It has long been debated whether UFO sightings are just a figment of the imagination or really happen.
But scrutiny of the latest X-files released by the Ministry of Defence suggests an association between what people think they might have seen and what they were actually seeing – on television or at the cinema.
From aliens with lemon-shaped heads to laser beams being shot to Earth, the MoD and The National Archives have released details of sightings from 1981 to 1996.
But many of the UFO reports in this tranche were filed in 1996, the year in which the television show The X-Files was growing in popularity and Hollywood blockbuster Independence Day was released.
Experts believe this goes some way to explaining a spike in UFO sightings – from 117 in 1995 to 609 in 1996, according to MoD statistics.
Dr David Clarke, a UFO expert and journalism lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, said: "It’s evident there is some connection between newspaper stories, TV programmes and films about alien visitors and the numbers of UFO sightings reported to the MoD.
"Aside from 1996, one of the busiest years for UFO sightings reported to the MoD over the past half century was 1978 – the year Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released.
"Obviously, films and TV programmes raise public awareness of UFOs and it’s fascinating to see how that appears to lead more people to report what they see to the authorities."
However, the staggering number of reports released could leave even some sceptics wondering if we are not alone anymore.
UFO sightings have brought notoriety for the town of Bonnybridge near Falkirk.
The newly-released documents refer to numerous sightings over Scotland, and Bonnybridge became the UFO hotspot of the mid-90s.
But up and down the country there have been more notable encounters including that of two young boys in Staffordshire claiming one alien told them: "We want you, come with us," after appearing from under a hovering UFO.
The boys, faces glowing from the heat of the "spaceship", ran for their lives and reported the incident to police.
It is just one of countless mysterious reports released as part of a three-year project between the MoD and The National Archives, aimed at opening up the records to a worldwide audience.
This fourth instalment consists of 14 files of sightings, letters and parliamentary questions.
Bonnybridge’s notoriety as a UFO hotspot started in 1992 when James Walker saw a sparkling star-shaped object hovering above the road.
The area, which is now dubbed The Falkirk Triangle, draws large numbers of alien spotters every year. Tourist officials claim Scotland has the highest concentration of reported sightings of UFOs of any country.
The Falkirk Triangle has an average of 300 sightings a year and of the 7000 residents of Bonnybridge, 2000 claim to have seen unexplained phenomena.
The records feature papers relating to the famous "Rendlesham Forest" sightings, often described as "Britain’s Roswell".
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