25.46M

11. Cloverfield (2008)

PG-13 | 85 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A group of friends venture deep into the streets of New York on a rescue mission during a rampaging monster attack.

Director: Matt Reeves | Stars: Mike Vogel , Jessica Lucas , Lizzy Caplan , T.J. Miller

Votes: 416,732 | Gross: $80.05M

12. V/H/S/2 (2013)

R | 96 min | Horror, Thriller

Searching for a missing student, two private investigators break into his house and find collection of VHS tapes. Viewing the horrific contents of each cassette, they realize there may be dark motives behind the student's disappearance.

Directors: Simon Barrett , Jason Eisener , Gareth Evans , Gregg Hale , Eduardo Sánchez , Timo Tjahjanto , Adam Wingard | Stars: Lawrence Michael Levine , Kelsy Abbott , Adam Wingard , Hannah Hughes

Votes: 43,438 | Gross: $0.02M

The last story in the film.

13. Life (I) (2017)

R | 104 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars and now threatens all life on Earth.

Director: Daniel Espinosa | Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal , Rebecca Ferguson , Ryan Reynolds , Hiroyuki Sanada

Votes: 248,755 | Gross: $30.23M

14. Prometheus (I) (2012)

R | 124 min | Adventure, Mystery, Sci-Fi

Following clues to the origin of mankind, a team finds a structure on a distant moon, but they soon realize they are not alone.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Noomi Rapace , Logan Marshall-Green , Michael Fassbender , Charlize Theron

Votes: 637,476 | Gross: $126.48M

15. Alien: Covenant (2017)

R | 122 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Michael Fassbender , Katherine Waterston , Billy Crudup , Danny McBride

Votes: 299,811 | Gross: $74.26M

16. Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County (1998 TV Movie)

TV-MA | 93 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

After a mysterious blackout, a son goes out to investigate and captures footage of actual aliens. When the aliens follow him and his brothers back to their home, all hell breaks loose.

Director: Dean Alioto | Stars: Benz Antoine , Kristian Ayre , Gillian Barber , Michael Buie

Votes: 3,829

17. The Mist (2007)

R | 126 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A freak storm unleashes a species of bloodthirsty creatures on a small town, where a small band of citizens hole up in a supermarket and fight for their lives.

Director: Frank Darabont | Stars: Thomas Jane , Marcia Gay Harden , Laurie Holden , Andre Braugher

Votes: 334,933 | Gross: $25.59M

18. Pitch Black (2000)

R | 109 min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

A transport ship crashes and leaves its crew stranded on a desert planet inhabited by bloodthirsty creatures that come out during an eclipse.

Director: David Twohy | Stars: Radha Mitchell , Cole Hauser , Vin Diesel , Keith David

Votes: 251,265 | Gross: $39.24M

19. The Blob (1988)

R | 95 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A deadly entity from space crash-lands near a small town and begins consuming everyone in its path. Panic ensues as shady government scientists try to contain the horrific creature.

Director: Chuck Russell | Stars: Shawnee Smith , Kevin Dillon , Donovan Leitch Jr. , Jeffrey DeMunn

Votes: 42,567 | Gross: $8.25M

20. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

PG | 115 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

When strange seeds drift to earth from space, mysterious pods begin to grow and invade San Francisco, replicating the city's residents one body at a time.

Director: Philip Kaufman | Stars: Donald Sutherland , Brooke Adams , Jeff Goldblum , Veronica Cartwright

Votes: 68,444 | Gross: $24.95M

21. War of the Worlds (2005)

PG-13 | 116 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

An alien invasion threatens the future of humanity. The catastrophic nightmare is depicted through the eyes of one American family fighting for survival.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Tom Cruise , Dakota Fanning , Tim Robbins , Miranda Otto

Votes: 470,802 | Gross: $234.28M

22. The Arrival (1996)

PG-13 | 115 min | Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Zane, an astronomer, discovers intelligent alien life. But the aliens are keeping a deadly secret, and will do anything to stop Zane from learning it.

Director: David Twohy | Stars: Charlie Sheen , Lindsay Crouse , Richard Schiff , Shane

Votes: 37,739 | Gross: $14.05M

23. Species (1995)

R | 108 min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

A group of scientists try to track down and trap a killer alien seductress before she successfully mates with a human.

