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on 8 August 2010
Although I've long been interested in strange goings-on, the whole subject of UFOs has never really piqued my interest - it's all so...confusing. Then I read this and after about 20 pages could see what all the fuss is about; the difference between this and other such writings on the subject is that this is wonderfully lucid and intersperses the author's own involvement in the world of UFOlogy with a terrific history of the whole history of UFO encounters and the US Govt's role in them (or not!). Unlike a lot of writers about UFO/conspiracy theories in general, Pilkington doesn't come across as a gullible nutter - the odd occasions when he realises he might be getting "in too deep" are both reassuring and hilarious. Any subject can be compelling if it's approached with genuine enthusiasm, inquisitiveness and a decent amount of research, and Pilkington has all of these in spades. He's read all those nutty books so you don't have to.

Apart from the historical aspect, the story of his and his film-making partner John Lundberg's week at a UFO conference is genuinely gripping, as much as a good detective/spy novel, and he scores some real coups getting to spend considerable time with various bizarre, shadowy figures and major players. You also get a really good idea of why people devote their whole lives to chasing UFOs and the people who may or may not be piloting them.

With all the disinformation and paranoia surrounding it, this whole UFO thing may be complex and downright baffling at times, but Pilkington makes for a charming, enthusiastic and clear-headed guide.

But then I would say that; I work for the CIA. (Only joking.)
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on 6 December 2010
I lost interest in the UFO scene many years ago. The crazy theories were becoming the norm, logic had left the building. Along comes Mark Pilkington's 'Mirage Men', a book that has blown a hole through the disinformation and stitched together a coherent analysis of UFO history that makes sense. incredibly dense in parts but never overwhelming (Okay I did put the book down now and them to exclaim WOW!!!!) the book at times reminded me of Hunter S Thompson's writings (but without the drug use and a stable mind).

I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in UFO's. A very, very important book that really entertains and actually does answer some important questions.

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on 26 October 2010
Mirage Men tackles at least in part, the sticky, controversial and exceptionally complex history of UFOs and government cover-ups. Among the rain forest of books out there purporting to explain what UFOs are (often arguing their particular case with religious zeal), anyone wanting to attempt to maintain cool objectivity while trying to root out the truth has a long hard task ahead of them. It's a task that, like those attempting to translate The Voynich Manuscript, has led some quite literally into madness.

Mark Pilkington has a long history of trying to look at the UFO phenomenon objectively; from running and speaking at UFO groups and conferences, editing the wonderful Strange Attractor Journal, to his contributions to The Anomalist and the Fortean Times, he seems like someone particularly well-placed to deal with everyone from skeptic to fundamentalist saucer-head.

"Mirage Men" is written partly as a broad history of the UFO phenomenon and partly as a philosophical and anthropological journey into the minds of those involved in it, on both sides of the security fence.

The book looks at the various secretive projects run by America's defence organisations over the years from the 1940s to the present day, including projects that were adapted upon and used (such as near-soundless helicopters and stealth bombers) and projects that were abandoned, scrapped, or vanished into further darkness (e.g. saucer-shaped craft developed from Nazi prototypes after WWII).

It reveals the various agencies' own paranoias regarding the perceived Soviet threat of the time, and exposes the furiously bitter rivalries between the numerous organisations which led to them spying on, and generating disinformation about, each other. (One example mentioned was the aerospace funding taken from the U S Air Force and handed to NASA, who an angry Air Force them blamed using disinformants for UFO cover-ups generating NASA a huge headache fielding off thousands of excitable enquiries, many of which still persist).

Most sinister however is the book's close look at the CIA's "grooming" of targeted individuals within the sprawling community of UFO and paranormal researchers, believers, conspiracy theorists and conference goers. Of particular note in the book is CIA disinformation operative Richard Doty, who the author manages to track down for an interview. Doty was responsible, at least in part, for a number of disinformation campaigns, repeatedly feeding people false CIA-generated "government insider" information to steer UFOlogists (physically and psychologically) away from genuine secret operations to have them running elsewhere to look for ET. (The author visits a mountain facility in the desert, a facade made out of scrap army materials, once used to convince the overly-nosey of a secret alien base). The CIA convinced some much respected researchers so well that they had exchange programmes going with aliens but "couldn't tell anyone", that one of the researchers eventually lost his mind and was committed to hospital.

