Sep 18, 2020 I Nick Redfern

UFO Researchers: What Can Happen When You Go Looking for Secrets

Robin Cole is someone who, from the mid-to-late 1990s, spent a great deal of time investigating reports and rumors that the Government Communications Headquarters in Cheltenham, England was secretly deep into the UFO subject. For those who may not know, GCHQ is the U.K.'s equivalent of the United States' National Security Agency. It was at the height of his investigations that Cole began to experience what can only be described as "secret surveillance." With that said, over to Cole himself of something that happened in 1997: "I had just got home after a Sunday night out. I had some stuff to dump in my office and didn’t switch the light on. I put the things down and just glanced out of the window. Well, outside my window there’s a street light and beneath this was a white van. At first I just registered that the van seemed out of place. You know what it’s like: you tend to recognize the various cars and vehicles in your own street. But then I thought: well, it wasn’t there when I came in ten minutes ago. Why is it outside my flat under the street light? As I looked at it, I noticed that on top of the van were these two, weird, silver domes one behind the other – as if they were a part of the roof, built in. I thought that was odd, particularly when it occurred to me that where they were parked was also right next to the telephone junction box."

Cole continues: "At that point, I grabbed my camera and put the light on in the office. But as I did that, the van suddenly started up and went quickly down the road. Well, a couple of weeks later, the van turned up again. This time, I ran down the steps outside my flat and dashed into the road; and again the van started up and shot off. But it was enough for me to get details of the van’s registration and make, which was a Bedford. Then I set about trying to trace the van. It so happens that I got a friend, a retired police officer, to pass the details on to a serving officer who put the details through the police computer."

‘Well, a few days passed. But on getting home one evening, I found a few messages on my answer-phone from [the retired police officer] in a very excited state. As it was about 11 o’clock at night, I thought: it’s too late to phone him now; I’ll give him a call tomorrow. I went to bed, but at 12.15, the 'phone rang. It was him. He said: 'That vehicle – you were right to be suspicious about it. The registration regarding who actually owns it is blocked, but the address that it’s registered to is a Ministry of Defense post office box in Wiltshire [England]. This was heavy stuff. But I’ve not seen the van since – and this was March 1997. But this was real proof that I was under some sort of surveillance." Heavy stuff, it certainly was. In addition to detailing the story of how he began his investigations of the link between UFOs and GCHQ and the apparent surveillance of his activities, Robin Cole has an equally bizarre account to relate concerning the acquisition of the photograph of GCHQ that appears on the front cover of his GCHQ and the UFO Cover-Up report. Back to Cole:

"‘I rang GCHQ up and told them that I was a freelance writer. I said that I was working on a piece about GCHQ and the possibility of the staff there having their trade union rights restored – this was heavily in the news at the time. 'Can I come along and take some photographs?' I asked. GCHQ responded by saying that they wouldn’t allow that, but they did have their own photograph which they would allow me to use. Now, they didn’t say that right away; I had to 'phone them on several occasions. Well, they wanted to post the photo to me, but I didn’t want them to do that because they’d have a record of my name and address. In response to that, I said that I needed the photo that day to finish the article. 'Can I come and collect it?' I asked. That was okay; they had no problems with me doing that. So, I jumped into a suit, walked up to the main gates and up to the security booth and said: 'Hello, I’ve come to collect a photo.' 'Ah, you’re the journalist, aren’t you?' the chap said, adding while pointing his finger: 'You want to speak with those two guys sat over there in the white Rover.'

1280px Aerial of GCHQ Cheltenham Gloucestershire England 24May2017 arp 570x429
Aerial view of GCHQ

Cole reveals what happened next: "I walked over to this car, somebody presumably pressed a button and down came the electric window of the car. It looked like the classic spy scene! The guy in the passenger seat was just looking forwards and the other one was looking straight at me. I repeated: 'I’ve come to collect a photo,' and they passed me this brown envelope. I didn’t really know what to do at that point and just said: 'Oh, thanks,' and walked off and up went the window of the Rover with no further words said." But, as Cole now explains: "Before I put my report on general release, I had proof-readers’ copies done for the members of the group – I only felt it was fair that the members knew about the information before anybody else. I’d like to know if the copy GCHQ have is a finished copy or a proofreaders’ copy. If they’ve got a proof, then I know that someone within our group handed it to them – which wouldn’t surprise me. As I said, we’ve got a few members in the group who work for GCHQ. Now, the only way that GCHQ could possibly have got hold of a finished copy, is to have got into my flat and taken a copy."

But is that really feasible? Cole certainly thought it was. He said: ‘There have been a number of...well...I don’t like talking about it because people think that you’re losing the plot or getting paranoid. But, yes, there have been instances where things have gone missing, things have been moved, and I tend to have a set place for everything. I suppose the most significant thing is that, just after publication, I held the master-copy of the report in my flat, with the photographs – color photographs – all pasted up in an envelope on a shelf. I went out to do a new print-run about four weeks later, got the report out, and the photos had vanished. Luckily, I’d made back-up copies, which I’d disseminated to various people. I'm glad now that I did, because I hunted my flat high and low."

As all of this demonstrates, when you dig deep into the UFO subject - as well as the issue of what government agencies know about the mystery - you may well become the subject of extreme surveillance. Be very careful...

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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