Mark Pilkington’s 2010 book Mirage Men is one of the more credible takes I’ve read on the topic of unidentified flying objects. Pilkington alleges that many of the stories we’ve heard about alien visitors and flying saucers are part of a deliberate campaign of disinformation created by intelligence agencies to cover up secret military technology and clandestine operations. These “mirage men” have manipulated some UFO believers to the point of madness and beyond through the use of fabricated “evidence” and psychological warfare techniques, all in the name of national security.
Pilkington, along with directors John Lundberg, Roland Denning, and Kypros Kyprianou, just released a documentary based on the book. Also titled Mirage Men, the film expands on the premise of the book and feature interviews with some of the mirage men and their victims. It’s now available to rent online courtesy of Perception Management Productions, Random Media, and Yekra.
I just finished a short interview with Mark Pilkington about the film and why viewers should believe anything a group of self-professed disinformation artists and liars have to say.
The premise – as I understand it – behind Mirage Men is that the United States and Soviet Union have used UFO believers and supposed contactees as a smoke screen for real military experiments. Does this preclude the existence of “real” UFOs or extraterrestrials?
There’s no question that people do see UFOs – strange objects and lights in the sky – and that some of them have anomalous experiences in connection with these events, but I’m not persuaded that any of the evidence from the UFO lore points to extraterrestrial visitation. The Mirage Men hypothesis certainly doesn’t exclude ETs as a possibility, however I don’t believe that any government is hiding such knowledge from the rest of the world. Like many astronomers and astrobiologists, I do think that there is life elsewhere in the universe(s) and that some of it may be technologically advanced. I subscribe to the late Christian De Duve’s notion that “life is a cosmic imperative”. It will find a way, but is it visiting us in interstellar craft? I don’t believe so, and I don’t think the many and various UFO phenomena are the right place to be looking for them. Might UFO phenomena represent an intelligence of another kind, something stranger and more subtle? Certainly, but that’s another story…
I was wondering what kind of blowback (if any) you’ve faced from the UFO community? People sometimes don’t react well to the idea that they might have been made fools of, especially when they’re already suspicious of the government.
Responses have been predictably mixed – I’ve spoken about Mirage Men at numerous UFO meetings and conferences in the UK and I’d say the majority of people have been fascinated and even relieved to be presented with this perspective on the subject, which while not new in itself (Leon Davidson was saying just such a thing in the 1950s), doesn’t get discussed all too often. Naturally some people have been upset, but the key thing for us with the film, and for me with the book, was that the UFO community, and their beliefs, which I think are no less plausible than most other religious or spiritual systems, are treated with utmost understanding and respect. After all, I myself was deeply immersed in the UFO culture for many years, so I understand that feeling of excitement and hope looking up at the stars – I still feel it to be honest. I haven’t discussed the material to UFO groups in the US however, and this is something I’d love to do, and I’d be fascinated to hear how they respond to the material.
Were you disappointed when what you learned led you to an Earthly origin for supposed extraterrestrial activity? Had you hoped to find something else?
Perhaps! We all dream of stumbling upon the ultimate truth in a hangar somewhere, or in an old photostat document, but I just don’t think it’s out there. I do however hope that one day we’ll find, or meet, the ‘smoking gun’ (or ‘smoking man’!) that clarifies and exposes some of the Mirage Men’s operations. It was routine for CIA, NSA and other intel groups to destroy sensitive documentation after an operation, and mountains of paperwork were destroyed before the Church Commission got their hands on it in the 1970s, so it’s possible we may never even see documentary evdidence of the Mirage Men’s activities.The 1950 RAND document about the use of superstitions in psychological warfare, and the recent Snowden-leaked powerpoint ‘The Art of Deception’ are pretty much as close as we have to that at the moment.
How did you get a guy like Richard Doty to come on camera?
We just asked! John and I actually never expected to interview Doty, so when he agree to go on camera we couldn’t believe our luck. We flew out to Nevada in 2006 to meet him at the Laughlin UFO conference and spent a week with him there, so he’s now really the central pivot of the film. We were disappointed that William Moore wouldn’t speak to us, which surprised us, but I’m sure he has his reasons. Naturally we’d like to have spoken to some of Doty’s superiors and colleagues, and we did try to contact them, but they weren’t happy to hear from us. It was great to get Walter Bosely on screen though, a fascinating guy.
I can anticipate that many UFO enthusiasts will want to know why they should believe people who are admitted liars and disinformation artists. What would you answer to that?
I presume you’re referring to John and my work making crop circles here. To call us liars is rather unfair – neither of us has lied about anything related to that subject, we even published a book explaining the history and techniques of circlemaking, called The Field Guide! It has always been a rule amongst the circlemakers not to admit to specific formations, but that’s very different from lying. As for disinformation artists – we never made any claims about the formations, other people, the researchers and experts did that! When circlemakers like Doug Bower, Dave Chorley, Rod Dickinson, John and many others explained that they’d been making the formations, nobody wanted to believe them. They were the information artists, not the disinformation artists! But yes, there is an artistry to disinformation – just read Ellic Howe’s wonderful account of his work for the British Political Warfare Executive during WWII, to gain an insight into that. Are the Mirage Men artists? Yes I’d say so.
I’m sorry, That wasn’t very clear. I was referring to Mr. Doty.
Mirage Men co-director Roland Denning: If I may butt in here – I read the liar question that way and it is a very good question – in fact, it was one of the enigmas that attracted me to the project – the conundrum of the self-confessed liar. If he was lying then, why should you believe anything he says now? But if you don’t believea nything he’s said there’s no story to discuss and we might as well all go home.
There are points in the interview where Doty appears noticeably shifty, but when he comes to his take on the ‘core story’ his testimony appears remarkably heart-felt. If this is a performance, his acting skills are impressive.
A crucial part of the Doty enigma is that he presents himself as both cynic and believer. Despite encouraging and circulating fallacious stories of UFO and alien encounters, not only does he believe Roswell was a genuine ET crash, he tells us, with credible insistence, he witnessed film of a live alien during his training. Does that film exist? Did Doty actually see it? Did he really believe it? If so, was he himself victim of a disinformation campaign so better to disinform others? Or was Doty being tested? And, if so, did he pass or fail?
Having watched the full Doty interview probably hundreds of times I’ve come no nearer to answering these questions but that, to me, is part of the fascination of the mirage men.
Finally, in the same vein, how can viewers trust that the film isn’t part of a psychological operation to discredit UFOlogists?
Well I don’t think the film discredits UFOlogists at all, I think it’s very sympathetic to the cause, even if the conclusions it presents are quite different. I’m more inclined to believe that a film like ‘Sirius’, ‘Out of the Blue’ or ‘I Know What I Saw’ is feeding into the Mirage Men’s psychological game, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?