I’m bringing in 2012 with two new books and the cover story in Fortean Times in what should prove to be an interesting year.
If the doomsayers are correct we should expect the coming year to bring (in no particular order) ‘the end of the Mayan calendar’, shifts in the Earth’s magnetic pole, Eurogeddon and an alien invasion at the opening of the Olympics.
But while you prepare for Armageddon check out the lead story in Fortean Times 284, published on 5 January, for some light relief. In my feature ‘Scared to Death’ I investigate a fatal encounter with a ghost in 19th century Sheffield and look at other Victorian examples of alleged ‘death by supernatural causes’. In the same issue Andy Roberts and I unearth a new case from the UFO archives in which a Yorkshire police officer was visited by the mysterious ‘Men in Black’.
Also new for 2012 are two chapters in a ‘history of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes’ published in the USA by McFarland & Co. That’s the subtitle of The Martians Have Landed! the latest from the sceptical pen of Robert Bartholomew and Ben Radford. This book features case studies of three dozen media-driven scares from the 17th to the 21stcentury, including some notorious hoaxes perpetrated by newspapers, radio, TV and via cyberspace. There are historical examples such as the Orson Welles Martian broadcast and accounts of more recent Satanic cult scares and Pokemon panics. The book highlights the serious impact sensational media coverage of hoaxes and false belief-legends can have on our lives.
My contribution to the book concentrates on media-driven urban legends, including miraculous photographs of Jesus and the infamous ‘curse of the crying boy’ painting, spawned by News International’s tabloid The Sun in 1985. Co-author Bartholomew taught sociology at universities in Australia and is a former journalist, while Ben Radford is deputy editor of The Skeptical Inquirer and a prolific author of numerous articles on a variety of topics including urban legends, critical thinking and media literacy.
2012 will also see the publication of a new edition of my book The UFO Files – The Inside Story of Real Life Sightings. Published in the summer of 2012 by Bloomsbury, who acquired The National Archives list last year, the expanded version will mark the release of the last remaining MoD UFO files. The book first appeared at the beginning of the disclosure programme four years ago and the second edition will update the story and include much new material. Watch this space for more details.
Since I began work as consultant to The National Archives UFO project in 2008 media coverage of the ongoing file releases has reached an estimated print/online readership of 25 million people across the world. If those figures were not amazing enough, the TNA’s UFO website has now been visited over three million times by curious people from 160 different countries (source: TNA).
Public interest in ‘Britain’s X-Files’ appears to be undiminished and during the coming year it may yet break more records. In the meantime, look out for me discussing the UFO files on the BBC TV programmes Stargazing Live (presented by Professor Brian Cox and Dara O’Briain) and The One Show in January.
Ignore the doomsayers and have a happy new year!