Director: Roger Donaldson | Stars: Natasha Henstridge , Michael Madsen , Ben Kingsley , Alfred Molina

Votes: 84,454 | Gross: $60.07M

24. Predator (1987)

R | 107 min | Action, Adventure, Horror

A team of commandos on a mission in a Central American jungle find themselves hunted by an extraterrestrial warrior.

Director: John McTiernan | Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger , Carl Weathers , Kevin Peter Hall , Elpidia Carrillo

Votes: 447,813 | Gross: $59.74M

25. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Approved | 80 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

A small-town doctor learns that the population of his community is being replaced by emotionless alien duplicates.

Director: Don Siegel | Stars: Kevin McCarthy , Dana Wynter , Larry Gates , King Donovan

Votes: 53,985

26. Under the Skin (I) (2013)

R | 108 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

A mysterious young woman seduces lonely men in the evening hours in Scotland. However, events lead her to begin a process of self-discovery.

Director: Jonathan Glazer | Stars: Scarlett Johansson , Jeremy McWilliams , Lynsey Taylor Mackay , Dougie McConnell

Votes: 154,762 | Gross: $2.61M

27. Dreamcatcher (2003)

R | 134 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

Friends on a camping trip discover that the town they're vacationing in is being plagued in an unusual fashion by parasitic aliens from outer space.

Director: Lawrence Kasdan | Stars: Morgan Freeman , Thomas Jane , Jason Lee , Damian Lewis

Votes: 95,869 | Gross: $33.72M

28. Alien Abduction (2014)

Not Rated | 85 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A vacationing family encounters an alien threat in this thriller based on the real-life Brown Mountain Lights phenomenon in North Carolina.

Director: Matty Beckerman | Stars: Katherine Sigismund , Corey Eid , Riley Polanski , Jillian Clare

Votes: 8,791

29. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

PG | 138 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

Roy Neary, an Indiana electric lineman, finds his quiet and ordinary daily life turned upside down after a close encounter with a UFO, spurring him to an obsessed cross-country quest for answers as a momentous event approaches.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Richard Dreyfuss , François Truffaut , Teri Garr , Melinda Dillon

Votes: 214,219 | Gross: $132.09M

30. Super 8 (2011)

PG-13 | 112 min | Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi

During the summer of 1979, a group of friends witness a train crash and investigate subsequent unexplained events in their small town.

Director: J.J. Abrams | Stars: Elle Fanning , AJ Michalka , Kyle Chandler , Joel Courtney

Votes: 365,423 | Gross: $127.00M

31. Attack the Block (2011)

R | 88 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

A teen gang in South London defend their block from an alien invasion.

Director: Joe Cornish | Stars: John Boyega , Jodie Whittaker , Alex Esmail , Leeon Jones

Votes: 110,873 | Gross: $1.02M

32. Slither (2006)

R | 95 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

A small town is taken over by an alien plague, turning residents into zombies and all forms of mutant monsters.

Director: James Gunn | Stars: Nathan Fillion , Elizabeth Banks , Michael Rooker , Don Thompson

Votes: 88,058 | Gross: $7.77M

33. Extraterrestrial (2014)

Not Rated | 101 min | Action, Horror, Mystery

A group of friends on a weekend trip to a cabin in the woods find themselves terrorized by alien visitors.

Director: Colin Minihan | Stars: Brittany Allen , Freddie Stroma , Jesse Moss , Anja Savcic

Votes: 16,602

34. Europa Report (2013)

PG-13 | 90 min | Adventure, Drama, Mystery

An international crew of astronauts undertakes a privately funded mission to search for life on Jupiter's fourth largest moon.

Director: Sebastián Cordero | Stars: Sharlto Copley , Michael Nyqvist , Christian Camargo , Embeth Davidtz

Votes: 74,812 | Gross: $0.13M

35. The Thing from Another World (1951)

Approved | 87 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

Scientists and American Air Force officials fend off a bloodthirsty alien organism while at a remote arctic outpost.

Directors: Christian Nyby , Howard Hawks | Stars: Kenneth Tobey , Margaret Sheridan , James Arness , Robert Cornthwaite

Votes: 32,875

36. It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)

Approved | 69 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

The first manned expedition to Mars is invaded by an unknown life form, which stows away on the rescue ship.

