1993 was a pivotal year. Some might call it ‘the beginning of the end’. Among other things, it was the year my faith in the truth of the UFO phenomenon, was shaken. I had so fervently researched all the ufo subjects under the sun, and thought myself a bit of an expert in the ‘genre’.
I had read just about everything out there from Charles Berlitz ‘The Philadelphia Experiment’, to Whitley Strieber’s ‘Communion’…and consumed so many strange tales that doubt inevitably surfaced. Familiarity breeds contempt they say.
Perhaps I had matured, and my interests became more sophisticated? Still, I allowed some room for doubt, the margin of error, or .0001 of a chance that I was wrong. I needed convincing, pretty quickly, that the constant repeating of the folklore, the strange tales from that nice fellow Timothy Good, the contactees, the abductees, they were telling the truth, and yes there are ‘Aliens Among Us’.
One way to access the truth would be to locate the source; find people who had experienced the weird things first hand. Joining a local group of ‘enthusiasts’ would be the next step on the route to the ultimate reveal.
TV being the intrusive brain-washing medium that it is, no one could escape the announcement that finally the UK would be catching up with the US. Our newspapers had snippets of the storyline and premise. There were adverts everywhere, a major event was coming, to queue the public about this ‘breakthrough program’. Everyone was dying to see… The X-Files!
After the Bristol and Sheffield conferences, we were eager to hunt down a local group and maybe experience the weird stuff for ourselves. ‘Is there anyone out there?’ To the north of Bristol is the suburb of Southmead, and the location of a ‘Ufo Spotters’ group. Right up our alley!
I hate to say it but all the stereo-types you’d expect frequented this group. There was a geeky–balding middle-aged guy in a brown suit and steel-rim glasses, there were a bunch of students who always wore black jeans and Motorhead T-shirts, a flowery-dressed housewife, a bearded old man that didn’t speak, and me, my brother, and his friend Jason. The leader of the group was a guy called Martin or Matthew (it was confusing because people called him both names, which seemed weird to us)!
We met weekly at Martin/Matthew’s house on the Southmead Road. It wasn’t the best venue, but it was free. The place was filthy, and very sparse. The only room that seemed lived in was the lounge. There were torn white lacy curtains that had seen better days, a TV, and a sofa which smelled of cigarettes. The toilet had no lights, and the kitchen was damp, mould had taken over the walls. The window on the back door was blacked out with paint. It seemed to us that the house wasn’t really being used very often.
The alarm-bells should have been ringing when I asked Martin/Matthew why he hadn’t emptied the sink for two weeks. He replied that he’s just divorced his wife and couldn’t face clearing up.
The truth was, with all the damp and dirt, with all the appearance of a recent fire brigade visit, the state of the house was nothing compared to our anticipation of watching the premier of The X-files, and of Martin/Matthew telling us about his 'amazing' personal ufo encounter!
Early on, the group had decided to borrow a mini-van belonging to the father of one of the students. We were going to drive to Avebury, and camp-out in a field, and watch a crop-circle being formed. Personally I had my doubts that Aliens had anything to do with them, but I was definitely up for adventure if we could organise it.
Before this, I wanted to hear Martin/Matthew’s story. We all settled down in the lounge eagerly awaiting his talk. He recounted how one morning he’d woken up early and gone to make a coffee, he’d pulled the curtains open, and peered out of the kitchen window. He noticed that, instead of the sun rising, darkness was overtaking the house. He continued to explain that he'd rushed out, into the garden, and looked up to see a huge black triangular shaped ufo passing silently over his house and the neighbourhood.
We listened intently but thought it was basically a load of rubbish. I could have easily made this story up, and what proof would I have. What proof did Martin/Matthew have? His reply to our disbelief was to tell us that he knew what he was seeing was a ufo because he actually worked at Filton (British Aerospace) and was told by a colleague that they had one, which was sent over by the Americans for research in the British lab!
Okay, we thought. Why didn’t you mention this to us before? You work in a secret British Military establishment, with military equipment? On seeing the plane, you immediately believe that it is a Ufo and not secret military aircraft? Did no one see the irony of this? Martin/Matthew seemed to get annoyed at our questioning of him.
My brother being the smart one said, ‘This is bullshit, don’t ever bring me to one of these meetings again!’ and insisted on leaving. Jason and I were still on the fence, or rather on the edge of the sticky sofa, wandering how to get out of going to Avebury to look for crop-circle making aliens!
We’d decided the following week would be our last. Someone should speak to Martin/Matthew and the others; tell them that we wanted out of the group. The filton connection was fishy. Apart from this, I remembered seeing the geeky–balding middle-aged guy in a brown suit and steel-rim glasses somewhere before. Was he at the Sheffield Conference?
Jason and I arrived outside Martin/Mathew’s house. Ringing the doorbell we immediately noticed no lights in the lounge. Was there another episode of The X-Files and we were missing it? Banging on the front door a couple more times, it became obvious that no one was in. Bit strange we thought. Nobody called us to say the meeting had been cancelled.
Walking around to the back of the house, near the side entrance and path to the garden, Jason pulled himself up onto the ledge of an open window. He peered through the curtains, into the hallway. It was dark, but he could see into the lounge… it was empty, no sofa.
We decided to enter the back garden, and peer in through the kitchen window. We looked closely and could just make out that the kitchen was empty too, no table or chairs. ‘He’s gone!’ Jason proclaimed. ‘What do you mean gone?’ I asked in disbelief. ‘He’s scarpered!’
The following morning I called the number I had for Martin/Matthew… it was disconnected. I called the number for the flowery-dressed housewife, the number didn’t exist. I failed to obtain contact details of the geeky–balding middle-aged guy in a brown suit and steel-rim glasses, or the silent bearded man. The students didn’t have a number. So the entire group just vanished into thin air… thin, murky, damp smelling air!
...to be continued