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Sheffield saucers
A grainy photo shows what appear to be flying saucers over Sheffield, England, in 1962. (Credit: CIA)

The FBI denies having a secret collection of X-Files like the ones that Mulder and Scully are investigating in “The X-Files” TV series – but you’d expect the alien conspiracy to say that, wouldn’t you?

Whether or not the truth is out there, both the FBI and the CIA have capitalized on the X-Files buzz to rehash some of their, um, more unusual cases. The FBI’s online vault features nine cases having to do with unexplained phenomena, including flying saucer reports, cattle mutilations, ESP and the purported Majestic-12 conspiracy.

The CIA took its turn just in time for this season’s “X-Files” reboot, which continues tonight with what’s said to be the best episode to date. The spooks offered up five flying-saucer surveys from 1952 that would warm the heart of Fox Mulder, the true believer on the fictional FBI’s X-Files team. Five more files, dating from 1949 to 1952, take a skeptical view that’s in keeping with the usual attitude of Mulder’s partner, Dana Scully.

The CIA also threw in its top 10 tips for investigating unidentified flying objects.

X-Files UFO reports
An interactive graphic created for CartoDB traces UFO sightings during the time period when the original “X-Files” series aired, from 1993 to 2002. The X’s on the map pinpoint locales for “X-Files” episodes. Launch the interactive graphic in a new window. (Credit: CartoDB)

Why do the CIA’s files date back to the 1960s or earlier? Back then, the CIA was worried about the potential threat that UFOs posed to national security. It’s not that CIA agents thought the flying objects were extraterrestrial in origin; they assumed that the UFOs might be part of a Soviet weapons test program. The CIA investigators wound down the investigation once they determined there was no threat. At least that’s their story.

Most unidentified flying objects are eventually identified – either as meteors, or atmospheric effects, or aircraft, or rocket leftovers, or fireworks, or floating lanterns, or balloons, or celestial objects. Recent studies have linked anomalous lights in the sky with seismic activity. But there’s also a small percentage of UFO cases that remain unexplained.

Will the return of “The X-Files” cause an uptick in UFO reports? There’s already a case that could merit having its own episode: the booming noises and tremors that have been shaking up New Jersey residents over the past week. Last week’s disturbances were attributed to sonic booms created by military jets during routine flight tests. And guess what? The rumblings are back today.

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