The flying saucer shortage
In the Guardian:
It may only be a small, translucent green gleam on the horizon, but there are signs of a crisis in UFO-spotting. Chris Parr, coordinator of the Cumbrian branch of the British UFO Hunters, sent a shiver through the hearts of ufologists with his announcement this week that his group may be forced to wind up. There don't seem to be any UFOs in Cumbria any more.David Clarke thinks the rise and fall of ufology is a rich subject for study and is currently trying to attract funds for just such an undertaking. "I see it as part of modern folklore," he says. "UFOs are like modern-day angels, and descriptions of meeting aliens are just like descriptions of people meeting angels in the Middle Ages."
Or maybe there just aren't any spotters. Parr's statement seemed to leave both possibilities open. "In Cumbria we have gone from 60 UFO sightings in 2003 to 40 in 2004 and none at all this year. It means that the number of people keeping their eyes on the skies is greatly diminished. We are a dying breed in this part of the country. I put it down to the end of The X Files, a lack of military exercises in the area that would produce UFO sightings, and a lack of strange phenomena." A lack of strange phenomena or a shortage of strange people? Take your pick.
It has not been a happy couple of years for ufology. The closure last year of UFO magazine, following the sudden death of its editor Graham Birdsall, was a disaster for the close-knit UFO-spotting community...
Parr's statement echoes those of UFO groups in Indiana and New Jersey, where ufologists are also having a long, dark night of the soul. Meanwhile, a leading Scandinavian ufologist has suggested that "maybe people are just fed up with the UFO hysteria". The sceptics reckon they have enough evidence to pronounce ufology dead.
"The whole UFO thing is a kind of meme," says Susan Blackmore, a psychologist who studies paranormal activity. "It's a craze, a bit like sudoku. UFOs were just a rather long-lived version. But crazes thrive on novelty, and eventually that dies out. It's taken a long time, but it's good that the UFO era is over. My prediction is that it will go away for a long time and then come back."