Sunday 9 January 2011

UFO Down? by Andy Roberts

A HPANWO book review:

UFO Down? by Andy Roberts can be purchased here:
See here for Nick Redfern’s review:
Here’s a background documentary to the subject matter of the book:

One thing I’ve always hoped for is to actually be in the vicinity of a Roswell-style UFO event. This way I will be in no doubt of what has taken place and, if it really is an extraterrestrial event, I can do something to let people know about it as it happens. It will probably only be when one of these crash-retrievals occurs in a place where there are lots of people around who understand what’s going on and take action to negate any attempted cover-up by the government as they move in to investigate the incident and salvage any wreckage and/or alien bodies, that we get real Disclosure. When I heard first about the Berwyn Mountains Incident I realized that my dream has already come true! I was living near to the location at the time it happened; well fairly near. Actually I was living in Lampeter in Dyfed or the modern county of Ceredigion. This is about 50 miles away, but that’s closer than Roswell is to Corona! A drawback is that I was a tiny baby at the time, but I’ve asked my parents if they remember the event and they say no. Lampeter was within the zone in which the earth tremours were felt and local media coverage was intense, but unfortunately their memory has faded with time, as some claim it has with the witnesses. The Berwyn Mountains Incident has become known as the “Welsh Roswell” and how it got that name is the subject of a book I purchased at the Weird 10 Conference a few months ago. See: and: One of the speakers was Andy Roberts and like four or five of the others he was using the conference as a place to launch his new book UFO Down? I bought a copy and he signed it for me asking me what I thought of his speech. I replied: “Well I understand your reasoning, but maybe more information will come to light.” He replied: “I doubt it.” I know I had to read the book and learn more about the subject to either confirm or deny what he said. The book is short and very digestible; it’s written in simple, lively language that anyone can understand and it covers the entire Berwyn Mountains Incident in a series of narratives from several viewpoints. Some might consider the style a bit “tabloid”, but I rather liked it, even the Murdochian puns which entitle many of the segments and sub-chapters. It has a gripping cover picture illustrating the most extreme scenario related to the event (which I reproduce under the Copyright Fair Use claim. I’m giving the author free publicity after all! If he or the publishers ask me to remove it I will; it’s their loss!). It begins with a foreword by Dr David Clarke who also spoke at Weird. Clarke is an expert on folklore and studies how myths and legends emerge and evolve; he sees UFO’s as an example of this process and this train of thought was one Andy Roberts employed towards his investigation. I'm interested in folklore too, like how Piranhas are seen as dangerous,see: , but I don't think this applies to UFO's. So what was the Berwyn Mountains Incident?

