Source: The Observer (London, England) (June 23, 2002): p13. (543 words)
Document Type: Newspaper
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Full Text :COPYRIGHT 2002 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Byline: Stephen Khan Scotland Editor
THE COUNTRY is usually associated with spectacular mountains, tumbling rivers and deep-fried Mars bars. But Scotland has a proud new boast: it has become the landing strip of choice for flying saucers and other mysterious, metallic, hovering craft.
More odd incoming craft have been tracked over the hills and glens than anywhere else on Earth, and UFO enthusiasts are flocking north to experience close encounters of the Caledonian kind.
A survey published tomorrow will reveal that 300 UFOs are seen in Scotland each year - four times as many as in France and Italy, which appear to be aliens' next favourite destinations. Even New Mexico, home of the Roswell air base and Area 51, where UFO believers insist that alien corpses were kept and studied by the US government, has seen less activity over the past decade.
Graham Birdsall, editor of UFO magazine, has tried to explain the phenomenon. 'UFOs tend to be attracted to regions that are fairly remote,' he said. 'Plus, if you have a remote area, look out for air bases; Scotland is littered with air bases. In 90 per cent of reports, a bit of diligent research will produce a simple explanation.'
But that leaves 10 per cent unexplained. 'When you think of the number of sightings in Scotland compared to the size of its population, it is phenomenal,' said Ron Halliday, who has written two books on the appearance of UFOs in Scotland.
Yet it is not remote Highland or Borders areas that play host to the visitors. The Nineties saw a sudden surge of sightings in the central Scottish areas of West Lothian and Stirlingshire, particularly around the small town of Bonnybridge, near Falkirk.
'The area has become known as the Falkirk triangle,' said Halliday. 'There have been various suggestions as to why it is such a magnet for UFOs.
'One theory is that the area near Bonnybridge is a window into another dimension. That would explain why certain people see a UFO and others don't - because a UFO is some kind of paranormal phenomenon, rather than a nuts-and-bolts spaceship.'
Halliday added that the sightings went beyond strange lights in the sky. Some people had encountered shimmering discs just yards away from their bodies, while others said they had been attacked by UFOs.
The most famous such incident occurred in 1979, when forestry worker Bob Taylor claimed a gang of large shim mering spheres, with spikes protruding from them like naval mines, set upon him. He lived to tell the tale and thousands of reported encounters and UFO spotters followed.
Craig Malcolm has sought a slice of real-life X-Files action by taking video footage for six years outside the Forge restaurant in Bonnybridge. While three airports and a gas-flaring oil terminal all lie within a 30-mile radius and offer some explanation for what he shot, footage of a ball of light dog-legging back and forth across a clear sky is nevertheless eerie.
Bonnybridge's status as a UFO capital prompted one councillor to call for it to be twinned with Roswell and plans have been mooted to build a multi-million-pound UFO theme park. Whatever the truth about UFOs, the Falkirk triangle has attracted hundreds of visitors from the US, Japan and England.