The past 10 days have seen a plethora of newly declassified material about ‘strange activities’ released to the public. Firstly, the U.S. National Security Archive has published previously heavily redacted CIA files which finally acknowledge the existence of conspiracy theorist's dream vacation Area 51. Naming pilots, listing codenames and cryptonyms, outlining funding, detailing electronic countermeasures equipment, and referencing numerous aerial reconnaissance missions; the files even include a map of the area and job descriptions about runway cleaning staff, yet there are still aching gaps and shadowy holes in the information which will keep theorists, researchers, journalists and fans like ex-British Government MoD UFO expert Nick Pope investigating UFO phenomenon.
A leading authority on UFOs, the unexplained and conspiracy theories, Pope’s access to classified government files quickly dissolved his initial scepticism and convinced him that the phenomenon raised important defence and national security issues, especially when the witnesses were military pilots, or where UFOs were tracked on radar.
“I'd joined MoD back in 1985, not least because my father was a senior government scientist and told me he thought I'd enjoy the work. The application process and interview questions were tough, with the emphasis on current affairs, politics and military matters. I was in the MoD for 21 years, and my time on their UFO project was just one of many fascinating posts that I held. As an interesting piece of trivia, my official job title, when investigating UFOs, was Secretariat (Air Staff) 2a - but we called it the UFO project as the former was too cumbersome.”
While working on the MoD's UFO project Pope also looked into alien abductions, crop circles, animal mutilations, remote viewing and ghosts, making him the perfect person to advise on the extra-terrestrial secrets waiting to be uncovered in The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, the latest title in the XCOM video game series where players will fight through the streets of 1960's America, uncovering the declassified truth behind mankind's first enemy invasion.
“My role with The Bureau: XCOM Declassified has been to help start a conversation about some of the themes in the game; not just alien invasion, but wider questions about secrecy, conspiracies and cover-ups.” Reveals Pope as we chat about the game. “In view of my official government research and investigation into the UFO mystery, I'm asking, could any of the things in The Bureau be true, or based on truth? And even if not, how realistic are some of the possible scenarios? Obviously people are going to have fun playing the game, but if in parallel with that, they start discussing and debating questions about UFOs and cover-ups, then I think that's an interesting new angle. This isn't my first experience of the XCOM universe - I was similarly involved with XCOM: Enemy Unknown.”
As special agent William Carter players must survive, adapt and overcome the mysterious, otherworldly enemy threats. Set in 1962, JFK is President and the Cold War has the nation gripped by fear. The role of The Bureau is to covertly protect humanity, by shooting the enemy down and erasing the truth…
We asked Nick if there were any differences between how the UK monitor and report on UFO’s in comparison to other countries and he’s sure that despite the British government axing its UFO project in 2009, investigations are still going on behind the scenes. “I know for example, that when pilots see UFOs, they tend to use phrases such as 'unusual aircraft' or 'unconventional helicopter'. With regards to other countries, the situation varies. Most times, UFO research and investigations are the responsibility of the military; specifically the air force. But, in other countries, such as France, it is handled more on a scientific basis, where it's the responsibility of the French National Space Centre. Many countries have now declassified some of their UFO files. There's a lot of information out there, and some countries are more open about this than others. Surprisingly, some of the most intriguing and provocative comments have come from Russia.”
Crammed with retro sci-fi tech, The Bureau has a gleamingly chrome aesthetic, and we imagine Nick has also seen a fair bit of unusual, advanced technology in his time. “I've come across several cases where testimony from pilots, backed up by radar evidence, has indicated structured craft performing speeds and manoeuvres significantly in excess of any known aviation technology. One can only speculate, but this strongly suggests the existence of some energy source, and/or propulsion system far beyond our current capabilities. As for the sound, one of the most common descriptions of how a UFO sounds is a low frequency humming sound, likened by many witnesses (including some RAF personnel, who have reported sightings to me) as being something like standing too close to a bass speaker. In other words, you can feel the sound, as well as hear it. Many witnesses have told me that this is an unpleasant sensation.”
The sort of UFOs found in some of the more compelling cases in the government's UFO files were pretty accurately represented in The X-Files according to Pope. “This is both in terms of the physical description and the way in which the UFO moves from a virtual hover, to an extremely high speed, in an instant. I know that Chris Carter did his research very thoroughly, and looked at the sorts of things that people were reporting to UFO groups. The most ludicrous was probably Mars Attacks though I thought it was great fun! Hollywood tends to think in terms of alien invasion, but the reality could be totally different from anything we've seen in films or on TV. We can only take an anthropocentric view of extra-terrestrials. The reality may be beyond our comprehension!”
As we end up chatting about Sci-Fi films, Nick told us his favourite is Contact. “It's an entertaining, but thoughtful movie, arguably less about aliens, and more about us. It's also a movie that captures very well the conflict between science and religion. It was based on a book by the great cosmologist, Carl Sagan, and there's actually some pretty good science behind the movie, in terms of how we're using radio telescopes to listen for signals from any extra-terrestrial civilisations that might be out there.”
With one of the world’s leading authorities in Nick working behind the scenes to bring an authenticity to the themes in The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, conspiracy theorists and gamers should all seek out the truth as the game is out now. The full SFL review is coming soon.