An Interview with
Nick Redfern is one of the world’s leading authorities on UFOs. He
is the author of many important books, including Covert
Agenda, Cosmic Crashes, Strange Secrets (written with
colleague Andy Roberts), and Three Men Seeking Monsters, about
his real-life six-week monster-hunting adventure. Nick is in wide demand as a lecturer and has appeared on many TV shows. He also writes numerous articles for UFO and paranormal magazines and
websites and runs the US office of the Center for Fortean Zoology.
He currently lives in Texas with his wife, Dana.
His new book, On The Trail of the Saucer Spies, published by
Anomalist Books, documents decades of clandestine UFO interest on
behalf of the U.S. and British governments. Nick also discusses how
these agencies, including the CIA, NSA and British Ministry of
Defense, have been spying on citizens in UFO groups and on UFO
witnesses since 1947. It’s a chilling book, incredibly well-
researched with a lot of material being exposed to the public for
the first time, including some on-the-record interviews with inside
Interviewer Marie D. Jones: Nick, this is a fascinating, yet scary book. In this day of Homeland
Security and governments spying on citizens and wiretapping of peace
groups, it seems as though no one is immune from the eye of Big
Brother. You yourself were under surveillance. Can you briefly tell
us why your own research attracted this kind of attention, and how
you felt about being under the microscope of a powerful government
Nick Redfern: Well, basically, what happened was that in the mid to late 1990s a number of people within British Ufology, such as me and Matthew Williams, were being watched by Special Branch - which is an arm of the British Police Force. Much of this was related to our interests in the clandestine UFO research of a military base in England called Royal Air Force Rudloe Manor, and also activities at a place called Porton Down. It transpired that Special Branch got it into its head that a number of us engaged in UFO research were using our research as a "cover" for trying to uncover military secrets of a non-UFO nature. This was complete rubbish, of course. UFOs are all that we were after. But this didn't stop the Government incorrectly tarring us with the wrong brush. How do I feel about it? Aside from the fact that they got it wrong, I couldn't care less. No-one should be intimidated or worried by prying Government agencies. Always stand your ground. I feel that UFOs are a legitimate area of research; and if the Government says that UFOs don't affect national security, then there's no harm digging into the subject. Plus I have no love of authority figures or being told what to do, so I'm not a fan of all this surveillance at all. My wife gets a bit concerned by it all at times, though!
Most people, before reading your book, think that our government (in
this case, the U.S.) either knows exactly what is going on, and wants
to keep the public from finding out too much; or that our government
is just as much in the dark as we are, and spies on UFO groups and
witnesses to try to learn the truth. Yet your book gets into some
very strange in-between areas suggesting that government agencies had
an even deeper agenda. Can you comment?
Yes, there was a deeper agenda. On both sides of the Atlantic I found evidence time and again dating back to the 1940s that government, military and intelligence agencies were paranoid that a number of UFO researchers had been hired by overseas intelligence agencies to uncover defense secrets - such as the Russians. I never found any evidence at all of this actually being proven that any UFO researchers were engaged in this way. But the agencies feared this for years. Maybe they still do.
One of the most intriguing things you discovered is that some UFO
groups were being used as a front for recruiting members into fascist
groups. This really shocked me! Can you touch on this briefly?
Yes, in the UK in particular far-right-wing groups have tried to infiltrate UFO research groups, to target members of those groups and then try and lure them into undertaking work for clandestine fascist organizations. The whole point was to recruit from within a subject like Ufology so that it would - hopefully from the perspective of the fascist groups - go unnoticed by elements of British intelligence that were trying to determine their recruitment methods. I now know the names of many of the government people in the UK that were engaged in monitoring this process and will probably write a paper on it in the near future.
In your opinion, is there ever a situation where you believe UFO
research might cross the line between honest investigation and
breaching national security? Do you think governments are ever
justified in spying on UFO groups or individual researchers who may
be close to stumbling upon security secrets?
The governments of both the UK and the US state firmly that UFOs have no bearing on national security, so there is no problem with investigating the subject to try and determine the answers, as far as I can see. If the Government says that UFOs present no harm to us, then they can hardly complain if we investigate them. Do I think that Government agencies are justified in spying on researchers? No I don't, if the person is just looking for answers to what UFOs are. Too many people today are frightened to say anything about anything! Freedom of speech needs to be upheld. Now, if someone was using their UFO research as a cover for trying to uncover Government secrets of a non-UFO nature - as agencies did think particularly in the 50s and the 90s - then they will of course investigate UFO researchers. But, as I mentioned above, such allegations have never been proven. But it always needs to be remembered that all government agencies say that UFOs have no bearing on national security or defense. If true, they shouldn’t be watching us. But they are watching us. They want to have it both ways - which is sadly typical of most governments. But we should keep asking questions of our governments - on all issues.
