We are in the grip of an alien invasion, and I don't mean the ones from Albania
So, are you scared yet? Or are you busy painting your placard with the slogan "Welcome, space aliens from beyond the moon"?
Because, it seems, we are in the grip of an alien invasion and I don't mean the ones from Albania.
Sightings of UFOs have, if you will pardon the pun, skyrocketed in the past 12 months and last week's announcement that three separate pilots reported being buzzed by an unidentified flying object in Greek airspace has sent the conspiracy theorists into a tizzy of frenzied expectation that we are about to be officially visited.
The believers point out that the Greek government covered up the incident, which saw their national air force scramble two F-16s to intercept the mystery craft, and they argue that the official explanation -- it wasn't a UFO, it was just Venus -- flies in the face of testimony from three experienced pilots.
We get these stories every so often, but the rise of reported sightings around the world is meant to have greater significance.
Closer to home, this hysteria reached ridiculous levels when a 295-foot tall wind turbine was destroyed in Lincolnshire.
Residents were woken up at 4am by the noise of the collision, and this immediately prompted the Sun -- which would appear to be staffed almost entirely by X-philes if their blanket coverage of the issue is anything to go by -- to state, "This could be the most important UFO incident in years."
Until it emerged that, actually, the turbine had been struck by some sort of experimental unmanned drone.
That the British military might be testing experimental aircraft in the middle of rural England at four in the morning is a pretty damn interesting story in itself, but devotees prefer to immediately start blaming ET for the damage. Ah yes, the big bad Government -- source of all the world's ills.
It's remarkable how efficient UFOlogists think governments are when it comes to UFOs.
So, we hear whispered stories about secret government projects -- Majestik, Project Bluebook, Project Bluebeam etc -- which all claim that the Americans and British have either a) done a secret deal with the aliens; b) have already capitulated to the aliens; or c) are waging a secret war against the aliens.
And they usually claim that there are a few dead alien bodies dotted around secret installations. All this trust in the efficacy of the authorities is rather touching, really.
Because anyone with any experience of government bureaucracy will know that most of the people involved couldn't find their own head without a map and a hunting dog, and does anyone genuinely believe that the Americans could maintain a 50-year-old conspiracy without some Deep Throat figure spilling the beans?
Well, actually, there are plenty who believe exactly that.
With the rise of the internet -- alien technology, doncha know -- now everyone has an opinion, a theory, a factoid to add into the mix.
And yet, there are some theories or pieces of footage -- invariably grainy night scenes shot on a 20-year-old camcorder -- which defy immediate explanation.
The UFO sighting in Texas a few years back is the most compelling evidence I've ever seen. For 15 minutes a seemingly giant triangular-shaped craft, lit only by what appeared to be lights placed at exact intervals across its hull, slowly moved through the night sky. Debunkers immediately claimed it was a series of military flares attached to parachutes which were slowly descending, thus creating an optical illusion. The only problem with that is that flares, even the fancy ones attached to parachutes, don't move in exactly the same sequence at exactly the same distance. So does this mean that we have incontrovertible proof that, truly, we are not alone?
No, of course it doesn't.
It simply means that we saw something that has yet to be properly verified and classified. It's an intriguing and quite delicious mystery, but it doesn't mean that we have to start running for the bunkers just yet.
The parallels between belief in UFOs and belief in religion are innumerable and obvious -- people see or experience something which defies instant explanation and they immediately assume it fits into their belief system. And, like religion, there is no shortage of shysters out there ready and willing to relieve stupid people of their money.
After all, German author Erik Von Daniken has made millions out of convincing people that aliens built the pyramids, and despite the fact that his claims have been forensically torn apart for three decades, each new generation sees a bunch of people ready to listen raptly to his every word.
Here in Ireland, Boyle, Roscommon, is apparently Ireland's UFO capital.
Over the course of the years, I've interviewed several people from Boyle who believe with passionate, and seemingly rational, intensity that UFOs are attracted to the area.
And then they go and ruin it all by saying something stupid like it's because of ley lines that Boyle is so popular.
If anything rather skewers the notion of intelligent life coming to visit us then it is surely the notion that someone is going to travel thousands of light years from their galaxy to ours. And then they go to Boyle.
Given the fact that people from Dublin will make a detour to avoid the place, it would seem that our space friends are rather less discerning.
And what do they want when they arrive here?
If you listen to the testimony of self-confessed 'abductees', a lot of the stories are scarily consistent and we have definitely learned something about the abductors -- they seem to have an ass fetish.
After all, the amount of reports of anal probes would seem to indicate that the aliens are a bunch of mucky perverts who like to fondle and leer at people. And we don't need that.
Because we already have the French.