Of Many ‘Things’
Paul Hopkins

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 3, number 4, September 1970


It is now [September 1970] almost six years since the “Thing” came to Warminster. Not forgetting that, as the Daily Mirror once put it, ‘It Started on Xmas Morning’, papers in general had a field day and were for a while seemingly full of such gems as – ‘It’s the “Thing” from Space’, ‘The Thing Probe’ and ‘What shall we do about the Thing?’ Then alas, ‘That THING appears again’, (Daily Mirror, 11/9/65) or as the Express said, ‘The Thing Pops Back Again’. Mind you a little over a month previously the Daily Mirror had reported that the Thing had returned to a town of fear, and with the recent report in FSR (Vol.16, No .4, pp.4-7) it seems that the ‘Thing’ really never left.

With the colossal amount of both sense and rubbish printed in papers and UFO magazines on the subject of Warminster, it is almost needless to say that the area has become almost a shrine to the hardened believer of the space brother cult; to the sceptic an area of interest, and to the scientifically minded researcher an area in which there are still a great many questions unanswered and consequently a lot of scope for experiment and level headed observation.

It is I believe pertinent that in spite of almost six years of alleged activity in the area, the serious UF0 investigator is seemingly no nearer the truth as to the exact nature of the manifestations in the skies above Warminster despite its persistent nature, but then, is this not a characteristic of UFO research ever since the UFO aroused keen interest in the post war years?

Considering the brain power involved in attempting to solve the mystery over a good twenty-five years we are still very much at the starting post. Perhaps the reason why many UFO groups fold up, is that once the novelty has worn off and the frustration of inactivity sets in, the social activities of the group are too weak to hold the group together for any appreciable time or purpose. Surely this process of group fragmentation could be avoided if groups would only take on a subsidiary interest. A project of some nature to keep the group the tight knit, hard working communty it ought to be. Consider the variety of talents and skills to be found in many groups where the members are drawn from all walks of life. There is I believe through this fact, a great potential for inventiveness that could be harnessed not only for the paper work, but also for the construction of scientific equipment of an analytical nature.

It is, I believe, futile to attempt the investigation of phenomena as complex as that occurring at Warminster armed only with a note pad, a pair of low power and often cheap binoculars and perhaps a camera. About all such equipment is liable to achieve is a riotous evening as the antics of the local cretins are related in some smoke-filled bar, or meeting hall. The aim of all good UFO researchers should be good and sound scientific methods by which they should strive to add to the advancement of science, rather than to attempt to knock orthodoxy for six as so often happens with disastrous results and subsequent ridicule by great minds who have based their knowledge on the foundations of past scientific experience.

The derivation of scientific knowledge evolves from old facts and fallacies, experimentateon, observation and consistent results and the subsequent remodelling of existing ideas. Of course genius, flashes of insight and chance play their role, but there is no shortcut to any scientific knowledge or achievement to be found by disregarding present day science as a load of bumbledom to be replaced by some new science, as some of the ‘space brother’ pundits would have us believe. Luckily, the enlightened investigator no longer sees every mysterious crater as being derived through the effects of some equally mysterious alien space creature landing on our planet, but realises that there are other possible natural and artificial causes to be investigated before jumping on the bandwagon of sensationalism, Alan Sharp has shownn in previous writings how such craters can be formed through a variety of agencies: lighting, water, meteorites, or even fencing posts.

Perhaps one of the most recent fields of investigation regarding UFO explanations is that of ionisation which may it is now realised, manifest itself in a variely of forms, and with a variety of effects. The type of ionised air that the UF0 investigator should be most concerned with is highly ionised, that is where the electrons surrounding the atoms of the gas in question are stripped off, the gas becomes neutrally charged and, as far as conduction is concerned, the gas which under normal circulstinces is insulating acts rather like a metal, being able to pass a high current. When the charges (positive ions and negative electrons) within the gas are in equilibrium, then the plasma, as it is called, becomes relatively stable, and thus may persist for some time. Such plasmas may be produced artificially – accidentally, as in the case of overrated high tension power lines – and also by natural agencies.

According to our present day knowledge, the most common occurrence of this phenomenon is through the action of lightning. Considering that a typical lightning discharge from a cumulonimbus cell releases nearly 100 million volts over a path of around two miles long, and passes a current of 250,000 amps, the temperature along the path of the discharge may reach a peak of 30,00O degrees celcius, roughly five times the temperature of the surface of the sun. Under such conditions it is hardly surprising that plasma may form, Luckily the conditions for stable plasmas to form are very stringent since the strike must ionise a packet of air differing slightly from the surrounding air by virtue of some degree of contamination as well a other parameters such as local magnettic and electric field strengths. The degree of contamination can be satisfied by a number of agencies such as methane, ammonia, or even fine dust particles, thus very few lightning discharges result in plasua formation, otherwise each thunderstorm would really be like an aerial bombardment with fiery balls exploding left, right and centre.

