Q&A with Erie UFO conference speaker Nick Pope

The author and UFO expert shares his experiences working with the British Ministry of Defence, “X-Files” and his presentation at Saturday’s Mutual UFO Network event.
 
Ever wonder if there’s any truth behind the “The X-Files” and other sci-fi shows?
 
They might not be as far-fetched as you think, according to UFO expert Nick Pope. The former British Ministry of Defence employee, dubbed “the real Fox Mulder,” worked in the government’s UFO program from 1991 to 1994, investigating UFO sightings and other unexplained phenomena. Now the author, TV personality and sci-fi media consultant wades deep in the world of the unexplained, and will present at the fifth Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) Erie Conference on Saturday at the Bayfront Convention Center.
 
But conferences like the one in Erie aren’t just for those who believe in the extraterrestrial.
 
“This should not be something just for the believers,” said Pope, 51, who left the MOD in 2006 and has lived in the United States for the past five years. “I would love to see skeptics there, too, and people who are agnostic about it. I hope people will come, wherever they are on the belief spectrum.”
 
He recently answered a few questions about his former post at the Ministry of Defence, “The X-Files” and his upcoming presentation at Saturday’s conference.
 
What put you on the path to investigating UFO sightings and other claims for the Ministry of Defence?
 
“I was a civilian employee of the Ministry of Defence, but like military and a number of these government organizations, you get moved around every few years — either on level transfer or promotion. And I was lucky enough for three years in that wider 21-year career to be assigned to their UFO project. I didn’t have a prior interest in the subject. I had no belief in it. It was simply ‘this is the next posting that we’d like to put you in.’ So it came up really from the personnel department and I embarked on this remarkable journey.”
 
Did that help you to be objective or skeptical about claims you were investigating?
 
“I don’t think you want a true believer in that job. I’m not sure you would want a die-hard debunker, either. These investigative jobs are best if you go in with a neutral, dispassionate view and you simply go the way the data take you. We got about 200 or 300 cases each year, and I went into each one with an open mind and just thought ‘I will do my best to investigate this and see what I can turn up.’ I did not regard it — and it was not ever my mission — to prove any of these things were extraterrestrial spacecraft. Neither, contrary to what conspiracy theorists say, was it my job to really debunk them, either. I just had to say ‘Look, we’ve had a report of something in our airspace. Obviously the air force and government want to know what this is. Let’s see if we can’t find out.’”
 
 
Were you mostly investigating UFO sightings, or were you also involved with cases of other unexplained phenomena?
 
“Most of the job involved UFO sightings, but it was impossible to do that job without finding yourself the kind of clearinghouse, as it were, out of the ordinary. We were the part of government that got reports, not just of UFOs, but through that, alien abductions, crop circles, people who thought they had seen ghosts on military bases. We were kind of dubbed by the media as ‘the real, live “X-Files” unit.’”
 
Are you a fan of “X-Files”?
 
“I am, actually, yes! It was — and still is, hopefully — a great, great series. Just beautifully written and acted. I was a fan before I was approached to get involved. I do consultancy and spokesperson work (for) a lot of alien-themed movies, TV shows and video games, and I was brought in on the second ‘X-Files’ movie and on the reboot of the TV series to do some interviews to say to the media and public ‘Is any of this real?’ And of course, the answer is yes, actually they do.”
 
What will your Saturday lecture, “Secrecy vs. Disclosure,” entail?
 
“The UFO community are, I think, always talking about disclosure with a big ‘D.’ They have this image that it’s going to be some big, formal announcement where the president speaks live to the nation and says ‘We’re not alone.’ It may not be quite as simple as that. And actually one of the great secrets, I think, is that government doesn’t really know, either, in relation to UFOs. Certainly we in the UK never had any spaceships hidden away in air force hangars, any of that sort of thing — although we were always accused of having that evidence and keeping it back. Hand-on-heart, we didn’t. But my point is more generally, if there was this great secret, could that secret even be kept these days? As much as people believe in Big Brother and the secret state, I’m going to argue that perhaps the balance of power is shifting more toward the individual, therefore more toward a situation where states find it more difficult to keep secrets. There’s espionage, which we’ve always had, but whistle-blower culture seems to be expanding.
 
“I’m going to talk about how difficult it would be to keep a secret, but then the other thing is, I’m going to be speculative, and I’m going to say if this is true, if government does act as guardian of this great secret, why wouldn’t it be told? What might be the advantages of disclosing this information, but what might be the disadvantages? We’re going to look at all the cliches — would there be panic in the streets, would it undermine the international financial system and political institutions? It will be themed on UFOs, but I think that the points I’m making could be made right across the board.”
 
 
Are people receptive to that perspective?
 
“Yes and no. I think I do get a lot of positive feedback, but there’s no getting away from the fact that, to some of these people, I’m probably the bad guy. The fact that I did this for the government means that there are people who think I was part of a conspiracy, that I was part of the cover-up. There are people who believe I’m still secretly on the payroll, that it’s my job to put out disinformation, to infiltrate the UFO community and see what they know, etc., etc. When I expose my skepticism about conspiracy theories, it doesn’t go down well in all quarters. But you know, I’m not a believer that you should just turn up at these conferences and tell people what you think they want to hear. I think a conference is far better if there are a range of views, if things do get a little interesting and spiky, and if we do knock a few ideas back and forward.”
 
BE THERE
 
The fifth Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) Erie Conference will take place Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the Bayfront Convention Center, 1 Sassafras Pier. Tickets are $29 each, or $42 for admission and lunch. Proceeds from the event will benefit the AJO Forever Foundation. For more details or to register, visit www.mufonpa.com.
 
SCHEDULE
 
  • 9 a.m.: “UFOs Over New York” by Cheryl Costa
  • 10:15 a.m.: “UFOs: Fact, Fiction and Disinformation” by Kathleen Marden
  • 1 p.m.: “Kecksburg Solved” by John Ventre and Owen Eichler
  • 2:45 p.m.: “Secrecy vs. Disclosure” by Nick Pope
  • 4:30 p.m.: “Bigfoot” by Fred Saluga

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