Director: Edward L. Cahn | Stars: Marshall Thompson , Shirley Patterson , Kim Spalding , Ann Doran

Votes: 6,193

37. Night of the Creeps (1986)

R | 88 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

Alien brain parasites, entering humans through the mouth, turn their host into a killing zombie. Some teenagers start to fight against them.

Director: Fred Dekker | Stars: Jason Lively , Tom Atkins , Steve Marshall , Jill Whitlow

Votes: 25,741 | Gross: $0.59M

38. Village of the Damned (1960)

Not Rated | 77 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

In the English village of Midwich, the blonde-haired, glowing-eyed children of uncertain paternity prove to have frightening powers.

Director: Wolf Rilla | Stars: George Sanders , Barbara Shelley , Martin Stephens , Michael Gwynn

Votes: 18,943

39. The X Files (1998)

PG-13 | 121 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi

Mulder and Scully must fight the government in a conspiracy and find the truth about an alien colonization of Earth.

Director: Rob Bowman | Stars: David Duchovny , Gillian Anderson , John Neville , William B. Davis

Votes: 109,426 | Gross: $83.90M

40. The Faculty (1998)

R | 104 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi

When Casey Connor, Herrington High School's newspaper photographer, witnesses the murder of a nurse and sees her alive again, he decides to investigate the bizarre happenings.

Director: Robert Rodriguez | Stars: Jordana Brewster , Clea DuVall , Laura Harris , Josh Hartnett

Votes: 133,584 | Gross: $40.06M

41. The Puppet Masters (1994)

R | 109 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

The Earth is invaded by stingray-shaped alien "slugs" that ride on people's backs and control their minds.

Director: Stuart Orme | Stars: Donald Sutherland , Eric Thal , Julie Warner , Keith David

Votes: 9,607 | Gross: $8.64M

42. Altered (2006)

R | 88 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Fifteen years ago, a group of men's lives were forever changed by a strange occurrence. Now, the same group of men will spend a night together ... in terror.

Director: Eduardo Sánchez | Stars: Adam Kaufman , Catherine Mangan , Brad William Henke , Michael C. Williams

Votes: 10,865

43. Invaders from Mars (1986)

PG | 100 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

A boy tries to stop aliens who have taken over his town and are attempting to brainwash its inhabitants.

Director: Tobe Hooper | Stars: Karen Black , Hunter Carson , Timothy Bottoms , Laraine Newman

Votes: 10,410 | Gross: $4.88M

44. They Live (1988)

R | 94 min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

They influence our decisions without us knowing it. They numb our senses without us feeling it. They control our lives without us realizing it. They live.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Roddy Piper , Keith David , Meg Foster , George 'Buck' Flower

Votes: 143,036 | Gross: $13.01M

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Jeremy Corbell via YouTube

Internet Puzzled by "Jellyfish" UFO Video

Why is it moving so smoothly, jellyfish and chandelier.

A video of what has since been dubbed a "jellyfish" UFO is making the rounds online.

The footage , shared by journalist Jeremy Corbell earlier this week, shows a mysterious object that appears to have dangling tendrils, and which appears to smoothly float over the roofs of a military base in Iraq. According to Corbell, the UFO footage dates back to October 2018.

Naturally, the online UFO community had a field day, speculating what the object could be.

Two days later, Corbell followed up with a different image of a "chandelier" UFO, which was also reportedly filmed over the Persian Gulf.

The Pentagon has yet to weigh in on the footage, but the video comes after interest in "unidentified aerial phenomena" (UAPs) has steadily grown , with members of Congress even receiving a classified briefing earlier this month.

Ultimately, despite plenty of speculation, we have yet to hear anything close to a confirmed report of extraterrestrials coming to visit us . And as you'd expect, there's already evidence that the latest video has a much more mundane explanation.

Ghost Story

This week, Marine officer Michael Cincoski opened up to NewsNation about the footage, telling the outlet that the "jellyfish" was actually nicknamed the "spaghetti monster" when it was collected, and that sightings started at the end of 2017, not 2018.

According to Cincoski, the footage was taken from an aerostat, a big balloon observatory that was floating over the base to detect any incoming threats.

"Toward the end, it seemingly continued off into the distance," he told NewsNation , but refuted Corbell's claims that it ever dropped "into the lake or shoot into the sky."

"It ended up being the ghost story of the base," Cincoski added.

