LONDON (Reuters) - A cluster of UFO sightings over Britain in 1996 may have had more to do with public fascination with TV shows like the "X Files" than extraterrestrial activity, according to files released by the National Archives on Monday.
Documents from Britain's Ministry of Defense (MoD) indicated there were 609 UFO sightings in 1996, compared with 117 in 1995. This coincided with the rise in popularity of the X Files and the release of the alien blockbuster film "Independence Day."
The files, which span 15 years and contain more than 4,000 pages, show that for most cases the UFO sightings had ordinary explanations such as bright stars and planets, meteors, artificial satellites and balloons.
In one incident in 1995, two men in the midland county of Staffordshire told police they saw an alien with a lemon-shaped head emerge from a hovering UFO and tell them "We want you; come with us."
Another case detailed dozens of sightings of a brightly illuminated oval object in London during 1993 and 1994 which was later explained as an airship advertising the launch of the Ford Mondeo car.
Despite most cases having a mundane reason behind them, some 10 percent were classed as "unexplained."
For these, the MoD said there was "insufficient information" which is why it continued to collect reports.
The files also add a new detail on Britain's best known UFO incident, the Rendlesham Forest sightings of December 1980 in which American airforce men saw a series of mysterious lights.
The then government of Margaret Thatcher summarily dismissed the affair but a letter from a former chief of defense staff in 1985 warned it not to be so cavalier.
"The case has puzzling and disquieting features which have never been satisfactorily explained ... which continue to preoccupy informed sections of the public," said the letter.
The files can be seen on www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/
Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Steve Addison