Anyone who’s driven alone at night and looked up at the vast sky has probably wondered if we're alone.
Whether you believe in aliens or not, there's an undeniable fascination with the unknown. It's part of our psyche to wonder, to look beyond what we can see – the UFO obsession never goes away.
TV, film, radio…you name it, it's tried to answer our questions; what it would look and what it would entail.
Perhaps no show has achieved this quite as well as The X-Files, the sci-fi phenomenon from the mind of Chris Carter.
The show ran from 1993 to 2002 initially following the exploits of Agents Mulder and Scully -the believer and the sceptic – who took the cases no one else wanted including the search for alien life.
They believed the truth really was out there.
But while we watched the pair run around deserts and the FBI’s corridors trying to save the day, government officials sat in their offices thumbing through 'secret' files.
Skip forward to 2018 and some of these have already been released, albeit with redacted sections, but thousands of papers are there ready for people to read.
The man behind many of them is former MoD official Nick Pope, who spent 20 years investigating UFOs. Nick spoke to the Mirror about whether we are actually alone, and how realistic The X-Files were.
You can listen to his full interview by playing the audio at the top of the story.
"I think it'd be inconceivable that we'd be the only life in the universe," he said. "I suspect in the cosmos things are pretty crowded and there are other life forms and other civilisations too, which I think poses the fascinating question [of] if they are more advanced than us what might they be able to teach us."
For much of the 90s Pope ran the Ministry of Defence's UFO project, where his job was to "investigate sightings and assess whether any were of 'defence significance'", a term that really doesn't have a proper definition.
The X-Files began when Pope was in the role, and the links and parallels were unquestionable.
People would whistle the theme tune at Pope as he walked down the Ministry’s corridors or popped into the staff canteen, and they even nicknamed him 'Spooky' – the same label given to Mulder.
But the investigator brushes it off.
"It was flattering and a piece of fun to liven up the day," he says. "Absolutely there were similarities: we were a government programme looking at UFOs and because we looked at UFOs we found ourselves really drawn into anything weird and wonderful that was reported because there was no where else in Government that would take those sort of reports."
And the team really did get everything. From "bread and butter" UFO sightings to the "things people thought were linked to UFOs, alien abductions and crop circles" and then the even more distantly related, like ghosts on military bases or psychics.
"It could be anything!" Pope says. "There is that direct parallel [to The X-Files]. We really were the real-life X-Files unit. Having said that, we didn't go running around with torches and guns and sadly I didn't have a Scully either."
The comparison, of course, isn't that simple. There are parallels between the fictional series and real-life, but there are differences. While Scully and Mulder had a deep seated distrust of the establishment, Pope and his team were part of it.
"Much of what we did was perhaps what you'd expect [us] to do. We were alongside air force colleagues and much of what we did was to tie in UFO sightings with anything that would be tracked on military radar and going through the process to eliminate a lot of things that gave rise to a lot of these things."
Pope explains that a lot of 'sightings' were explained by matching them with military aircraft or exercises taking place. They also used data on weather balloon launches, astronomical data at Royal Greenwich observatory – basically anything in the skies we could find out about it.
Pope says there were 200-300 cases a year that they tried to tie in with what they knew about or could find out about.
It wasn't all plain sailing, and there were areas where they had to "tread carefully".
"We knew some of these things were likely going to be secret prototype sky planes or aircrafts or drones," Pope explains.
Among all the cases, there were some that couldn't be explained or were the closest to confirming something extra-terrestrial.
For Pope the stand out case was in 1993 on March 30-31.
"There was a wave of sightings across the UK over a period of about six hours," Pope says.
"Quite a lot of witnesses were police, military personnel and a civilian who said it was so big he didn't realise he was looking at a UFO."
It was dismissed initially as heavy cloud cover, but "one by one, stars disappeared…blocked out by huge triangular shaped craft."
For Pope it was a direct link back to The X-Files, reminding him of the "alien colonist arc."
"You see the immense craft, something like that, there's no middle ground," he admits. "When they say that and it's an airforce officer, you can't turn around and talk about weather balloons and aircraft from unusual angles. I think they'd have a fit!"
Whatever it was, it flew over two air force bases. Pope remembers interviewing one particular officer the morning after – the sighting had been at 2am.
The officer said the "triangular-shaped craft was moving very slowly, no more than 40-50 mph, 200ft or so above the ground, firing a narrow beam of light at the fields."
He heard low humming sound and told Pope from the very slow speed it accelerated to the horizon "in an instant".
Pope has heard similar stories from many witnesses all echoing "that staggering acceleration, that seems a quantum leap above what we can do, even now."
And that officer? He simply said: "I've been in the air force for eight years and never seen anything like that."
When Pope pushed him to estimate the speed, he added: "Imagine a fast jet like a Red Arrow. Orders of magnitude above and beyond that."
Were you a believer?
