Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Swamp gas from a weather balloon

"All right, Beatrice, there was no alien. The flash of light you saw in the sky was not a UFO. Swamp gas from a weather balloon was trapped in a thermal pocket and reflected the light from Venus." - Men in Black.
An odd story came my way today, repeated with permission. Felix Grant tells me of unusual goings-on in Weston-super-Mare: a relative's child had phoned Felix at work to say that his younger sibling had been sent home from school, and the school closed, because a UFO had landed in the school field. "Black bugs had come out and were laying eggs and stuff; there were men in white suits everywhere." The children's mother had phoned the school, and took an hour to get through. When she eventually reached the head, he said the lines had been jammed by newspapers, TV stations, et al, calling the school for the story.

This was as far as Felix knew it. No signs in the local press. But I checked a little later and found in the Weston & Somerset Mercury this account: UFO sighting in Rowle:

A UFO was spotted high above Worle at the weekend.

Aliens were spotted running the grounds of Castle Batch Primary School in Rawlings Avenue.

Police, scientists in white protective suits and the press turned up to the site on Monday morning to see the area where a flying saucer had 'crash landed'.

The mock-up was all part of an exercise, organised by teacher Kate Gill, to get the youngsters at the school enthusiastic about writing.

Pupils were shown computer-generated images in assembly of a flying saucer above the school and a silver alien running through the grounds. The 450 youngsters then had to write about their experiences.

To a conspiracy theorist, this would be wonderful fodder: "a writing exercise" seems such a lame explanation that it sounds like a cover story. However, more likely, this has the look of accidental meme creation: an exercise in fiction that managed to escape from its intended confines.

The newspaper report is rather inexplicit about which bits were mock-up. Involving police, press and people in white suits sounds an implausibly elaborate and expensive way to float a topic for a primary school essay. Were these people part of the mock-up, or were they real-world services that turned up in response to children propagating a story that had become too effective a meme?

As I said, very odd. More later, if possible.