Unidentified objects in the sky aren't new, but the UFO as we know it now—a mysterious, saucer-shaped object—first came into focus in the 1940s. The U.S. government had no choice but to investigate reports about them; the second World War had ended and the Cold War was revving up, so strange things in the sky could be some kind of threat.
Many UFO reports likely remain secret still, but the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has surprisingly released what the American government's spy shop says is all its files on UFOs, and you can see them here on a website run by John Greenewald Jr. in the form of searchable PDFs: The Black Vault.
Greenewald told Vice's Motherboard what went into his acquisition of the files:
According to Greenewald, around 10,000 Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) reports were required to obtain the PDFs and the process was an excruciatingly long one. He scanned the documents by hand.
“Around 20 years ago, I had fought for years to get additional UFO records released from the CIA,” Greenewald said in an email to Motherboard. “It was like pulling teeth! I went around and around with them to try and do so, finally achieving it. I received a large box, of a couple thousand pages, and I had to scan them in one page at a time.”
Don't think the CIA suddenly cares about transparency, though—that's not their thing. In the blog post introducing the records, Greenewald writes that "the CIA claims this is their 'entire' collection," but "there may be no way to entirely verify that."
And what's in there? Scans of carefully redacted documents in which people reported events like watching some kind of USSR-Canada sporting event only to step outside and see some kind of "green circular object or mass in the sky." Or a translated article from a Chilean magazine about "flying discs."
There's also this: A 1952 Air Force declaration of their official stance on UFOs in which they declared that flying discs were not U.S. or Soviet "secret weapons," or "Extra-terrestrial visitors."
And creepily, there are stories, too, like the one about mystery explosions heard in an out-of-the-way Russian town or the document in the Black Vault's tweet above, in which the CIA's "Assistant Deputy Director for Science & Technology (A/DDS&T) was shown SOMETHING related to a UFO that was hand carried to him." It isn't clear as to what that was or what the Director said about it, but it's damn intriguing.
Are there answers as to what's out there to be found in those files? There are too many to say at the moment, but they will certainly provide plenty of fodder to fire imaginations—and for all we know, Hollywood adaptations—for years to come.