Thursday, June 29, 2006 Posted: 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Unidentified flying objects in the skies over southern Campeche state, Mexico
Case closed for alien aficionados? Not so.
Far from alleviating UFO buffs' suspicions that governments are concealing what they know, the report has intensified them.
"I just e-mailed the MoD explaining my disgust at their latest UFO report," an Internet UFO forum member wrote, saying the Ministry was in denial.
Instead of alien spacecraft, man-made vehicles and natural phenomena, some of them little known, were behind the UFO sightings, according to the report that runs to almost 500 pages.
David Clarke, a journalist and folklorist who used freedom of information laws to gain access to the report, said UFO believers would not accept any explanation for the phenomenon other than the extraterrestrial one.
"They've got the truth, but it's not what they want to hear," he said, speaking in a cafe near Sheffield Hallam University where he teaches journalism.
"They want to hear 'yes, there are aliens' but, because the report says there is no evidence, it's not good enough," said Clarke who has written several books on supernatural beliefs, including UFOs.
"The only thing they can do now is pray that there must be more files that are even more secret than these, being concealed."
Last year, the alien hypothesis gained a prominent supporter in Paul Hellyer, a former Canadian defense minister, who told a conference that UFOs were "as real as the airplanes that fly over your head".
Hellyer told Reuters by telephone from Toronto he had become convinced of the existence of alien visitors from reading a book on the subject last year and that he was disappointed in the conclusions of the report.
"I think it's just one more man-made hurdle to trying to get the truth out," he said.
"Maybe I'm a little too suspicious, but the fact that the report was completed in 2000, just when the Brits were passing the new Freedom of Information Act, might easily have been in the minds of some of the drafters at the time they were writing their conclusions."
Nick Pope, a Defense Ministry official who worked on UFO cases from 1991 to 1994, said the release of the report was an indication of the British government's openness on the subject.
"In Britain, I'm convinced there's no cover-up, there's no conspiracy," he said. Many UFO researchers disagreed with him and believed he was part of the conspiracy since he worked for the government and used to work with UFO cases, he added.
"But I can't win with arguments like that, because whatever I say, they won't believe it."
Pope has written several books on UFOs. He said he did not rule out aliens as the explanation for UFOs, but added there was no conclusive proof.
In the absence of the "almost cliched landing-on-the-White- House-lawn type scenario," Pope said the existence of aliens could be proved if radio astronomers picked up an intelligent signal or if extraterrestrial metal pieces were discovered.
If there are alien visitors, "the lack of artefacts is a significant mystery", meaning they must either have completely accident-proof vehicles, or have mastered teleportation and be able to scoop up debris, the report said.
To the folklorist Clarke, claims of the discovery of pieces from alien craft and marks on the ground bear a resemblance to tales from the past.
"It's like these fairy stories when people visit fairyland. They're given a gift by the fairies, and when they come back it just dissolves."
Until an alien spacecraft can be publicly examined or a signal from the green men is detected, the final line of the 1951 film "The Thing from Another World" still applies for UFO believers: "Keep watching the skies."