Let’s begin with the simple facts that all researchers agree on: Almost exactly 37 years ago on January the 23rd 1974 at 8.28 PM the inhabitants of the remote villages of Llandrillo and Llandderfel (These words are not pronounced as they are written in line with English spelling and their proper pronunciation will sound strange and be difficult to articulate for anyone who’s not Welsh. Ask advice from a Welsh person, preferably a Welsh language-speaker, if you want to learn how to say these names correctly.) were settled in front of their televisions or down the local pubs. The weather was typical for a Welsh winter: cold and wet. Suddenly there was the sound of a huge explosion and the ground shook. The people rushed outside and saw a huge ball of fire streak across the sky in the direction of the Berwyn Mountains, a range of tall and remote wilderness peaks in northeast Wales. The initial speculation was that an aircraft had crashed in the mountains and the people immediately ran inside to call the police (Mobile phones were a luxury products in those days). One of those people was a nurse called Pat Evans. She and her two children jumped into a car and headed away from their home in Llandderfel to the Berwyns with a first aid kit in the boot. Her intention was to assist the emergency services if indeed an aircraft had crashed and the occupants were injured. At the same time a number of police officers approached the area guided by a local farmer. It is at this point that the controversy begins. You see Pat Evans reported seeing a strange object on the ground, sitting on the slopes high in the mountains. It was some distance from the road where she was driving, but plainly visible. She describes it as egg-shaped and bright red, although as she watched it pulsated and changed colour to white, yellow and orange. This main object was surrounded by a number of unstructured white lights flickering close to it. She watched the objects for a while then drove home. The actual location of this sighting is highly contentious and some claim that there are contradictions in her testimony. Today Pat doesn’t want to be interviewed and this is because, according to the author, she’s fed up of UFO-investigators. The initial news coverage didn’t mentions UFO’s openly and there was only a few tongue-in-cheek lines about “things from outer space” and a cartoon showing a little-green-man type joke alien; the general theme of the reports was that it was a meteorite. The author has worked hard to track down and reproduce much of the original newsprint from the media’s coverage of the Incident as possible. He says that these half-hearted and jocular hints along with alleged sightings of military vehicles in the area lit the touchpaper that led to the “Berwyn UFO Legend”: that an extraterrestrial spacecraft crashed and that the government cordoned off the area with the police and army to prevent the people from discovering it, a la Roswell. Andy denies that any military vehicles were actually there and that the only source for their presence is a lady called Rhiannon Evans and apparently nobody else has confirmed her story. There were lots of strangers around in the days following the 23rd, but these were geologists searching for the suspected meteorite and casual sightseers. For this reason he also rejects the reports of “Men-In-Black” in the Llandrillo area (I’ve changed my mind on the Men-In-Black lately and no longer think they’re government agents; I think they’re actually kind-of alien themselves, but that’s a long story!). As the Berwyn Mountains Incident slipped from the world or current affairs to old news the follow-up journalism, took two distinct paths that only a newsreader with a specialist’s interest in the subject could have followed. The first path was the conclusions of the official scientific authorities. Their geological equipment for hundreds of miles around picked up the vibration of the tremour, which is how we can be so precise with the timing for the start of the Incident. They failed to locate the impact site which was disappointing because an object large enough to cause such a tremour at impact would cause considerable damage at the point it struck the ground: an explosion and impact crater. They wondered if maybe they were searching in the wrong place. Later on the idea that the tremour was actually an earthquake and that it had happened to occur at the same time as a much smaller meteor crossed the sky; and, the human mind being what it is, witnesses and investigators had assumed the two were connected. This idea leads me to philosophize over the whole issue of coincidence and synchronicity as I detail here: . The other news path was the UFO theories which, according to Andy didn’t take hold in earnest until a few years after the incident. This began with the interviews Pat Evans gave to the UFOlogist Margaret Fry and also the Institute of Geological Science, today the British Geological Survey. Although, according to another Berwyn researcher called Scott Felton, Pat also related her experiences informally to people in the village. However Pat was misquoted and these misquotes have become an accepted litany of viral pseudo-fact. The basic notion of the book is that there is some kind of “UFO Mystery Machine”, an involuntary herd-reaction consisting of “I-want-to-believe” UFO enthusiasts, fraudulent fantasists like “APEN” and “self-appointed researchers” that churns out fictional narratives that people accept as real without looking into their background, and this is what has generated the modern view of the Berwyn Mountains Incident, and by implication many other UFO events as well, although the book doesn’t go there. This might be true up to a point. For instance Tony Dodd’s story of the “Anonymous Soldier”, something the author describes as an archetype of fake UFO stories. (I’ve got a lot of respect for Tony Dodd despite this. Tony was one of the few researchers who took Ann and Jason Andrews’ plight seriously. See: . I was very sorry to hear he passed away. Rest in Peace, Tony). The report he received from the man with the pseudonym “Jason Prescott” sounds completely incredulous. For instance Jason claimed that the alien bodies were just dumped in the back of an army lorry and driven to Proton Down, what's more only four men were went with them… and they stopped off at a service station for a snack and cup of tea! As if such a sensitive and high security matter would be dealt with in this way. You can picture the scene in the Little Chef: “Jason, did you remember to lock the lorry?” “I ain’t going back to check now!” It’s comical! If there really were a UFO wreck and alien bodies they’d probably be flown out of the area by helicopter, either that or be transported by road under a very heavily-armed convoy like the Kecksburg object was (See: For Andy Roberts this “UFO hysteria” culminated in the Daily Star article in 1996 entitled X MARKS THE SPOT- Alien Crash Riddle Would Baffle Mulder and Scully, with the X being printed in the same way as that letter in The X-Files title banner. The book goes into more details, but really the rest is proverbially history. The basic conclusion which Andy Roberts details in the last part of the book is that on January the 23rd 1974 at 8.28PM there was an earthquake in North Wales. At the very same moment, quite by chance, a lump of rock from outer space entered the Earth’s atmosphere and began to burn up through friction with the air, passing over Llandrillo within minutes of the earthquake. It’s possible that “Earthlights” were seen in the area too, like Paul Devereux often says accompany earthquakes. That’s about it! Although, to his credit, Andy admits that Pat Evans’ sighting remains unexplained, although he doesn’t give this hole in the story the attention I think it deserves. Andy’s conclusions have given him the image of a Skeptical debunker, a “UFO spoilsport”, perhaps deservedly; whether this is a good or bad thing depends on your point of view. This has also resulted in him being accused of being a government disinformer. In fact Richard D Hall (See: ) has accused him of this in as many words and in the book Andy outlines his conflict with Richard over this. Andy makes a joke out of the matter: “You might want to laugh heartily at Hall’s remarks, I certainly did”, I personally doubt if Andy is being paid by the government to spread lies, but to be honest it can’t be ruled out. Remember the Phoenix Lights? Governor Fyfe Symington, who is now a Disclosure Project witness, at first took part in a campaign of ridicule and diversion which included a showpiece arrest of a man dressed up in an alien costume to be paraded at a press conference; see: . The word “confession” has never been attributed to Symington, but it really should be. If an ET object crashed in the Berwyns and the government know about it, then as far as Andy Roberts goes he’s probably much more likely to be what has become known as a “useful idiot” (Not that Andy is an idiot… or particularly useful!) In other words his views are his own that he arrived at independently, but they happen to match what the government would like us to think about the Berwyn Incident and so Andy inadvertently helps them out. “Useful idiots” are far more effective than knowing disinformers because they don’t have to be briefed in on the secret, so preventing the conspiracy from becoming top-heavy; they also can’t develop a conscience and spill the beans. They can’t swap benches as Symington did; in fact they can talk complete bollocks and be totally sincere about it! Andy asks some questions in the book that stray off the Berwyn speciality into more general UFOlogical areas. He asks at one point why when UFO’s crash it’s always at some remote desert or mountain location in the middle of nowhere; Why do they never seem to crash in the heart of a city? The solution can be found by simply looking at a population density map of the Earth. The answer is that, contrary to popular belief, very very little of the Earth’s surface is built-up, urban cityscape. 70% of it is the sea and of the remaining 30%, over half is almost completely uninhabited, either too hot or too cold or too inhospitable in other ways. It could also be that UFO’s deliberately avoid human habitats when they’re in trouble; that’s understandable considering that they might well end up imprisoned in an underground base and have experiments done on them like a lab rat! Sooner or later a UFO will come to grief in a city area, as indeed they did do in Varginha in 1996, but until then we must expect more and more remote and inaccessible “Roswells”.