Doty is real and showed off his credentials by getting the author and his cameraman in to US military bases to show them around, but it isn't long before the author begins to wonder if he is also being fed disinformation by the CIA.

It's a great story of UFO fanatics and who's-bluffing-who disinformation agents, one that is all the more crazy because it's a true story; the author was even contacted by his CIA contact after the interview to be informed that aliens really were here, after which he was then accused of being an MI6 agent!

Occasionally jumbled but mostly coherent (although an exception might be a few quaint pseudo-academic phrases such as "epistemological pretzel") it's a book that has a lot of territory to cover and does so without pretending it can explain everything. I get the impression that Pilkington, despite his hairy encounters with the CIA, remains open-minded about what's really going on. He also seemed to like Richard Doty much more than I did by the end of the book. But it certainly gives a clear indication of some of the things that were going on the the US military when and where flying saucers were being sighted, and suggests an explanation for the various government agencies' badly-co-ordinated, ever-changing and often conflicting public responses to questions about UFOs.

Excellent stuff.
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on 10 August 2015
I had merely a casual interest in the subject of UFO's, as nearly everyone has at some point, until I saw the documentary this book is based on. The complex and bizarre folklore around the reports we've had filtered down to us are thoroughly examined and rationally discussed in this fascinating document. The major events are recalled and, with access to some of the major players in UFO history, Mark opens up a colossal can of worms. The US security forces, in a confuddling variety of names and guises, are shown to both confirm and deny at the same time that these strange visions are ET visitors. The excellent film is complex in itself, but this book really tells the story in full. Essential.
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on 10 August 2010
The Mirage Men by Mark Pilkington is probably one of the most important books on the UFO phenomenon ever written. Not only an indepth field investigation into the role played by the Intelligence Agencies in the development of the UFO Mythos from 1950 till the present time, but also a complete alternative history of the evolution of the phenomenon.

The revelations, often from the horses mouth, are stunning, a catalogue of disinfomation organised by Air Force Intelligence (AFOSI), the CIA, NSA and the FBI, sometimes in coordination but often in parallel, autonomous operations with diverse, and still mysterious motives. The immediate shared aim being the popular dissemination of stories of UFO 'crashes', alien contact and the reverse engineering of extraterrestrial technology. The main purpose of which appears to include the generation of cover stories for accidently observed secret technology or covert intelligence operations, as well as utilisation of the international UFO research community for psychological experiments / operations (and sometimes as a front for plain, old fashioned spying). The mythos appears to have become a general off the peg mirage for a variety of purposes, not surprisingly one aviation researcher at the infamous Area 51 refers to its 'UFO projects' as 'UnFunded Opportunities'. But there are stranger motives too, ranging from Cold War propaganda about captured alien technology (the Soviets always took the possibility of ET visitation seriously), through the infiltration of alternative and countercultural subcultures (deemed as 'subversive'), to bizarre plots by unknown inner groups (the Illuminati??) to influence global culture and politics through a new mythology. And of course to hide the 'real truth about the alien presence', whether we interprete that literally or just as a more sophisticated lie within a lie (it being a claim often made by the spooks themselves in moments of 'private whistle blowing'). There are some odd facts here too, such as the absurd aspects of the basic Disinfo, much of which is lifted straight from Hollywood, with plot elements from CE3, ET and the Day the Earth Stood Still plagiarised unashamedly. On the other hand many of the inside Intelligence sources seem totally convinced of an Extraterrestrial presence, even when admitting much of what is written about UFOs was fictional (though these men are of course trained liars, if not chosen for their 'paraphrenia', and info layering an established ploy). Perhaps most startling of all the deception being the fabrication of an 'alien base' in the New Mexico desert to reveal to the projects dupes. Along the way we are treated to a complete history of the American UAV Drone program and the USAF's attempts to build 'Flying Saucers', tales of Ed Lansdale's CIA backed project to create fake 'vampires' in SE Asia to terrify native insurgents (even killing a few fake 'victims' in the process), the secret behind 'cattle mutilation', and some possibly fabricated 'alien abductions'. Much mystery and high strangeness remains amongst all these revelations though, for instance the rivalry between different Agencies (particularly the spooks of the Air Force and Navy) which extends to an apparent conflict of agendas (sometimes even apparent between factions within each Service itself), something which may even have led to actual or attempted murder in the case of the Maury Island affair. The oddest element for me being the fact that the OSI agents in the latter case always refused to use the Air Force's base phones, prefering pay phones! Even wierder is the apparent emergence of 'real' UFO phenomena amid all the faking.

