Sussex is a hotbed of UFO sightings. According to the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA), there is about one sighting in the county a week. So is the truth out there? Miles Godfrey investigates.
It is easy to dismiss tales about little green men and flying saucers.
But there remains a constant stream of UFO reports from across Sussex, from wildly varying sources, suggesting there must be at least some substance in the claims.
Whether you believe in aliens or not – and some of the country’s most prominent scientists do – there is no denying that unusual objects are continually being spotted in our skies.
And whether they are actually beings from outer space, experimental aircraft or simply honest mistakes remains open to debate.
But UFOs are still a fascinating subject, especially given that it is estimated at least one sighting is being made every week in this county alone.
A spokesman for the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA) said: “Sussex is a real hotbed of sightings, one of the biggest in the country. At the moment there is around one sighting made and reported to us a week. It varies but that is an average.
“One reason for the number could be the mix of rural locations and views over the sea.”
Indeed there are regular sightings made over the coast, suggesting either that is where aliens like to fly or that people are easily mistaken by objects they see – or both.
Mistakes are, of course, regularly made.
Chinese lanterns let off by revellers are often thought to be UFOs and reported as such.
There have been numerous reports made to The Argus during the past year that turn out to be the floating paper lights.
But for every ten sightings that are explained there is at least one which turns out to be inexplicable.
The most recent example was one made by Jo Wilcox at her home in Cedar Close, Worthing.
In August she described seeing “several” UFOs hovering over her house.
She reported seeing a bright orange ball, wobbling slightly from side to side.
Mrs Wilcox said: “No stars were visible and it hovered, really bright orange, wobbled from side to side then remained still. I screamed for my neighbour who came out with her 14-year-old son. They saw it too.”
You might not think that middle-class Conservatives are prone to making bold claims about UFOs but Lynda Hyde, Tory representative for Rottingdean on Brighton and Hove City Council, certainly believes they were seen in the skies above Saltdean on May 31.
She said: “Two of the reports came from people I know well and I judge them to be sane.
“The UFOs were described as almost square in shape with each one having four red or orange lights.
“They made no sound. When they left, two went in a westward direction and the third flew vertically up until it disappeared.”
Mother-of-one Michelle Huggett, 31, also spotted a red and orange object hurtling across the skies in Lancing in broad daylight in February.
She said: “I was walking through town when I spotted it.
“It was moving very fast east to west but then just suddenly stopped.
“There was absolutely no noise at all. It was spooky.”
More than 60 glowing orbs were spotted in the skies above Uckfield in October last year.
Resident Jamie Smith said: “It was like something out of Space Invaders.”
All of those sightings are among the most intriguing to have been reported in the past year and all remain unexplained.
Other mysterious sightings have been solved as more Earthly flying objects within days or even hours.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) keeps a list of all the UFOs reported to it.
It does not comment on the validity of such sightings, claiming that it investigates them only to check if British airspace has been compromised.
An MoD spokesman said: “Unless there is evidence of a potential threat, there is no attempt to identify the nature of each sighting reported.”
It logged 52 sightings – only a fraction of those actually seen – between 1998 and 2006.
There does not appear to be a particular part of Sussex where more UFOs are spotted than others.
Brighton and Hove is a hotbed but then it has a far denser population than other areas, making sightings more likely.
Of the past ten sightings, nine have been on or very near the coast. Others have occurred inland at Petworth, Polegate and the one at Uckfield.
The BUFORA spokesman added: “People should always report sightings of UFOs because the more they do the bigger the picture is built up.
“It is too hard to say what percentage are genuine mysteries or not. But the only way it can be researched is by having them reported.”