In Depth

UFO files: CIA unveils reports of flying saucers in Sheffield

US intelligence agency has rounded up some cases that Mulder and Scully might enjoy

The CIA has released a dump of files relating to UFOs on its website, saying it believes they might be of interest to fictional agents Mulder and Scully.

The cases were once secret but have been declassified since 1978. This is the first time the agency has placed them online and the release coincides with a new series of the conspiracy-theory TV show The X-Files.

Most of the documents relate to alleged sightings in the 1940s and 1950s, when UFO-fever first peaked.

The agency highlights a few documents it believes both sceptics and believers will find interesting. "You will find five documents we think X-Files character Agent Fox Mulder would love to use to try and persuade others of the existence of extra-terrestrial activity," it says in a statement.

"We also pulled five documents we think his sceptical partner, Agent Dana Scully, could use to prove there is a scientific explanation for UFO sightings."These are a few of the newly available files:

The Barcelona smoker One case from 1952 describes a "smoke-trailing object over Barcelona" in Spain. A witness saw a "strange object flying at high speed from the direction of Prat Airport, about 2,000 metres [1.2 miles] above ground, and leaving a wide smoke trail". Barcelona's two airports apparently denied all knowledge of the "rocket-shaped" craft.

Sheffield's flying saucer troop A photograph allegedly shows a host of flying saucers passing over Sheffield in England, in March 1952. The grainy black-and-white image is "terrifying", according to Metro, though it could equally be described as "unconvincing".

The New Jersey loner While UFOs seemed to travel in packs over South Yorkshire in the 1950s, one photograph taken in July 1952, over New Jersey in the US, shows a perfect example of one flying solo. The suspiciously well-captured saucer was supposedly recorded by a member of the public passing over Passoria.

The "it's all nonsense" report An "overall evaluation of 'flying saucers' and associated reports", also made in 1952, makes disappointing reading for UFO believers. It says most of the 1-2,000 reports the agency had catalogued were either "phoney" or could be explained as "known flights" of "aircraft, weather balloons, etc". Only about 100 reports at the time could not be explained – and this was probably down to incomplete information.

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