My only reservation with the book is despite the author's sensible position between scepticism and open mindedness (even revealing one of his own mysterious UFO encounters, predictably explained by a high ranking spook as 'one of ours') he none the less by the end of the book has swung into a sceptical stance regarding the entire UFO Phenomena. Though not surprisingly as it seems the vast majority of the classic UFO encounters may have been hyped, if not faked, by the spooks. Unfortunately this may be exactly what his informants wanted. One classic ploy in Intelligence operations is the 'Double Bubble', where an inner core of truth that needs to be hidden is surrounded by a bubble of Disinfo, which gets increasingly implausible as times goes by, or has obvious falsehoods planted within it, until the outer bubble 'bursts', and with it deflates the inner bubble of truth, discredited by association. Many commentators on both sides of the fence believe the UFO Phenomena is genuinely 'culturally destabilising' (for good or ill) and burying the whole thing would greatly please many frightened people in the Establishment. Given the end of the Cold War, and the scaling down of secret research and covert operations (to some extent), and the gradual exposure of this kind of Disinfo, we may be moving into the final phase of the fabricated UFO Myth, its use as such a 'double bubble' to terminate both the project and the unnerving phenomena behind it. While myself a committed sceptic regarding the ET hypothesis (and especially the ludicrous 'crash and contact' stories) my own experiences have led me to believe in an intelligence behind the phenomena that appears to be operating a policy of cognitive dissonance amongst us. Thus the author may have unwittingly been drawn into this operation. Though to his credit he does briefly hint in this direction, even if only to preserve his agnostic credentials and an atmosphere of mystery.

In conclusion this book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the UFO phenomenon and its history in all its many dimensions.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 February 2013
The book claims that the American government have been covering up secret technologies by telling people it was UFOs. It deliberately feeds the UFO community nonsense to cause it to split and infight and look ludicrous to outsiders, also UFO groups are seen as a threat to government power in which "skillful hostile propaganda could indue hysterical behavior and harmful distrust of duly constituted authority" and need to be watched.

Down to earth explanations are given for various UFO related stuff:
Things whizzing around on radar then vanishing? Radar messing up technologies.
Flying saucers? Avro MX 1794
Glowing orbs in sky? NASA low earth communications satellites
Strange flying triangles? Flying wings such as stealth bomber.

It is true that America spends massive amounts of money on its secret black projects more in fact than England spends on its entire military. Stuff such as the stealth bomber (a flying triangle like some UFO sightings) has come from the black projects, heaven knows what else they got. Personally I think the above explanations of UFOs are not very good tho.

Despite the fact the book claims modern UFO sightings are American secret projects as far as I can tell the author appears to be neutral on if UFOs actually exist but he does not think much about people who believe in them. The author describes the people in his UFO club as loonies that fired him from being president for not believing in UFOs, there is also a quote from somebody saying people who believe in UFO are suffering from a type of mental illness called paraphrenia.
The author used to fake crop circles and saw UFO believers swear his faked crop circles were proof of UFOs. I am surprised this book has not got more bad reviews from UFO believers upset at being called loonies.

If you don't know much about the CIA and the role of disinformation in modern culture this book will be a surprise to you.

This book is quite hard to follow at times, and the author lightly skims over major UFO events such as Roswell, so don't expect to become a expert about UFOs from reading this book.

I feel this book is OK but incomplete, we cannot blame the black projects for UFOs when we don't know what the black projects are but the involvement of the American government is spreading disinformation to the UFO community is a worthwhile contribution to skeptical UFO understanding.

Also I should point out that it's quite possible for UFOs to be true and the author's claims can still be correct.
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on 13 October 2011
I bought this book a while ago and had it sitting on my shelf while I worked through some other books on my reading list (none of which I would I have given a 5 star review for). If I had realised what a fantastic read it was going to be I would have bumped it straight up the reading list.

This isn't just a good book about the genuinely mysterious subject of unexplained things seen in the sky, it's actually a really funny and gripping read, at times I wasn't sure if I was reading a book about UFO's or some sort of fictional spy thriller, except that Mark and John's trip to the US to attend a UFO conference and also meet the infamous government agent Rick Doty - is no piece of fiction.

Mark manages to navigate the difficult path between open mindedness and scepticism better than any other author I have ever read on this subject matter.

