The NI UFO society scans the skies for answers

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An Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) in the sky over Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1953Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
An unidentified flying object (UFO) in the sky over Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1953

Formed in 2013, the Northern Ireland UFO society is not a big one, there are 14 members in total.

But there is no doubting their passion, their doubts and their desire to know more.

The society meets monthly in the Crescent Arts Centre in south Belfast.

Those meetings review recent reports of UFO sighting as well as investigating other phenomena that are "outside the norm".

The group provides a "willing ear" to people who may have had an experience that they cannot explain.

Rodney Murphy, a driving instructor from Magherafelt, is currently the society's vice-chairman.

Image caption,
Rodney Murphy said people laugh but they want answers too

His interest in the subject was sparked by television programmes.

Rodney admits that when his role in the society comes up it sparks "sniggering and laughing", even with family members.

But he said that when he explained the questions he has in his own mind about unexplained happenings, people are more accepting.

"Then they start to enquire as well and say: 'Well that is interesting - what is the answer'?

"And I say, the very reason I'm in the group is to try to find those answers."

But Rodney does not have the answers himself.

"There's nothing there that has said to me: 'Yes, there definitely are aliens or there are definitely UFOs or there are visitors to this planet'. But there are certainly questions still to be answered."

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Rodney says others in the group have convinced him that they have the ability to see and experience the paranormal.

"I don't doubt their bono fides at all… and I have to say when you see the reactions when they are telling their stories, it is very genuine."

The first UFO sighting in Ireland is recorded in an entry in the Annals of the Four Masters dating from the year 743.

"At-ces co forréil loingius isin aer cona b-foirnibh isin m-bliadhain-si," or "Ships with their crews, were plainly seen in the sky this year".

Image source, Reuters/NASA

Conor Kieran is a DJ and barman. But his life-long interest in the paranormal has risen to the point that he feels that he needs to speak to like-minded people about it.

"People think I am crazy," he said candidly.

"I am ok with people laughing at me because I know exactly what I saw, I can tell the difference between a delusion and something I am actually seeing."

Conor said he has experienced the paranormal but chose not to expand on those experiences.

Diana Jones, from Dromore in County Down, has had a life-long interest in UFOs.

She joined the group after a chance encounter with its founder, Chris McMurray, who is the current chairman.

Image source, Chris McMurray
Image caption,
Society founder Chris McMurray followed the trial of many 'UFOlogists' on a pilgrimage to Area 51

She said she witnessed a UFO along with two other family members.

"It actually started off as a light in the sky, and then transformed into a craft which was extremely low."

She said the "craft" missed a house by a just few feet but was travelling very slowly.

She did not report this incident to any government agency.

Through her membership of the society she has met people who say they have had similar experiences which has helped her in her search for answers, she explained.

Of all the stories I heard from members of the group, Arfon Jones' account was undoubtedly the most extraordinary, and the one which many would find most difficult to accept.

Originally from Wales, Arfon works for the NHS. His experience is known in UFO circles as the 'Tannyoky ET Encounter'.

In May 2016, Arfon said he came upon a creature in broad daylight on the Tannyoky Road in County Armagh.

He described it as being tall, grey, wide at the shoulders but narrowing at the waist with a rounded muscular torso and a swinging tail.

'No clothes'

It wore no clothes, he said.

"Yes, it frightened me.

"It was a creature, it wasn't human.

"It was right there in front of me, walking, and as I came closer to it, it just turned around and looked at me.

"It sounds wacky, crazy," he said, but added that he would not be talking about it if it was not true.

Arfon said the creature was in sight for about 10 seconds.

Image caption,
Arfon Jones reported his encounter to a government body but said his email was never replied to

"I believe it wasn't of this earth, it was gone in a flash into the field."

Arfon had a pre-existing interest in UFOs and felt he had to get in touch with someone after his experience, so he joined the society.

"A lot of people are supportive, you don't tell everybody about it," he said.

Mr Jones reported the incident to a government body but said his email was never replied to.

Ships in the sky

As well as meetings, the society holds night watches and conducts field work.

Rodney explained that while the group is open to all people with a genuine interest, people who are determined not to believe would not join.

"You really do have to have a different view point or a different outlook before you would be interested in coming down this line," he said.

The Ministry of Defence had a UFO hotline until 2009 but it no longer collects statistics on unexplained events or objects in the sky.