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May 27, 2013 | by  | in Features |
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Aliens—The Real Beasts of Blenheim?

UFOs! Little grey men! The insertion of probes into delicate parts of the body! People who claim to have seen visitors from the cosmos don’t get a great rap. But this is a little unfair. Nobody knows what’s out there—not really.

In 2010, the Government released a colossal document containing some 2000 redacted pages of previously classified information, regarding extraterrestrial encounters. Presumably, if the Ministry of Defence thought that there was anything to those cases, they wouldn’t have been so open with them. Even so, the document is a fascinating look at New Zealand’s history with the cosmic. The documents are in turn comedic, terrifying, and dull. What we can say now with absolute certainty is that New Zealand is either the object of much alien attention, or it is populated with very excitable people. If you’re interested in having a peek for yourself, the documents are easily accessed on the internet.

What is striking about many of these documents is that a large portion of them are requests by members of the public for information about extraterrestrial activity. The replies, largely from the Royal New Zealand Air Force, are harassed in tone. For instance, in a series of slightly manic letters totalling several hundred pages over a number of years, a Christchurch resident educated the Air Force on the ‘Ethology of Light’, a species of beings living in another universe… Or at least that would seem to be the case. It is a little bit tricky to tell what is going on there. These documents were returned to the sender with a very polite response attached. In most instances, the RNZAF would thank the person accusing them of harbouring secrets for their time, and point out that the Air Force very rarely investigated UFO sightings, unless explicitly asked to do so by the Government. The letters from this particular individual are both mesmerising and terrifying – at one point an alien race are described as wearing size-440 shoes. Mostly, however, they make the reader want to hide behind the sofa. “Suffer little children to come to me,” they write: “Dear old Dad grows you into the situation he desires.”

In the early 1960s, the Ministry of Defence set up a UFO Investigation Task Force, whose membership was sourced from the Intelligence division of the Air Force, and meteorological bodies. The idea was to have a body that could provide banal explanations for the extraordinary. It only met once or twice a year, and there is little evidence (at the moment, anyway) that any UFO reportage resulted in an official investigation.

One rare occasion where there was a full-scale investigation was in the instance of the 1978 Kaikoura lights. In what is probably our most famous brush with the unknown, several people on a cargo flight reported being ‘chased’ by illuminations that were not easily explained. There are a variety of explanations for the event according to the Ministry of Defence: the light from fishing boats reflected on the clouds, for instance; or that of trains, cars or Venus. What is not so easily explained, however, is the fact that both the plane’s onboard radar and Wellington Flight Control were able to track the movement of the objects. A report commissioned into the flight exhaustively, inconclusively, and in clinical detail, lays out every conceivable possibility of what might explain the events of that night.

It is difficult to tell if there is much of a ‘UFO community’ in New Zealand. Most reports of encounters in the information release come from individual members of the public. The UFO Focus New Zealand Research Network, which seems to be the largest group of this kind, declined to be interviewed. If there is a thriving community, it is an insular one. UFOCUS NZ accepts reports of sightings and catalogues them openly on their website. The frequency varies, but there are several recorded events every week. For the most part, these consist of mysterious lights. Recently, it appears as if there has been a spike in such occurrences.

UFO sightings seem to happen in concentrations. This is presumably because either: a) an infectious strain of hysteria leads to groups of people making each other very excitable, and open to interpreting phenomena in a certain way, or b) alien operations are, for whatever reason, concentrated in a single area. In one instance, The Press reported a rash of extraterrestrial sightings in Blenheim. Spookily, a Christchurch man reported seeing a “shimmering figure” floating over the middle of the road. He vowed to never return to the same place.

Of the released information, most consists of sheepish correspondence from people who admit, in an embarrassed fashion, to what they have witnessed.

One makes it very clear that they are a “responsible person in a responsible job,” who is “sick of people thinking I have been ‘seeing things’”. Meanwhile, a Mr H. E. Wright, who was particularly interested in what had been happening in Blenheim, and who claims to be authoring a book on UFOs despite having a slippery grasp of grammar, insists in a letter that all relevant information be handed over to him under the “PROVINENCE [sic] OF THE SPECIAL U,F,O, ACT SIGNED 50 YEARS AGO BY ALL GOVERNMENTS.” Maybe Mr Wright knows something we do not? Mr Key, we demand answers.

Other correspondence has little to do with UFOs at all. Rather, several members of the public contacted the military with offers to design and produce technology based on alien knowledge for them. One person claims to have spent 12 years developing a Quantum Dynamics flying machine based on decoded text taken from an image of a machine that was several thousand years old, and which featured archaic text that he himself had translated. Another offers the military advanced alien weaponry the man dubs the JAFA (for Jet Acoustic Frequency Attack); when rebuffed, he huffily claims he will take his arms elsewhere. Unfortunately for him, he included several detailed drawings with his letters. Another complains that “we are having problems with maniac planning in the dairy industry”, and that “the new kauri complex in Northland is not capable of using cosmic forcefall technology.” The writer closes his letter by reminding the Ministry of Defence that “there must be a cessation of psychiatric treatment and injections as I cannot fly a UFO when full of needle holes from hypodermic syringes,” and by signing off with “Yours Sincerely, Royal Monarch Commander.”

There is too much contained in the release to share in one sitting. Invariably, for the casual reader, the best bits are going to be missed. There are raving messages predicting the end of days, there are schematics for alien weaponry, and there are letters from dreadfully embarrassed housewives from Roseneath. Taking a glance at them is a worthwhile exercise. After all, it is nice to think that Blenheim might be the most attractive place on earth for otherworldly beings.

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