If you are interested in UFO's for any reason, and regardless of which side of the sceptical divide that you currently sit on - this book is a *must read*.

I don't know whether the theories laid out in Mirage Men about the extent of the intelligence community involvement in the UFO phenomena is close to truth or not but for those of us that don't feel comfortable with dismissing the subject, this is a welcome addition to the debate.

Make no mistake, this is not a debunking exercise - the heart of this mystery is as elusive and unexplained as ever but it does bring the debate back to a more rational place.

Well done Mark Pilkington, another well deserved 5 stars for you.
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Some wit once observed: "The trouble with confirmation bias is that once you know about it, you begin to see it everywhere." This is the fundamental fallacy which Mark Pilkington falls for in this widely-publicised and well-written book. Whilst `Mirage Men' is not without merit and contains a few small nuggets of interest, its governing premise - that most reported UFO encounters have been the work of the US intelligence agencies in order to either delude the research community or hide secret hi-tech aerospace projects by making witnesses mistake them for alien spacecraft - is completely untenable. No-one acquainted with the evidence at close quarters could possibly be so gullible as to fall for such nonsense.

Unfortunately UK-born Pilkington has a major credibility problem right off the bat, as he admits to being a serial (no puns please) crop-circle hoaxer; a trespasser causing criminal damage, a charlatan and a deceiver. This admission tells us something about the author's character, and should put any attentive reader on his guard about taking anything in the book seriously.

The book is written in `this-is-our-story' format whereby Pilkington and colleague John Lundberg journey round the USA meeting and interviewing a handful of individuals working for or connected to the intelligence agencies - Richard Doty from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in Albuquerque has pride of place - who variously claim to have been involved, one way or another, in perpetrating deception on the American public (who BTW pay their salaries) about the UFO/ET issue, for stated reasons which simply don't make sense. On the way they take in the annual Laughlin UFO conference (where they arrange to meet Doty who claims to be there as a `private citizen'), investigate the MJ-12 and Serpo hoaxes, hear about crash retrieval and aliens-in-US-government-custody myths, and detail a few of the better known INTEL operations carried out in the past 60 years.

Though reports of UFO/UAP encounters, abductions and cattle mutilations are global, little attention is given in `Mirage Men' to any case outside the USA; so the astute reader will immediately see that no meaningful conclusions can ever be drawn about the nature of these ubiquitous phenomena from such a parochial line of enquiry as simply looking at the supposed deception work of intelligence agencies in the USA. However, that's what Pilkington and Lundberg do, so conclusions are presented through this small prism.

The `cattle mutilation' phenomenon (though many thousands of different animals including urban domestic cats and dogs have also been so mutilated) is a good example of where Pilkington comes across as demonstrating his apparent naiveté. I personally inspected a mutilated heifer in SW Ireland in August 1970 with what later came to be recognised as having all the classic markers: part of the jaw, an ear, an eye, the entire rectal/genital area, and udders all seemingly excised with what we would now, 40 years later, see as something approximating precise laser-like surgery; no blood in or on the carcass, the animal discovered half way up a hillside one mile away from where she had been fenced in with the herd the previous evening, evidently dropped from above. (The local vet pronounced that the cow had "probably died of anthrax"(!)) This worrying phenomenon is global in scale, has been going on for more than 40 years and is repeatedly linked to sightings of UFOs reported by farmers everywhere from Australia to Kenya to Romania to Switzerland.

Now, fast-forward to how intelligence agencies try to manage an issue like this, which they can neither control nor predict. Jacques Vallee in `The Invisible College' (1975) investigated the case of a close encounter experienced by two fishermen on the French Atlantic coast which attracted newspaper and TV coverage. To defuse the story and debunk it, diving gear was planted on the beach nearby, together with a radio transmitter, widely publicised to suggest human agencies were involved; to plant seeds of confusion and doubt. Again, when a gigantic black, boomerang-shaped craft was seen by thousands of witnesses over Phoenix AZ in March 1997, to confuse witnesses a squadron of A10 aircraft was tasked to fly over the city later that evening and drop flares against the mountains, so the earlier sighting could be explained away as `military flares.' Want to convince the suckers that structured craft of non-human manufacture are not infiltrating our skies, but people are seeing your own secret and very human technology? Then design, test-fly, film and give widespread publicity to disk-shaped or triangular-shaped planes, many with no possible practical or military application (the ridiculous and completely useless `Avrocar' for example was almost certainly built for precisely this purpose) and suggest that's what people are seeing. These techniques are well tried and tested, and part of what Budd Hopkins has recently referred to as "the hydra-headed debunking machine and its many busy attendants."

