Well, how about this then? Apparently, as well as undergoing simultaneous financial and banking crises on a scale almost never heretofore experienced by anyone, Ireland is experiencing a “UFO epidemic” in its skies. That’s according to the Irish-based franchise of the UK tabloid The Sun. Please note, The Sun are not merely offering whimsical commentary here; they have checked their sources on this one. In fact, they have consulted “one of the world’s most respected forums for star-gazers” and they agree: there have been a number of “legitimate” sightings of extra-terrestrial space-craft from Ireland this year alone. And who, I hear you ask, are this internationally renowned star-gazers forum? NASA, perhaps? The European Space Agency, maybe? Could it be the International Astronomical Union? Nope, it’s none of those elitist stuffed-shirts with their out-dated affection for scientific empiricism, objectivity, evidence, and the like. Instead, The Sun are citing, as a serious source, the obviously bonkers website UFOInfo.com.
To date, there has been no objectively confirmed sighting of a UFO anywhere in the world. However, there have been absolutely squillions (and I mean squillions) of unconfirmed sightings, right throughout human history. Some academics suggest that such sightings reflect a psychological cry-for-help, accentuated at the societal level during times of (say, economic) turmoil. Therefore, to celebrate Ireland’s new-found obsession with alien visitations, here is a countdown of the six oddest UFO sightings from the Emerald Isle…
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#6. Aliens Present During the Queen’s Visit
While most commentators agree that it is difficult to summarize the historical significance of the state visit by Queen Elizabeth II to the Republic of Ireland earlier this year, few attempts to do so have focused on the sighting of a UFO near the Queen’s private jet as it departed from Cork Airport on May 19. However, one eagle-eyed TV viewer spotted what he notes is a “wingless” craft “flying in a dipping motion” as the Queen’s plane takes off. When I first saw this video, I thought the person who posted it had done so simply for our amusement. However, it appears he is deadly serious. As he says to those who posted skeptical comments, “Close your ears and open your mind man“, which I guess must mean something.
Those who feel that this UFO is actually explicable within an orthodox naturalistic frame of reference “are clearly deluded“, according to another poster. He or she (I’m guessing “he”) continues: “You people just keep thinking that we’re alone in this universe..but when it all kicks off you will be sorry” . Which is all disappointing, of course, given the intended purpose of the Queen’s state visit to Ireland: rather than marking the end of a centuries-old political conflict, the visit appears to be ushering in a new era of intergalactic strife. Either that, or the UFO is actually an Irish Air Corps PC-9, a number of which were apparently patrolling the skies at the time. (Or maybe it was a sea gull?)
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#5. “Best ever”
Personally, I think the title of this video on YouTube — “UFO in Ireland: Best Ever Capture” — is something of an exaggeration. The image shows a poorly defined multi-coloured disc, fuzzily drifting across a dark background. The UFO fraternity call this type of craft “plasma orbs“. However, all we can really see is a point of light filmed out of focus. Not only is the main image obviously unfocused, the entire backdrop is so plainly black that it’s unclear whether it is even a sky.
What I find particularly funny about this one is the soundtrack, which purports to record a candid conversation between the person filming the UFO and their awe-struck companion. We know it’s candid because of the gratuitous swearing (which helps convey a feeling of authenticity — after all, polite people wouldn’t deliberately swear if they were planning to post the clip to YouTube, now, would they?). We also get some deflective commentary of the extremely corny variety. At one stage (around 0:28), the image begins to grow and shrink as if the camera operator was touching the zoom, whereupon the operator can be heard saying, apropos of nothing, “I’m not touching the zoom now…” Yeah, I believe you.
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#4. Worst ever
This one is so bad, it’s good. Actually, I take that back. This one is so bad, it makes good look impossible. It is not just one of the worst UFO videos I have ever seen, it is one of the worst film recordings of any kind that I have ever had the misfortune to experience — and I say that having sat through all four original Planet of the Apes sequels (I even bought the DVD box set — *shudder*). Basically, the clip shows us some black specks filmed against a backdrop of a cloudy sky. However, quite obviously, the black specks are encrusted on the window pane through which the camera is pointing. Now, that would be bad enough, except that the window itself looks so filthy (in the hygienic sense) that you immediately worry about what these black specks actually are. When the main speck appears to move, it looks more like some kind of crawling insect than an inter-stellar spacecraft. It is nearly stomach-turning.
However, the film was taken in Galway, which is where this blog is from. So now you get to see it too. Sorry.
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Here is a “saucer-like” flying saucer from Derry-slash-Londonderry, which goes to show that Northern Ireland can be just as up-to-speed as the Republic when it comes to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. This photograph is almost too good to be true. The saucer itself is beautifully crisp despite the fact that: (a) it is purportedly moving; (b) the photographer is also moving, given that the image is taken from a moving car; (c) the photo was taken using a cameraphone…in 2008; and (d) it’s a flying saucer.
Tantalisingly, part of the saucer is out of shot. I guess this means that we’ll just never know for sure whether it was a fake UFO attached to a stick, photographed from a car that was actually stationary…
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#2. Look! We’re famous! We’re on American TV!
This one was so shocking that it caused a wave of hysteria across the American media, rocking science to its very foundations and forever altering the way we think about ourselves as a species. Er, okay then, it was covered in less than 3 minutes on rolling news channel MSNBC in January of last year, and you are forgiven for having missed it. The piece features a night-vision video clip of a triangular aircraft speeding through the air somewhere in the skies over Dublin, “near the River Liffey” (which really doesn’t narrow it down at all).
There are some funny elements to the way the clip is discussed. The producers liken it to the type of craft used in the 1980s arcade game, Asteroids (this might actually have been quite perceptive — the famous Asteroids ship was triangular mainly because such a shape was easy to render using the limited vector-monitor graphics available to computer programmers at the time). Around 1:04, the on-screen banner headline tells us that the Irish government was “not commenting” on the sighting. I suppose the question is, Were they actually asked about it? (I’d love to have been listening in on that phone call!) And the talking-head (who was rather cruelly introduced by MSNBC as a “self-proclaimed UFO expert“) seems quite insistent that the sighting is “a fascinating thing” and “one of the most interesting UFO videos [he’s] ever seen” even though there isn’t really any basis to think that the aircraft is anything other than, well, an airplane.
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#1. The Farmer’s Son
And so to Number One.
When it comes to close encounters of the third kind from the Emerald Isle, this one has to be the pinnacle of Paddywhackery — think “little (40-shades-of-) green men” or, perhaps, “Unidentified Flying Oirishness”. The video claims to be obtained not from just any Irish observer (a biochemist, say, or a software engineer) but, instead, from a farmer’s son. Furthermore, the clip shows a traditional Irish farmyard gate and the edge of a typical Irish farm shed (complete with corrugated steel roof). These agrarian cues help to remind us that everyone in Ireland lives on a farm, you see. And as if to remove all doubt as to the clip’s provenance, the soundtrack blares out a squawky country-‘n’-Irish synth-accordian version of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” backed by drum-machine two-step, eerily capturing the atmosphere of an Irish country wedding. As opposed to, say, the theme from The X-Files, which wouldn’t have been Irish at all. G’wan ya good thing! Sure, ’tis mighty…
As these things go, the video is quite nicely put together. While the image quivers slightly to imitate the way a tripod might vibrate on a windy day, the flying saucer itself quivers within the frame to match, so that the reference points for its trajectory remain the clouds and horizon, rather than the border of the video frame. Not hard to achieve, but effective and thoughtful. Of course, the fakery is nonetheless blindingly obvious. Not least because the craft itself looks like a nipple.
And exposed nipples are banned in Ireland.
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.