Sun, Feb 15, 2004 - Page 18 News List

In search of other-worldly truths

Whether it's UFOs or lost underwater cities, Taiwan's fringe scientific societies hope to make monkeys out of their doubters over the coming year and prove once and for all that the truth is really out here

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chief investigator for the Taiwan Ufology Society Ho Hsien-jung holds copies of his latest book, in which he has recorded UFO sightings in Taiwan and China for the first time.

PHOTO: GAVIN PHIPPS, TAIPEI TIMES

At 5:30pm on Jan 4, 2004, Taipei's Steven Lai (賴明宏) was standing with his camcorder near the Shin Kong Tower (新光大樓) when he caught sight of a triangular object in the skies above him. Making use of his top of the line digital recorder Lai filmed what he believed to be a UFO circling the skies above Taipei.

Lai sent his footage to the Taiwan Ufology Society (TUFOS, 台灣飛碟學會) -- previously known as the Taiwan Unidentified Flying Objects Association (台灣飛碟學研究會) -- for confirmation as to whether or not he was witness to a UFO sighting. He hadn't. According to experts, the clumsy and slightly out of focus footage, which shows a triangular entity with red and green markings in flight, is a man made object.

"We studied it for some time, but the object was too close to the buildings to have been a UFO," said TUFOS President James Huang (黃朝明). "We reckon that what he saw was probably a plastic bag or some other small man made object that had been picked up by the wind and was blowing through the air."

While Lai's footage wasn't this year's first Taiwan UFO sighting, hundreds of people still trawl the skies with high-powered telescopes daily hoping to catch a glimpse of the unexplained. They send their reports, whether credible or not, to TUFOS. Now boasting 500 members, the group is the nation's sole Ufology society and is a sorting house for dozens of reports that come in annually regarding UFO sightings in Taiwan.

Since Taiwan's first officially recorded sighting of a UFO by Tsai Chang-hsien (蔡章獻) on March 5, 1956, there have been upward of 54 feasible sightings and countless false sightings of unidentified flying objects cruising the skies above Taiwan. All these reports have landed on the desk of Ho Hsien-jung (何顯榮), TUFOS' chief investigator.

Affectionately known as "Ufo Ho" to his friends and colleges, the articulate Ufologist spent months wading through pages of reports filed by Taiwanese citizens over the years. Realizing the information his organization had gathered was wasted sitting in his computer, Ho decided to publish a complete record of Taiwan's UFO sightings.

"There's certainly no shortage of books touching on UFO sightings, but there was nothing specific to Taiwan," he said. "No one had ever set out to catalog the nation's UFO sightings and publish all the written and photographic evidence in a single publication before."

It took Ho almost a year to sift through information and contact and re-interview the people who had reported the sightings, to ensure there were no discrepancies. Entitled On the Trail of UFO Sightings (UFO目擊大追蹤) the book, which was released last week, details 54 of the most important UFO sightings ever to have been reported in Taiwan, as well as the countless sightings TUFOS had been informed of in China.

The results of Ho's book point to a drop in UFO sightings in Taiwan in recent years, with only two recorded incidents taking place last year, and an increase in the number of sightings on the opposite side of the Taiwan Strait.

"Obviously there are more people in China than anywhere else, so I'm not surprised at the increase in sightings there. The recent drop in UFO sightings can be put down to several things," he said. "There are now more diseases than ever before, and anything landing here would be susceptible to falling victim to them. And secondly, I think the military use of lasers means that fewer extra-terrestrials now dare to enter the Earth's atmosphere in case they are shot down."

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