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sign near The Falkirk Wheel

It was mid-November, 1991, late at night, and two amatuer photographers stood at Polmont Reserviour, to take pictures of the BP chemicals plant in Grangemouth. Somewhere amid the illuminations of the chemical pyres and towers, they noticed two small, dimly flashing lights over near Kincardine Bridge, a couple miles west of the plant, and assumed they were from the large pylons there. Then, they changed their mind and agreed it was a helicopter, as it flew slowly from the bridge to hover over centre Grangemouth. In the still of night they noted this craft, whatever it was, was emitting no sound. At roughly 2,000 feet above the ground, it suddenly dipped and flew towards them, briefly sitting about 200 ft above their heads, before flying off. This was one of the first major sightings to take place in the Bonnybridge Triangle.

skip to 43 mins to see Billy Buchannan talking about him first hearing of UFOs in Bonnybridge.

As a long-standing town councillor, Billy Buchannan (IND) does what he needs to help the people of his ward. For a period in the mid-90s, this was to ride the back of a wave of UFO sightings that led this small, unassuming central Scotland town to be christened one of the top 6 UFO hotspots from around the world. Thousands of sightings by both locals  and seasoned UFOlogists who came to check out the rumours quickly led the area between Falkirk and Cumbernauld to be dubbed the Bonnybridge Triangle. Some have event joined the dots with sightings in Falkirk itself and Livingston and figure that the most of the central belt, from Cumbernauld to Edinburgh, is hosting extraterrestrial encounters. The claims have largely died out, despite Billy’s best attempts.

Buchannan claimed to have written to every British PM since 1992, the Queen and the MOD, as well as having organised a public forum with a UFOlogist flown in from America at Falkirk Town Hall (which you can also catch a glimpse of in the video above). Buchannan even led an official delegation to Roswell, the all-time UFO hotspot, with the aim of twinning the two cities, and no following the cash-in route that Roswell has taken (oh man, do I wish this happened – I’d love to visit Roswell,stock up on alien tat and just see what goes on there on a daily basis, but I can’t justify going to the middle of nowhere just to buy a snowglobe with a plastic Gray in it). It’s an odd twist for a post-industrial Scottish town to take, but you’ve got to replace paper mills and sawmills with something. Unfortunately, his plans for a “giant glass mushroom-shaped visitor centre” never got off the ground, nor did his plans to somehow use the extraterrestrial sightings entice investment from Mitsubishi in the area.

The oddest part of Buchannan’s story came from tabloid journalists, who picked up on the story of what the Daily Star dubbed “Bonnybride’s Crackpot Councillor”, who it was claimed has established communication with an alien he called Zalus, part of a ‘Council of Nine’ who controlled the earth, and who Buchannan invited to a summit at Falkirk Town Hall. The councillor, who briefly quit his post sometime after this craze due to stress, was as confused as everyone else when confronted with the claims, saying he’d been away on holiday at the time the interview was supposed to have taken place, and that he’d never even heard of Zalus, a name which first came about in a newsletter on the Bonnybridge Triangle by Martin Robinson.

But while the papers milked an easy story and basically just took the piss, there were a number of unusual sightings in the Triangle. In 1992 James Walker saw a star-shaped object hovering above a road as he was driving home late one night. He assumed they were actually stars, until he was startled to see them move and assemble themselves into a triangle shape.

Later in 1992 came one of the most notorious events to take place near the Triangle, when friends Colin Wright and Garry Wood claimed to have been abducted. This became known as the “A70 Incident”. I will let Andrew Hennessey, who has written extensively (and I mean extensively) about aliens in Scotland, take it from here:

Wood and Wright didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary to occur when they set out on that eventful and terrifying night, but were intercepted while in their vehicle by an alien ship near the Harperring reservoir. After a mysterious gap of missing ‘time’ [Hennessey’s apostrophe’s] where they succumbed to intrusive alien technology, both men realised that they had been lifted up on board this spaceship and were later transported to an underground cavern system. We are also told that this close encounter did not end that night. Colin Wright remembers desperately trying to convince his abductors that he did not want to be left frozen and naked in a glass jar, stored amongst many other frozen people in a cavern lined wall-to-wall with glass jars.

(Henessey has some… interesting… ideas. He claims aliens have colonised Scotland for centuries, a theory bolstered by some stone near Rosslyn Chapel. He knows how to pick atmospheric music, anyway.)

And in a later interview Wood said:

“I saw three creatures coming towards my car. I felt intense pain, like an electric shock. Then I was in some room. I saw these things like wee men moving about, doing something to me. I could only see up. Then this 6ft creature approached. It was white-grey in colour with a large head and dark eyes with a long, slender neck, very slim shoulders and waist. There were either ribs or folds of skin on its body. The arms were like ours, but there were four very long fingers. The little ones [aliens] were about 3ft tall and seemed to do all the work while the big ones did the communication.” [The aliens spoke to him and said] “Sanctuary – we are here already and we are coming here.”

Documents declassified in 2012 show that a file on the A70 Incident was passed to the MoD’s UFO desk, and was taken seriously.

In October 1994 a trio of cleaners were making their way to their work in Carronshore, a few miles northeast of Bonnybridge, saw 5 UFOs – something also seen by more of their colleagues when they arrived at work. Although the craze had died off by arrival by the end of the 90s, there were still claims by a number of individuals in the area who claim that a cigar-shaped object landed on a nearby golf course (2004), as well as multiple sightings across the UK, including the Triangle, over Christmas 2009. To this day there are apparently still UFO enthusiast groups who pay visits to Bonnybridge in the hope of a close encounter.

But as anyone who has visited Bonnybridge itself will no doubt ask – “why?” There’s a few theories: from the Stone of Destiny (or Scone) being buried somewhere in the area, and that aliens are here to guard it; to Bonnybridge, like Ben Macdui, being a window to another dimension; to it even being that Scotland has long been colonised by aliens, and they are presumably they are just scooting about to make sure we stay in line.

However, the most compelling evidence remains the fact that Bonnybridge is located between major airports in Glasgow and Edinburgh, with another small airstrip located at Cumbernauld. Scotland is also home to multiple air military air bases (another argument for twinning Bonnybridge and Roswell for me) – I was told that pilots regularly fly down Loch Ness on practice flights. Billy Buchannan certainly seems to have dropped the case – he was re-elected last month, and doesn’t talk much about aliens anymore, now that the wave of sightings has all but died off and any chance of alien-related investment for the town has gone. Maybe Zalus had him silenced?

What remains interesting, however, and always interests me when it comes to UFOs, are the people who normally would not be believers, people who are openly skeptical, about lights in the sky who would come to claim they saw something out of the ordinary. It’s one thing for UFOlogists to see something – as with ghosts and people who believe in the supernatural, if you believe strongly enough your brain fills the gaps it can’t process, or doesn’t have the information for, making a sliver of light picked up wrongly by a camera into a spectre, or a misplaced plate into poltergeist activity. But if people with no establish interest or knowledge of alien lifeforms see what they claim to have seen…

UPDATE: The sightings continue, even as I finish off this post. Falkirk local Heather McEwan has spotted a strange site above the Kelpies, Falkirk’s newest landmark. It was confirmed by experts to not be a drone, helicopter or camera effect.

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