Forget ‘little green men from mars’, the Weird ’09 conference in Warminster at the weekend attempted to sort the facts from the folklore for both sceptics and paranormal enthusiasts alike.
The first day of the first UFO event in Warminster of its kind left visitors to the town – albeit only the Earthling kind – with plenty to think about.
A sky watch on Cradle Hill, a well-known centre for paranornal sightings, in Warminster on Saturday followed an impressive schedule of speakers, featuring some of the best-loved and most admired experts within the paranormal field.
Among those speaking at the Athenaeum Centre in High Street was Nick Pope, a former UFO investigator employed by the MOD to research in to some of the most notorious UFO sightings across the country – earning him the title of Britain’s real-life Fox Mulder.
Visitor Mark Doulton, 44, from Southend, said: “There is a good collection of speakers this weekend which makes it a worthwhile visit and Warminster itself has got a good history of UFO sightings.
“We have got to have an open mind with subjects like these but I think that is what makes it so interesting, that it is so unexplained and it is about trying to find the answers.”
Robert Moore visited from Somerset for the conference and has been investigating UFOs across the country since 1980.
He first became interested in the subject after reading numerous books about former Wiltshire Times reporter Arthur Shuttlewood and the furore surrounding the mystery of what was known colloquially as The Warminster Thing, when numerous reports of noises and unexplained objects in the skies brought thousands of enthusiasts flocking to the garrison town in the 1960s and 1970s.
Mr Moore said: “I liked Kevin Goodman as a speaker. I thought it was a very informative speech in the way he presented the background of the Warminster Thing and his perspective on his own experiences.
“This conference is about connecting with people and seeing what they think on the subject.”
Speaker Kevin Goodman returned to share his knowledge and research on Arthur Shuttlewood after many nights spent on Cradle Hill in the 1970s.
As co-organiser of Weird ’09, he also praised the Athenaeum facilities but admitted that the town itself was ‘reticent’ about its UFO past.
He said: “We are really proud of what we have achieved for the first event and we hope to make it a regular thing.
“If there is someone who leaves here and thinks ‘maybe there is something out there’, then we have done our job, although we are not trying to convert people, we are just trying to present all of the arguments.
“The theatre here has been very good and it has worked very well.”
While some argued that UFO sightings are caused by extra-terrestrial life, others highlighted that whatever the cause, the unidentified flying objects are, at their most simplest and concerning level, a potential terrorist opportunity with commercial airline pilots, police officers and radar operators among the many witnesses to UFOs, according to recent Government reports discussed at the two-day conference.
Claire Williams, 26, travelled from Swansea, with friend Sarah Heaton, 26, and both have a life-long interest in the paranormal.
Miss Williams said: “I’m a bit geeky really. I like Star Trek and things like that and I guess everybody has a feeling that we are not the only ones here. There must be something out there in space.
“We know about a lot of the things being discussed here but to hear other people’s experiences is amazing.”