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Village Art & Literature

Taken over by UFOs

Posted on June 22 2011 at 12:50:14 0 comments

Dawn Holloway and John Hanson

The Village meets an Alvechurch couple who have spent the past 15 years tracking down unexplained activity in the skies of Britain.

Alvechurch can lay claim to many pieces of fame, but surely the most extraordinary is that it is home to the largest collection of information on UFO sightings in the country.

You might have thought the Ministry of Defence or some secret X-Files-style organisation would have it all stored on supercomputers in hidden bunkers.

But no, if reports of a clear-out of archives by the MoD are true, then the heaving shelves of a back bedroom of a terraced house close to Alvechurch village centre bear the nerve centre of our nation’s knowledge of unexplained activity in its skies.

On them rest the folders and box files containing newspaper cuttings, photographs, sketches and witness statements of British UFO sightings since 1940, which are the result of a 15-year mission by Alvechurch couple John Hanson and Dawn Holloway.

It is a very serious pursuit for John and Dawn, aware as they are that there are many people who would dismiss UFO reports as science fiction at best.

But they are happy to admit that their lives have been taken over by UFOs. “It was a hobby and it’s now a hobby that consumes our lives,” says John.

It also brought them together. They met when Dawn went to a lecture John was giving in Redditch in 1995 and soon after, she recalls: “He came to me and said, ‘I’ve got a proposal to make . . . will you help me write a book?’ And now we are partners!”

They didn’t, at that point, realise what they were taking on. “We were really green,” John explains. “It is a never-ending task. A lot of people think we can just get a pen and write it down and get it published, but there is so much of it.

“Over the years we have accumulated a lot of information that we patiently put into chronological order. Nobody has ever done it before.

“We are not seeking to actually make anything from this, we are seeking to perhaps create some awareness with people that UFOs are something that should be taken seriously as opposed to something taken foolishly.

“It is keeping us busy and we enjoy doing it; we enjoy talking to witnesses,” says John, who was an officer with West Midlands Police for 27 years until his retirement in 1995.

His interest in UFOs was triggered by events in the skies over south Birmingham on January 19 1995.

“I was at home watching, of all things, the X-Files, which ironically was showing an episode about an Iraqi pilot chasing a UFO, when the telephone rang,” he recalls. “It was my son Chris, a police officer, who told me about a UFO that had been seen over Birmingham at 6.30pm.

“It was described initially as an orange ball of fire seen over the city centre, followed by a report from a doctor in the Moseley area some four miles away who watched a tadpole-shaped object with a dark blue head and light blue tail, flying across the sky.

“As a result of the doctor making a 999 call to the police, my son and his partner, a female officer, attended at the scene and were driving around looking for what had happened to the object when they came across a massive saucer-shaped object with a thin rippling red line running through it, surrounded by a blue haze, over the Stirchley area of the city.

“I had no reason to disbelieve the accounts and contacted the local radio stations and told them what had happened and subsequently an article appeared in the Birmingham Evening Mail, bringing its readers’ attention to a ‘Flying saucer seen over the Police Training Centre’ together with a possible explanation that what they had seen could have been a shooting star.

“Now I don’t know much about shooting stars, but I do know that logically they don’t behave in this manner, so I felt left with the frustration of not being able to rationally obtain a satisfactory answer to what it was the officers had seen.”

And so John’s retirement was soon filled with a new investigation – with him doing the bulk of the research and Dawn, his “girl Friday”, doing all the proof reading when she isn’t in her day job at Hopwood Park services.

It is light years from normal police work. “Strangeness is the name of the game,” he says, “but we do enjoy recording and listening to what people have seen. The only way you learn about this is to go out and talk to people.

“One problem is that when people go out and investigate something, over the years the material goes missing or gets lost or destroyed. When someone who has been researching passes away, their family just dumps it all in a skip.

“Another problem is room; we have had to reinforce the shelves.

“We are mindful of the fact that the MoD has said that prior to 1967 it has destroyed much of its UFO records because the public was not interested. If that’s true, then we have got the best records.”

John and Dawn’s work is culminating in a series of chronological volumes of sightings, called Haunted Skies: The Encyclopaedia of British UFOs. The first volume came out last July and the second earlier this year. They are currently working on Volume 3, condensing the busy period between 1966-1969 into 350-400 pages.

“It has taken us 15 years,” says John. “If we won the Lottery tomorrow we would have all the books out next year – we have all the information and all of the images in order.”

From their research, they have learned that nearly all UFOs behave in a similar way in the skies and that there are predominantly two sorts: saucer-shaped objects or three hemispherical globes forming a triangle.

“There is also a strong affinity between appearances of a UFO and ancient trackways,” says John.

“The 64 million dollar question is whether these trackways create some sort of energy that attracts the UFO or whether the UFO is utilising the trackway.”

He adds: “Again, it is a hobby, but it is important because these things should have some respectability because they exist – and exist alongside us – and certainly do not seem to be extraterrestrial visitors.

“You have got to ask yourself what the hell are these things and where do they come from?”

Dawn says: “I think they are time travellers and that they can travel faster than the speed of light. That’s just my feeling.”

John’s theory is that UFOs pre-date mankind: “I sincerely believe that before man was here and on the planet that these things were here.

“They have been here for a long time now and will be here for a long time after man has gone. That’s my feeling.

“It may be they have more right to the planet than we do.”

'Haunted Skies' cover

Gone in 3 seconds: John’s experience – 9.20pm June 16 1996
“I was standing outside The Crown public house in Withybed Green, Alve-church, with my son Keith watching the clear, bright night sky from the canal bridge. The occasional satellite passed ponderously overhead as well as aircraft on their way to Birmingham International Airport.

Suddenly, from the northern horizon there appeared two gigantic, white circular objects that seemed almost bolted together like a huge pair of car headlights.

They swept silently over the celestial arc of the sky and disappeared below the horizon towards the Redditch area; gone in three seconds.

Now, for all I know there may be a natural explanation, although I cannot personally think of one.

But the sighting left us feeling exhilarated and knowing we had witnessed something very much out of the normal.”

* Haunted Skies: The Encyclopaedia of British UFOs Volumes 1 & 2 (published by CFZ Publications, with illustrations by David Sankey) are available at for £14.99 each.

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