Thousands of UFOs have been spotted in the last 20 years around the UK, according to newly released documents. More than 6,000 pages of reports describe people’s experiences with unidentified flying objects between 1994 and 2000. They include reported sightings over Chelsea Football Club and former home secretary Michael Howard’s Kent home. Details have been released under a three-year project between the Ministry of Defence and The National Archives. The fifth instalment to be released consists of 24 files of sightings, letters and Parliamentary questions, which are available to view online. The reports detail how objects of various shapes and sizes have been witnessed flying over a range of locations. Some drawings by witnesses have also been released. One man told police he was physically sick and developed a “skin condition” after an eerie “tube of light” enveloped his car in Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent, on 27 January, 1997.

In another case, a UFO sighted by Boston and Skegness police, in Lincolnshire, was captured on film. The police reported the sighting to the coastguard, which in turn alerted ships in the North Sea, where a crew reported seeing more UFOs. Simultaneously, an unidentified blip was picked up on radar over Boston. Also included in the latest release is a letter from senior MoD official Ralph Noyes, in which he describes seeing a film of UFOs captured by RAF fighter pilots in 1956. Mr Noyes claims the footage was shown at a secret underground screening arranged for air defence staff at the MoD in 1970. And a memo reveals how former prime minister Winston Churchill expressed curiosity in “flying saucers” and requested a briefing from his ministers. He was told in reply that following an intelligence study conducted in 1951, the “flying saucers” could be explained by “one or other” of four causes.

These were known astronomical or meteorological phenomena, mistaken identification of conventional aircraft, optical illusions and psychological delusions, or deliberate hoaxes. Experts believe the records highlight how shapes of reported UFOs have changed over the last few decades, possibly explained by representations of UFOs in popular culture. Many reports in this latest file describe aircraft as big, black and triangular in shape with lights along the edges, whereas the predominant form in the 1940s to 1950s was saucer or disc-shaped. Dr David Clarke, author of The UFO Files and senior lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “In the 1950s the next big leap in technology was thought to be a round craft that took off vertically and it’s intriguing to note that this is the same period when people began to report seeing ‘flying saucers’ in the sky.

“In the period the latest file release covers, triangular-shaped US stealth bombers and Aurora spy planes featured heavily on TV, such as The X Files…, and films such as Independence Day released in 1996, and the shape of reported UFOs corresponds. “It’s impossible to prove a direct link between what people are reading and watching and what they report as UFOs but one interpretation could be that the latest advances in technology may be influencing what people see in the sky.” The files are available to download for free for a month from the National Archives website.

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