“10 unbelievable real alien encounters!” is not an uncommonly used click-bait topic, attracting the curious and the gullible to questionable advertising sites. Our fascination with the possibility of mysterious extra-terrestrial beings has made us vulnerable to con artists, made us question our governments and worst of all, has even lead Ancient Aliens to take over a formally reputable TV channel. But is there any truth to these stories or are broadcasting stations merely exploiting footage (of conveniently poor quality) in the name of profit?
To begin with, let me honour one the greatest alien conspiracy theories to date, one that kept the world on the edge of its seat long after the initial event. Even now, the Roswell incident continues to serve as inspiration to the media, referenced heavily by believers and critics alike. On many occasions it had been named the most iconic instance of extra-terrestrial encounters yet equally frequently called the most thoroughly debunked hoax. The supposed weather balloon crash occurred in 1947 and was addressed by the Roswell Army Air Field personnel during a press conference, leaving no room for doubts or excitement so the story quickly and quietly faded away. It remained dormant for three decades, when it was awoken by the popularised hobby of spreading conspiracy theories. The believers so adamantly pursued circumstantial evidence and foggy memories from thirty years before that stories began to evolve and grow, fuelling the public’s interest with their concocted details and flexible accounts. Several books were published on the topic of Roswell, some exploring these fabricated tales through an imitation of the scientific method and some who concluded that the evidence presented was simply insufficient and often gathered from unreliable sources. The pressure on the Air Force to declassify the information from 1947 continued to mount until in 1994 they revealed the truth; that a weather balloon was a high-altitude military surveillance balloon used to monitor for evidence of nuclear testing as part of Project Mogul.
There have been multiple alien autopsy videos released to the public with evidently varying production budgets despite the increasing availability of special effects software. These videos, that have once entranced nations, have now taken the place of viral jokes, shared between school children and bored office workers. So, what has made us lose our faith? Have we become desensitised to the excitement of possibility or have we at last learned to question what we see before us? It is true that alien autopsies have never been supported by physical evidence and in many instances the creators themselves have stepped forward with confessions of their deceit. Perhaps this crucial data is being withheld by global intelligence agents, hidden away in coded X-files that take such extensive funding to maintain as to leave the less valuable military and economic information vulnerable to hackers and leaks.
Another famous, but very short lived, alien hoax was the accidental country-wide panic caused by the broadcast of The War of The Worlds on Halloween of 1938. Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre team created a sensational contemporary adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel that was done a little too well. Initially, the team had little hope of success with this project and had it not been for some major last-minute rewriting, the show would have been nothing more than a pleasant hour for some few dedicated fans. However, due to problems with scheduling, the show was unintentionally timed more as a genuine news broadcast. This, combined with the brilliant efforts of the actors and sound technicians quickly caused widespread fear among the listeners who tuned in too late to hear the introduction explaining the adaptation of the 19th century novel. It is generally believed that the chaos caused by the realistic reports of Martians rapidly invading the Earth was unintended but as with many alien hoaxes, it sure worked in favour of the creators’ careers.
To say that all current evidence for visitations from extra-terrestrial beings is comprised of hoaxes and conspiracy theories does mean that there is no hope of intelligent civilisations sharing this universe with us. We have reached out with the Voyager golden record that contains images and sounds from Earth as well as diagrams and equations expressing our current understanding of mathematics and laws of physics. Unfortunately, it will be far in the distant future that an alien race may receive this little guide to life on Earth. For decades now, we have been listening out for a message from beyond. One promising sign came in 1977, when a researcher at Ohio State observatory was so amazed by a strong radio transmission that he wrote “Wow!” in the margin, coining the instance as the Wow! Signal. The possibility of this being evidence of alien communication has lingered on the minds of astronomers for decades, but in all this time we have not heard from them again. The frequency of this transmission corresponds to hydrogen, so although it was highly unusual, it can possibly be explained by continued development of our astronomical understanding. Be it intelligent aliens or physics that we have not yet discovered, the truth is, and will always be, out there.