Last month, after two years of hard work, “Encounter in Rendlesham Forest” was published. Co-written with the two ex-US Air Force witnesses at the heart of the Rendlesham Forest incident, John Burroughs and Jim Penniston, this new book tells the story of the UFO encounter that is increasingly being seen as bigger and more compelling than Roswell, and is often now regarded as ufology’s ‘flagship case’, not just by ufologists, but by TV networks and production companies, who have featured the case in at least half a dozen new documentaries in the last year, with more in the pipeline.

Now that our book has been published, I can finally reveal a few facts that could not have been disclosed previously. The first is that this is the only UFO book ever to have required security clearance from both the American and the British governments. This was because of my previous service with the Ministry of Defence, and the fact that John Burroughs and Jim Penniston both served with the United States Air Force. While all three of us have now left government/military service, our respective security oaths bind us for life. This, together with the extreme sensitivity of some of the information that we wanted to include, made this a very difficult book to write.

The marketing and publicity plan for the book had to be kept secret too, and the big news is that in the UK, the book was serialized by the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail is the UK’s second best-selling national daily newspaper, and needless to say, it’s extremely rare for the mainstream media to highlight a UFO book in this way, so that the story reaches literally millions of people. The deal – skillfully negotiated by the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency – propelled the book to number 35 in Amazon’s UK book chart. Most UFO books never break out of the paranormal niche and onto the main bestseller list in this way.

In the US, I was interviewed on The Alan Colmes Show on Fox News Radio, and wrote a tie-in feature on US government UFO investigation for the prestigious St. Martin’s Press history blog/newsletter, “The History Reader”. As I write, there’s more mainstream media coverage in the pipeline, both in the US and the UK.

The most difficult aspect of the book is the so-called binary code message. This relates to the sequence of ones and zeroes that Jim Penniston believes he received as a “telepathic download” when he touched the side of the UFO. He wrote them down in his police notebook later, at home, under what he believes to have been some sort of compulsion.

The “Rendlesham Code”, as it’s being called, has rapidly become the most controversial story in ufology today. Is it really, as some believe, a message from extraterrestrials, or from humanity’s far future? Or is it something implanted into Jim’s memory by a combination of the drugs and hypnosis that we now know were used on at least five of the main witnesses as part of the post-incident interrogations administered while some of the personnel involved were still in shock? The debate is ongoing.

Many people have attempted to translate the Rendlesham Code. The best-known suggestion so far is “Exploration of humanity. Continuous for planetary advance. Eyes of your eyes. Origin year 8100”. Also included is a list of geographical co-ordinates which seem to match up with a number of mysterious and ancient sites such as the Great Pyramid in Egypt and the Nazca Lines in Peru. Another co-ordinate corresponds with the fabled location of the ‘lost continent’ of Hy-Brasil, a supposed sunken island in the Atlantic, off the West coast of Ireland, sometimes dubbed the “Celtic Atlantis”.

At first glance, this all seems pretty impressive. The New Age and alternative belief communities are certainly very excited about this and the internet is buzzing with ideas, e.g. the suggestion that dives be organized to investigate the Hy-Brasil site. The whole saga is rapidly becoming a real-life Da Vinci Code.

To some people’s surprise, I’ve been cautious about the Rendlesham Code and reluctant to leap to conclusions. I think people are coming at the problem from a very anthropocentric viewpoint and my government training has taught me to be wary of obvious solutions, which can often be misleading – sometimes because that’s the intention, e.g. in the shadowy world of counter-intelligence! Sometimes, people see what they want to see, and the list of ‘sacred sites’ in the Rendlesham Code, for example, reads just a little bit too much like a New Age holiday wish-list for me. It’s all a little too clichéd.

If there’s a message here, my guess is that it’s buried much deeper in the code. A message within a message, perhaps. If I still worked for the Ministry of Defence I would have run the Rendlesham Code through a GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters – the UK equivalent of the NSA) supercomputer. But this option was no longer open to me, though pre-submitting the book to the US and the UK governments for security clearance doubtless gave the authorities a chance to examine the code prior to publication.

Now that the Rendlesham Code has been published in full, in our book, everyone can have a go at deciphering it. Who will be the first to crack the code? Will it be the NSA or GCHQ, or will a private corporation like Bigelow Aerospace beat government to the finish line? A Silicon Valley start-up, perhaps, or a more established tech giant? I now spend much of each year in San Jose, at the heart of Silicon Valley, and it’s clear to me that all the big players are investing heavily in Artificial Intelligence. Google’s recent purchase of the DeepMind AI firm is one such indicator, as is Facebook’s creation of an artificial intelligence research group. IBM, Microsoft and Apple are also in the race, along with many others – some of whom are keeping their involvement secret.

My own view – and perhaps my hope – is that if there’s to be an answer, it will come from the public. Experts such as computer systems engineer Joe Luciano, web developer Nick Ciske and esoteric researcher Gary Osborn have already put countless hours of work into the Rendlesham Code, and now that “Encounter in Rendlesham Forest” has been published, many others are following suit. What they might discover remains to be seen, but for anyone with an interest in UFOs and the unexplained, this ongoing story is one to watch.

Nick Pope is a former employee of the UK Ministry of Defense. From 1991 to 1994 he ran the British Government’s UFO project and has recently been involved in a five-year initiative to declassify and release the entire archive of these UFO files. Nick Pope held a number of other fascinating posts in the course of his 21-year government career, which culminated in his serving as an acting Deputy Director in the Directorate of Defense Security. He now works as a broadcaster and journalist, covering subjects including space, fringe science, defense and intelligence. Nick Pope’s latest book, Encounter in Rendlesham Forest, co-written with John Burroughs and Jim Penniston, was published by Thomas Dunne Books on 15th April and is available via Amazon and all good bookstores.

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