WHAT DO Bonnybridge, a town outside Edinburgh and Roswell, a town in New Mexico have in common? Think men in black, flashing white lights and little green men. Roswell is home to the most well known alien event ever and its devotees claim Bonnybridge is the world's number one UFO hotspot.
Bonnybridge is in the "Falkirk Triangle", an area from Stirling to Fife and the fringes of Edinburgh that is the scene of numerous UFO sightings. It averages about 300 sightings a year and of the population’s 5,500 people 2,000 of them claim to have seen something unexpected in the night skies.
It all started 1992 when James Walker saw a sparkling star-shaped object hovering above the road. He drove away very fast and since then it’s not stopped.Falkirk Councillor Billy Buchanan brought the story into the national arena, by holding a public meeting to discuss the number of people who were visiting his surgery (political that is, not medical) to complain about things in the night-sky. The public meeting held in 1993 considered the following possibilities:
Bonnybridge was a "thin place" where this world is very close to another dimension or world. (a theory put forward by a UFO lecturer Malcolm Robinson)
"Zal-us" and the "Council of Nine" had an important message to give the world, and their chosen route was through Falkirk Town Council.
The Ministry of Defence was testing a top-secret weapon.
Alcohol might be playing an important role in the sightings.
There really was something outlandish going on.
There really was money to be made by pretending there was something outlandish going on.
Councillor Buchanan has made it his life's work to find out what is in the sky above his hometown. He has begged the MoD to visit and track the phenomena. He has written to Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair. He has logged every sighting and compiled every photo ever taken. Meanwhile he is engaged in a precarious balancing act as he tries to remain logical, while taking into account the stories he has heard, and the potential for his town as it gains worldwide recognition.
"How do we know aliens aren’t walking about?" he asks. "How do you define an alien anyway? And when people say to me why Bonnybridge? I say, Why Bethlehem? I have no doubt that Bonnybridge is part of something exciting."
Cynicism aside, there have been some pretty strange things happening in Bonnybridge. In October 1994 three cleaners on their way to work said they saw five UFOs. When they got to work they told their manager what had happened. To his surprise a number of employees then came forward to confirm that they too had seen flashing lights and strange orange orbs glowing in the vicinity for the past week.
Then there's the strange case of Bob Taylor, a forestry worker whose brush with outer space led to a criminal enquiry. Twenty-five years ago Mr Taylor was working at Dechmont Law, a hill near Livingston. As he walked into a large clearing he saw a circular object. Two more spheres dropped out of the larger object and started rolling towards him. At that point he lost consciousness. When he woke up twenty minutes later he felt terrible. The police, who investigated the incident, found strange marks in the ground at the crime scene. They expressed themselves "completely baffled" by the incident, which they treated as assault.
That something as yet unexplained is happening in the Bonnybridge area has support from an unusual quarter. Nick Pope, who ran the UFO desk at the MoD between 1991 and 1994, told The Scotsman that it couldn't all be ignored.
"About 95 per cent or the reports are just misidentifications. But there’s around 5 per cent which are sightings by police officers, military personnel and civil pilots, that you cannot knock down."