A plasma once formed becomes subject to the changing magnetic and electric fields around itself and will thus move accordingly. Donald J. Ritchie, who has made an extensive study of ball lightning (plasma formed through the agency of lightning) observations, concludes that there are probably two main types. The first is a diffuse red ball that fades slowly without doing any apparent harm, and the second is a bright, bluish-white ball that decays rapidly with a loud report, often causing, severe damage to surrounding objects through burning and blasting. The average size for such lightning balls is one foot in diameter, though they may range from one inch to as large as 40 feet. Their form is by no means confined to spheres, but may take on a variety of curved forms amongst which are saucer, dumbell and cigar-shaped bodies. The duration of such lightning balls is between a few seconds to three minutes on average, though lifespans far in excess of these figures have been observed.

Work also done on the subject of plasmas by Drs M. A. Uman and C. A. Helstrom. who aided by a computer constructed mathematical model that could predict the properties of ball lightning, showed that the temperatures within a ball are of the order of 60-100% of that of the sun’s surface, so it is not surprising that an eight inch diameter ball with a 5,000°C centre would glow as bright as a one kilowatt bulb, and would indeed be a veritable headlamp in the sky at night.

Thus the theoretical latent energy of a plasma ball is quite high, and in practicee this certainly seems to be the case from numerous observations of then phenomenon, as well as the odd unfortunate human contact. The movement of such balls often leads the casual observer to assume that they are under some form of remote control: remember reports of the form and antics of the foo-fighters of WWII. Plasma balls have been observed rolling down roofs, along gutters, rising over hedges, passing through houses and even entering moving aircraft.

Another peculiarity of some plasmas is the ability to generate noise. Witnesses may describe it as a buzzing, whirring, hissing, or even humming, though the exact mechanism for such noise production is not yet clear. It is also interesting to note that, some fireballs (meteors) make similar noises. Such noises are also
attributed to flying saucers,.

There is some evidence that plasma balls may be capable of travelling some considerable distance away from the vicinity of the storm, and as far as natural production of these events is conerned, a thunderstorm is possibly not the only agency that can produce them. Some plasmas may be formed at extreme heights in the atmosphere and further research is required into their production before all natural mechanisms are accounted for. What is known for sure is that plasma balls do periodically turn up in strange places without an apparent cause. So don’t get too near that landed flying saucer – it may well fry you in your own fat!

To me it is little surprising that strange objects should be persistently sighted over Warminstor considering the number of skywatchers and nuts concentrated into such a small area by virtue of the tradition of the place which, you may well remember, ‘started one Xmas morning’. For I have one simple recipe for anyone wishing to see some strange aerial phenomenal that is, to sleep during the day and watch by night. If by the end of the first week you see nothing, try again the next week, and again and again. This method works for me and I have seen numerous satellites, even more meteors, a few plasma balls pretending to be flying saucers, and some objects that remain unidentified by all known artificial and natural processes.

I will admit to the strong possibility of alien intelligences observing us by some unknown process of their super-advanced science, but I must object strongly when one reads as I did recently such fuss over a small light moving in the sky, and photographs of the offending luminescence taken under atrocious conditions. So next time you encounter a strange light buzzing your car, or zig-zagging across the sky, is it not better to say – it isn’t a planet, star, or plasma, etc. therefore it is unidentified, rather than it is a UFO because it isn’t lightning, will o’ the wisp, etc. After all, are there not more ‘Things’ in heaven and earth than are dreamt in your philosophy of flying saucers, O space brothers?



  • HAEREDEL, G. & LUST, R. Artificial Plasma Clouds in Space, Scentific American 219,  5.
  • KALSS, P.J. ‘UFOs Identified’, Science Journal, April 1967, p25.
  • MICHAELIS, E.I. ‘Thunderstorms’, Practical Electronics, 2, 10.
  • New Scientist. UFOs and Plasma, 31, 453.
  • SMITH, ALLEN B. Lightning, Plasma and Balls of Fire, Radio Electronics, April 1967.
  • NEWTON, H. W. The Face of the Sun, Pelican Books (p 17 ).
  • ROMIG, M.F. & LAMAR, D. R.M., 3724. ARPA. Rand Corp.
  • GAMOW, GEORGE. A Star Called the Sun, Pelican Books, (pp.103-107)
  • Flying Saucer Review, 16, 49, pp.4-7

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