So it doesn't seem to occur to Pilkington that surgical equipment, rubber gloves and other paraphernalia might have been planted near the carcases of cattle discovered to be mutilated by unknown entities, and that helicopters might be ostentatiously flown over the territory at low level, in order to give the impression that these activities are somehow performed by human agencies. The message seems to be: "We're in control, we're in charge; there is nothing exotic going on here." Some people are going to be suckered by this kind of activity: one such appears to be Pilkington who admits to falling for the ruse hook, line and sinker. He ended up believing the mirage men's deception that human agencies are performing the cattle mutilations, just as he believes "all" crop circles worldwide are man-made (which can hardly be stated as certainty unless you literally make every single one yourself).

Pilkington also admits to being seduced by a preposterous yarn spoon-fed to him by Rich Reynolds that the Villas Boas abduction in the remote region of Minas Gerais in Brazil in 1957 was somehow staged by the CIA using a helicopter disguised as a flying saucer, and a so-called `brain-washing machine' - all this trouble and extravagance with US taxpayers' money for purposes obscure, as Villas Boas might well have told no-one about his experience. The idea is completely absurd, almost rivalling Vallee's `Control System' hypothesis for sheer unsupported nuttiness. He even gets conned into believing that the 1952 daylight flyovers of Washington DC by dozens of disk-shaped craft, witnessed visually by thousands of spectators, might have been some kind of `radar hoax'. To his credit, Pilkington admits to the possibility that some UAP encounters may be unknowns; he just doesn't bother to investigate any of the compelling evidence, as doing so might threaten his underlying ideology. He displays little interest in the phenomena themselves, restricting his narrative to the few instances where staging by the intelligence agencies can be demonstrated and implying that this explains it all.

The book however is well written and edited, with a populist style and good chapter organization. It reads (intentionally, Mark?) almost like a film script. The hardcover from Skyhorse Publishing with a great dust jacket design makes for a quality artefact.

So at the end of the book, are we more enlightened about the `mirage men'? Not likely, unless you're an even bigger sucker than Pilkington and Lundberg appear to be. `Mirage Men' reveals little that is new, and taken as a whole there is more noise here than signal. However as entertainment, as intrigue and gossip about the UFO scene (the intended target audience) it's OK. Then again, the purpose of this project might be to knowingly disseminate yet more disinformation, as Doty admits to having spent years of his taxpayer-financed Air Force career doing. Pilkington has a long history as a persistent crop circle hoaxer and pretends to believe most of this rubbish from his mirage men - so who knows?
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on 11 October 2015
I love a good UFO documentary and have always been 50/50 on whether they are true or not but could never understand why genuine people have so many experiences? This book has certainly opened my eyes to the workings of how things come to the attention of the enthusiasts and proved to me that behind all the game playing there's nothing but smoke and mirrors, and instead lots of misinformation deliberately put out with half truths to confuse. The one thing that did surprise that even though with the promise of future disclosures, that to date have never materialised, intelligent people still feel that one day the Americans will produce evidence of aliens or their technology? When surely it's pretty obvious that none exists. Thank you Mark for putting the other side of the story and opening my eyes to the background of the phenomena and the disengenuous players in the arena.
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on 23 November 2010
The other reviewers on this site have given more than enough information about the contents of Mark Pilkington's book, Mirage Men, so I will desist from reiterating.

All I will say is that this book is essential reading for anyone who presumes to call him/herself a ufologist. It may burst bubbles and close down entrenched ideas, but will certainly open minds.

All sensible researchers in this field, right from its inception in 1947, have wondered about how much of the UFO narrative was real, and how much........well, not real. You'll get plenty of clues in this book, some evidence and some intelligent extrapolation and speculation.

It's beautifully written in faultless English unlike many UFO and paranormal titles. For the author, it was a journey of discovery, a journey I suspect that is far from completed.

Smoke and mirrors - yes. Hot air - definitely not. If you want to treat yourself to just one UFO title, this is definitely it. Read it if you dare - not for the faint-hearted believers.

Judith Jaafar
(ex-BUFORA chair)
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