Andy Roberts is not the only researcher studying the Berwyn Mountains Incident. Many others have investigated this event and some have reached very different conclusions to Andy. One is a man I only knew though a few email exchanges whom I met at Probe last year called Scott Felton, see: . He has studied the Incident in great depth and lectured extensively on it. He has asked some very relevant questions that cast doubt on the No-UFO Theory. For instance the activities of the police in the area were extremely unusual and this comes from testimony of local people like Huw Lloyd whom Scott has got to know very well. Aircraft have crashed before in the Berwyns, including an incident just 6 years before, and the police normally call in the local Mountain Rescue Service. These are volunteers who live close by. It would make sense to call them in because these are people with a lot of experience of the mountains and know their patch like the backs of their proverbial hands. However in this case they were not asked to help. Instead the police waited for a Territorial Army unit from a base on Angelsey which was much further away; police from other areas were also seen on patrol nearby. Also when it became obvious that no plane had crashed why did the search go on? In fact it went on for several days and the teams moved a long way away from the place the witnesses said the suspected aircraft had come down. Scott says they went to the area he thinks Pat Evans saw the egg-shaped object. Why? What were they looking for? Scott doesn’t know and neither do I, but if you ask the various government agencies and contractors involved in the matter you’ll not find them terribly cooperative. Scott was sent some documentation of the aforementioned Pat Evans' interviews with the British Geological Survey, but it took a long time. Also the code numbers on the documents made Scott think that these releases were heavily retracted and censored. He is convinced that much information is still being withheld. Despite Nick Pope’s assurances that the government is now coming clean about its UFO project and that anything you want to know is available at the National Archives in Kew, this suspicion lingers and I share it (See: Nick is confident that as head of the UFO desk at the MoD if the government had secrets about UFO's then he'd know about it. Personally if I had a "saucer in a hanger" to quote his favorite phrase, then Nick Pope, the public face of British UFOlogy, would be the last man on Earth I'd tell! There are also reports related through Scott of geological specimens from the area going missing; see his website for further details. Scott and Andy have both spent a lot of time in the Llandrillo region and have befriended the local people. However Scott has given himself an advantage over Andy in an important way: he has learned the Welsh language. This might seem like a minor detail to an outsider, after all Welsh-speakers nowadays are all bilingual, they all speak fluent English, so why is this an issue? The answer lies in the very clannish and insolated nature of Welsh-speaking communities; I was born into one of these communities myself and can confirm that. To really gain the witnesses trust I would recommend that every researcher learns Welsh. It’s a language with a strange pronunciation and odd quirks, like mutations, the first letters of words changing according to how you use them; but in truth it’s a logical and regular language that’s not hard to learn. Anybody who coped with French at school will have no trouble with Welsh. If you can pick up the basics then going to a place where it’s spoken, forcing you to use it, will soon make you fluent. (It’s for this reason that my own Welsh is today so rusty! Nobody speaks it in Oxford and I’ve lost touch with my Welsh relatives) There are plenty of books and online courses where you can learn it for free. There have been a handful of mainstream documentaries on the Berwyn Case, like this one by Firefly Productions: Scott and many other researchers consider this programme to be very one-sided, giving excessive bias to the Skeptical explanation. They say that the author gets more than his fair share of airtime on it. In fact it’s even been nicknamed The Andy Roberts Show! I can see what they mean actually. This is hardly surprising though, the TV producers have always had a Skeptical slant; they leave the other extremity to the tabloid newspapers. How better to discredit us!?