Having heard case after case, testimony after testimony, Pope found himself changing the way he thought about UFOs and the alien question.
"I think I started as a Scully but ended up as a Mulder. I really didn't know much about the whole UFO mystery."
He admitted he came in and saw it as "another government job."
"We're moved around every few years and I'd got a promotional transfer," he says confessing he thought he'd do three years and then "hopefully move on."
That didn't happen – but Pope has clearly learnt so much from his time at the MoD.
Doesn't culture just influence our views?
"I think it's a two-way street, sceptics would say quite a lot of the witnesses are just picking up things they've seen in sci-fi," Pope says, but asks that people look at it another way.
"When you look at something like The X-Files we know Chris Carter did his research at the start (in great depth) so when you look at story lines and in terms of the Government cover up and syndicate and type of UFOS.
"The whole Scully abduction – that reflects in a way what is in the UFO literature. Art imitates life or life imitates art?
"You can't get away from the fact the Roswell crash is part of pop culture, but when you see that reflected in The X-Files it's not like it's come from nowhere, it reflects what people already believe because of what people have already reported."
The latest The X-Files offerings are no different, with season 11 premiering for Gillian Anderson's final season, and Audible creating new audiobooks.
The last being Stolen Lives, which Pope says "brings us back to the fundamental questions" of who exactly knows what.
Though, despite the fact most of us think information is being kept from us, Pope says that's not really the case, and while there are indeed 'secret' files, more and more are being made public.
"It's huge," he says. "The MoD has already declassified and released around 60,000 pages of UFO documents, some of which, at the time, were classified as secret 'UK eyes only', which is only one down from top secret so there is a vast amount of info out there."
There's another batch due for release too, but "there's been delay after delay after delay". However, Pope expects the last files to be released soon.
While the documents have been made accessible, it doesn't mean everything is out in the open.
Due to the FOI (Freedom of information) Act there are exemptions that can't be released due to intelligence, national security and other security reasons.
When you look at the documents, parts are blacked out. Pope explains: "Now in many cases the reasons are very innocuous, it's a military base’s system, but [with] some redactions I can understand why conspiracy theorists do get quite excited by this sort of thing and why they do believe that they're not being told the full story."
That may not go any way towards appeasing theorists, but Pope's aim isn't to dissuade people from believing in aliens. In fact, he has even thought about what we'd say to them when they arrive.
"I think the first fundamental question – I say this with my MoD background – is there a threat to us here? What is the reason for coming? Are they conquerors, explorers, scientists or anthropologists? That question turns up if there's any threat."
"The biological hazard is a pretty critical first order question to ask," he adds. "What would first interest me would be their science or technology. What do they have?
"We can make very few assumptions. One good assumption we can make is if they come here their technology is above and beyond our own. We're only just taking baby steps into the solar system. They would have mastered interstellar travel. That's a phenomenal leap!
"What have they got and what would they share with us?" That's the real question.
*Stolen Lives is the latest The X-Files audiobook from Audible, you can listen here .
- The Best Sci-Fi Movies on Amazon Prime Video Right Now (June 2021) | Digital Trends
- The Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now (July 2021) | Digital Trends
- The Best Sci-Fi Movies on Hulu Right Now (July 2021) | Digital Trends
- 15 Great Sci-Fi Books to Read Before They Become TV Shows | Digital Trends
- Unforgotten: How accurate is Unforgotten? Former investigator reveals truth
- Pentagon and MoD officials feared UFOs were either ‘demonic’ or sent by God, former investigators reveal
- Real life X Files to reveal 'hundreds and hundreds' of close encounters with UFOs
- 8 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Read (or Re-Read) Before Their Adaptations Hit the Screen
- Donald Trump Settled a Real Estate Lawsuit, and a Criminal Case Was Closed
- Serial killer Levi Bellfield a real-life Jekyll and Hyde, ex-girlfriend says
- First contact? Stranded 'alien being' pleads with UFO investigators for help
- World leaders among potential Pegasus spyware targets, investigation reveals
- Aston Hall survivor relives horrifying ordeal - sadistic experiments and 'truth serum'
- Potential 'Half-Life 3' Story Revealed By Ex-Valve Writer | Digital Trends
- Britain to relaunch X Files squad tasked with detecting alien UFOs in our skies
- The Pentagon secretly studied ‘exotic and sophisticated’ UFO technologies, bombshell letter reveals
- Google Maps user spots 'giant UFO mothership' – can you guess what it really is?
- Pentagon UFO report is 'complete whitewash and proves US is hiding something'
- CIA cover up: Spooks secrecy over UFO sightings to prevent 'mass hysteria' exposed
- Most shocking secrets declassified by US government: 'Spy cats', brainwashing and UFOs
Real-life X-Files: Former MoD UFO investigator reveals what they know - and how close the sci-fi show is to the truth have 2203 words, post on www.mirror.co.uk at January 5, 2018. This is cached page on Game Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.