Critics, however, say both the "jellyfish" and "chandelier" had much simpler explanations than some outlandish alien theories would suggest.

"The 'Chandelier' UFO appears to be a diffraction artifact," tweeted writer and noted UFO debunker Mick West. "Basically, a glare from a very bright/hot source, like a missile rocket/engine."

And the jellyfish was likely "two different balloon-like entities" moving about 12 kilometers apart , West added, that appear to be moving at the same speed as the wind — a strong clue that instead of an alien visitor, it's just a balloon.

More on UFOs: Congress Receiving Mysterious Classified Briefing About UFOs

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Creepy moment woman unknowingly ‘runs past ghost in haunted woods’

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That does look pretty menacing (Picture: Kaybo)

A woman is convinced she ran past the suspected ghost of an ancient warrior in a haunted rainforest without even realising.

When Kay Borleis was pictured by her friend Cassie during a marathon in Hawaii’s Honolulu Mauka trails, they didn’t initially notice anything untoward.

But a closer look at the photo revealed a terrifying dark figure lurking in the trees staring directly at her.

The chilling discovery was made by Cassie’s mum when she flicked through the snaps after the race.

Kay was taking part in the gruelling 100-mile challenge in Oahu in January 2019 during a lunar eclipse, which is often linked to paranormal and mysterious sightings.

They suspect the creepy-looking figure was the spirit of an ancient Hawaiian warrior known as a Night Marcher.

‘We never saw anyone passing us and there were no statues along the trail,’ Kay wrote in a post on Reddit.

Kay Borleis was running a marathon through an allegedly haunted rainforest in Hawaii when a figure appeared in a photo (Picture: Kaybo)

‘It is NOT photoshopped or made. This is legit. And we saw it the morning of the Blood.’

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She explained that they had driven back to their Airbnb when Cassie’s mum messaged to say she’d noticed something strange in the photo Cassie had sent her.

‘It was a “live” (picture) that showed a dark figure dressed in a cloak moving past me while I was running,’ Kay said.

‘Now, I know my memory is quite shoddy after the race and even while racing, but I did not remember passing a person on that strip of trail.

‘Cassie didn’t either and she had her wits to her.’

Kay believes it may be the spirit of a Night Marcher (Picture: Kaybo)

After being spooked out by what appeared to be a mysterious entity, Kay and Cassie asked their friends to help them decipher what it was – and that’s when they learned about Night Marchers.

‘According to legend, there are ghosts of Hawaiian warriors that roam the island and they’re called Night Marchers,’ she said.

‘They are “murderous shades, demons, revenants that haunt the island. They are the rabid galvanised spectres of ancient Hawaiian fighters, heroes, and warriors”.

‘Upon further research, we found out that “ancient Hawaiian tenets assert that any mortal gazing upon or being viewed in defiance to the marchers will die horribly and violently. Some people declare that if the mortal lies still, down on the ground, prostrated to the marchers they are giving proper respect, fear, and reverence to the Night Marchers; and they will be forgiven and spared.”’

Kay, a senior art director and avid hiker, said: ‘Luckily, we did not see the supposed Night Marcher.’

Kay is an avid runner and hiker - and said she experienced strange things the day the spooky picture was taken (Picture:: Instagram / the_kaybo)

Other bizarre events played out that day, according to Kay, who said she had never previously dropped out of a race in all her years of running since she was 14.

But while running the fourth lap of HURT 100, she started suffering with a sharp pain in her foot and was forced to pull out.

‘I never quit things in life. I have never quit a run before,’ she told a podcast. ‘But this felt different. It was like an out-of-body experience and I just felt like quitting.

‘It felt like something bad is going to happen to me if I go forward.’

The unsettling disturbances didn’t end there either. When she shared the photos of her discovery online, she was met with backlash and had to quickly delete them.

She said: ‘Our simple and harmless request to figure out what was in our photo turned a little violent. We received messages calling us, “Haoles,” and that we were disrespecting Hawaiian culture.

‘We even got threatening messages where people wanted us to meet a Night Marcher so we would die a violent death. Less than 72 hours after posting our photos, we took them down.’

Last month, an eerie prison named the UK’s ‘most haunted place’ was saved from shutting down .

Two mystery ‘ghost ships’ also washed up on a beach late last year, while residents revealed what it’s like to live in Britain’s most haunted village .

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected] .

For more stories like this, check our news page .

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