You were approached by an insider named the Sandman, who offered you
some very interesting information about the covert agenda behind
government surveillance of UFO groups and witnesses. When a
researcher such as yourself is approached by an “insider,” how do
you determine what is truth and what is disinformation?
That's the biggest problem with whistleblowers: trying to determine if they are legitimate or if they are trying to lead us away from the real story and down another path. Frankly, I don't like working with whistleblowers, but with a subject like UFOs that's one of the hazards. All we can do is listen to what they say, follow the story, investigate it and then try and weigh the evidence for or against - and then tell people, so others can then follow up on it too.
On a personal note, at what point in your life did you realize this
was your chosen career? Was there a seminal moment when you looked in
the mirror and said “I am going to devote the rest of my life to
pursuing the truth about UFOs and other paranormal mysteries?” Or
did it kind of sneak up on you?
Well, after school I worked on a music, fashion and entertainment magazine called Zero. This was when I was a teenager still and I already had an interest in things like UFOs, crypto-zoology, etc. Plus I hate the slave state mentality and the world of 9 to 5. Plus I hate wearing suits and ties and so there was really no choice for me to try and do something on my own terms and not be dictated to by the 9 to 5 world. Really, writing about mysteries is all I can do - or want to do work-wise.
Is the UFO enigma more or less exciting to you now that you know so
much and have been actively involved in it for many years? If it were
all solved tomorrow, what great mystery would you feel driven to
I find most of the things about the UFO subject that interest and excite me today are the older cases that are being re-examined. I think it's in the past - the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s - that most of the really good cases happened and where we will find the answers. And so that's what interests me most as far as UFOs are concerned. If the subject was solved overnight, that would be great, as we would finally know. And yes, having interests in lots of areas of the paranormal, I would move more into one of those. I'm particularly interested in cryptozoology and run the US office of the British Center for Fortean Zoology. I'm also very interested in the work of Terence McKenna, Rick Strassman, Jack Parsons and Greg Bishop - where I think the answers to a multitude of mysteries will eventually be found.
Now that you are living in the U.S., do you miss the rich paranormal
mysteries of England or do you find there is enough mystery in the
States to keep you busy for years to come?
There are loads of things to investigate in the US and, in fact, I have just finished writing a book on my first 5 years of being in the US - kind of a paranormal road-trip. I also get back to the UK quite a bit. My wife and me were over there for 4 months this summer and had a good time traveling around and investigating some weird stuff.
What do you hope to most convey to your readers with a book like On
The Trail of the Saucer Spies?
That government agencies do spy on UFO researchers with alarming regularity; but that usually it's all for reasons that aren't even directly related to UFOs themselves. And that usually the relevant agencies were way off mark with the reasons for the surveillance. But equally, the book tells a fascinating story of how mail interception, phone-tapping, personal interviews and clandestine surveillance of numerous people in ufology has been undertaken for more than half a century.
Can you share a bit about your next project, or is that classified
Yeah, sure. I do quite a bit of non-UFO stuff. This year, I wrote the forewords to Lisa Shiel's Backyard Bigfoot book and to Linda Godfrey's study of werewolves: Hunting the American Werewolf. I also contributed a chapter to Anomalist Books' publication, The Universe Wants to Play. The Center for Fortean Zoology will be publishing a book on cryptozoology from me in 2007. Also in 2007 - in February - I have a new book published titled Celebrity Secrets that is a study of government surveillance files on Hollywood stars. There is some major scandal in there! I have lots of plans for other, future books. But, interestingly enough, none of them are on UFOs. I don't think I'd say to you I'll never write another UFO book but I've done five on UFOs and three non-UFO books, and have no plans for other UFO books. I will always write and research UFOs for magazine articles, web articles, and lecture, etc. But for book-length projects I have lots of other interests beyond just UFOs; so it may be a long time indeed before there is another book from me that is strictly devoted to UFOs. Plus, I have a low boredom threshold and prefer to do a lot of smaller projects rather than one big project per year.
Contributing reviewer Marie D. Jones is the author of PSIence: How New Discoveries In Quantum Physics and New Science May Explain the Existence of Paranormal Phenomena, New Page Books, 2006. She interviewed Nick Redfern, author of On the Trail of the Saucer Spies: UFOs & Government Surveillance (see accompanying review), about his book for curledup.com. No part may be reproduced without permission. Marie D. Jones/2006.