I’ve also recently spoken to somebody who has been privately and independently researching the Berwyn Mountains Incident and has made some startling new discoveries. This person plans to publish their discoveries soon, and confided in me on condition that I keep their information to myself until then; I promised I would and intend to keep that promise. When this person goes public I will let you know; see this HPANWO Forum thread: . It could be a few months because they might have to wait till spring to complete their investigations. It’s actually quite dangerous to go wandering in the Berwyns during winter. It’s easy to get lost and it gets very cold and misty there at night. If any HPANWO-readers feel inspired to try it, be careful! (EDIT- April 2012: The person I refer to is Richard D Hall and his findings have been published in a new documentary film. See the HPANWO Forum thread above)

Andy encourages his readers to contact him with enquiries, comments and criticism. He doesn’t have a website, but he openly publishes an email address where he can be reached: . If any HPANWO-readers want to send him rude messages then please include the disclaimer that you didn’t find out his email from HPANWO, even if that’s a lie! I was delighted to see that the editor of the book is Jonathan Downes of the CFZ (See Links column) I’m one of his biggest fans! The CFZ is also the publisher, but they now have a new imprint called Fortean Worlds to cover the books with non-Cryptozoological themes they bring out; I see they’re Nick Redfern’s new publisher too. I’ll probably send Andy a link to this review, but only when my friend publishes his own discoveries. Too often Skeptics dismiss the “I know stuff I can’t talk about yet” line. Mine is not just a line!

The thrust of UFO Down? Is that the Berwyn Mountains Incident probably does not have a supernatural or extraterrestrial explanation. The author presents the subject in a “case closed” kind of tone; this is the last and definitive word on the subject, although he does ask for more information when he gives his email. He also concedes that Pat Evans sighting is not solved. However he doesn’t seem to think that there are any serious loose ends to tie up. I disagree totally; this case is still well-and-truly open! In January 2014 it will be the 40th anniversary of the Incident; who knows what new revelations might come out between now and then!

(Edit November 2013: Richard D Hall's film The Berwyn UFO Cover-Up is now available online for free, see:

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