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What we learnt about the CIA's declassified UFO files

What we learnt about the CIA's declassified UFO files

What we learnt about the CIA's declassified UFO files

Time was you had to buy a mac, change your name to Deep Throat, lurk in gloomy corridors and converse with odd sorts to have any hope of stumbling upon classified CIA files about UFOs.

But now the truth really is out there: declassifying a cache of documents from the early forties and fifties, the CIA has now released some of the most intriguing on its website, allowing even the more cynically minded of us to raise a conspiratorial eyebrow or two. Three if you're actually an alien.

So grab your tinfoil hat and prepare to get obsessive: here’s our run-down on some of the best cases.

Flying Saucers Reported Over Belgian Congo Uranium Mines, 1952

Why it’s odd:

Think of Congo-based mines and you might think of a 1995 movie involving killer gorillas and laser weapons. Ludicrous, right? Well this UFO case might be enough to make the plot of that flop blockbuster sound sane.

On 29 Mar 1952 it was reported that two fiery discs were sighted over the uranium mines located in the southern part of the Belgian Congo, east of the Luapula River. Onlookers were stunned to see the flat spheres gliding in elegant curves and changing position many times before hovering in one spot and taking off in a unique zigzag flight to the north east.  A ‘penetrating and buzzing’ sound was audible to those watching on.

The whole performances lasted between 10 and 12 minutes - just enough time for Commander Pierre of the nearby Elisabethville Airfield to set out in pursuit in his fighter plane, coming within 120m of one of the grey metal discs.

From the pilot’s seat, he estimated the grey discs to be between 12 and 15 metres in diameter, with an outer rim was completely veiled in fire and an enormous speed of rotation. The discs, he said, could have changes in elevation from 800 to 1,000m in a few seconds; some shot down to within 20m of the tree tops. 

Pierre, who was forced to give up his pursuit after 15 minutes, did not regard it as conceivable that a person could have manned the ship since the sudden freefalls, g-force and heat would have made it impossible for any human to stay alive. As he watched the ships fly off in the distances, he clocked their speed at around 1,500km per hour.

How legit could it be?

The accompanying sketches made Pierre’s testimony highlight a staggering amount of detail only someone that close would have been able to get. But given there were no actual photographs taken, we’ll have to take the man’s word for it.

Conspiracy rating: 4/10

Flying Saucers Reported Over Spain and North Africa, 1952

Why's it odd:

Flagged up after a spate of headlines began to hit newspapers across Spain and the African continent bearing news of “flaming discs” and “flying saucers” between May and June of 1952, this CIA report pieced them together.

The first major sighting, according to the roundup, was in Barcelona, on 21 May, when a newspaper employee crossed an avenue during midday and claims he saw a rocket-shaped object flying in a straight line. His colleagues saw the smoke but not the ship, but they did hear the phones, which were soon off the hook as locals rang in to confirm they too had spotted a flying object of some kind.

Fast forward to 4 June. Over in Sousse, Tunisia, locals claimed to see a flying object travel at a dizzy speed from west to east, emitting a pale green light.

On 11 June, two witnesses in Meknes, Morocco claim they saw their own flying disc. This one set off at lightning speed near an airbase in Algiers, leaving a white trail of smoke and making no sound as it sped off.

Five days later, at a port in French Morocco, dock workers reported a “disc of white flames surrounded by two circular strands – again, leaving a cloud of white smoke behind it – hovering in front of them for 30 seconds before vanishing rapidly.

On the same day, Casablanca got itself a sighting of a ‘flying saucer’, spotted by Andre Assini, a former pilot whose account was checked with the Meteorological Bureau, who found nothing to claim it was anything but a UFO.

How legit could it be?

Sadly the report doesn’t attempt to provide any answers as to what experts believe the seemingly connected anomalies are – but then as with so many of these cases, that might be because there aren’t any.

Reasons to stroke your chin ponderously include the strikingly similar descriptions (billowing smoke, flashing light; even if the Barcelona craft was more rocket-shaped as opposed to disc-like) and the fact nobody mentioned they’ve been probed - which, let's be honest, is a surefire sign of a nut.

Conspiracy rating: 8/10

Office Memorandum on Flying Saucers, 15 March 1949

Why it's odd:

Filed in response to an increase in UFO sightings, this government dispatch includes one rather curious graph, highlighting a huge spike in the summer months. Tailing off towards August and September before rising once more in the New Year, it's nothing if not odd. Underneath the graph, the intelligence officers ask for possible explanations: “Is there any midsummer madness involved? Are the asteroids prominent in that season? Etc. Etc." Questions that may have never been answered.

How legit could it be?

If the CIA believe can't rule it out, who are we to argue?

Conspiracy rating: 9/10

Flying saucers in East Germany, 9 July 1952

Why it’s odd:

Oscar Linke, a 46-year old who had recently escaped from the Soviet Zone along with his family, told Berlin intelligence agents that he was fixing a blown tyre on his motorcycle in the countryside when his daughter pointed to two men standing over a strange object.

Approaching them for a better look, he noted that both men wore shiny metallic clothing, one even boasting “a lamp on the front part of his body which lit up at regular intervals”. Before he could get a better look, his daughter, who had remained a short while behind him, called out for him, inadvertently alerting the two figures who “immediately jumped on the conical tower and disappeared inside”.

The object, which Linke estimated to be between 13 and 15 metres, then took off surrounded by a ring of flames, disappearing into the night.

Going over to survey the take-off area, Linke says he found a circular opening in the ground which was freshly dug, convincing him that he was not dreaming.

How legit could it be?

Though his daughter’s testimony couldn't be relied upon, other people in the area - including a shepherd no less – claimed they saw a comet on the same evening. No mention of the first incarnation of Daft Punk messing about near a roadside, but further proof something freaky was afoot. It was also clearly enough to warrant an official sit down with state officials.

Linke, who claimed he had never heard of the phrase ‘flying saucer', also offered a much more reasonable explanation, telling interviewers that he believed it was a “new Soviet military machine”.

But then with that sort of technology, surely we’d all be speaking Russian by now.

Conspiracy rating: 6/10