FROM War of the Worlds to Et and beyond, the idea of extraterrestrial life has captured imaginations for decades.

For 25 years the Ministry of Defence even kept top-secret records of all reported UFO sightings, such as the “irregular pattern of lights coloured white, blue, yellow and red” spotted in the Yorkshire sky in April 1999.

It turns out, however we are a long way from any close encounters of the fourth kind after details of hundreds of UFO reports were declassified.

The Ministry of Defence says the real life British X-Files were used only to determine whether flying objects posed a threat to national security, and the UFO desk was wound up in 2009.

In February this year The Press reported how dozens of people say they saw a flying object over New Earswick, prompting police to investigate reports of “space debris” crashing to the ground. The newly released files list several more sightings in Yorkshire.

In August 2002, a driver reported seeing a “purple and white pulsating jellyfish-like object, with smaller light circles surrounding the main object,” near Rosedale Abbey, on the North York Moors.

The keen-eyed motorist claimed the UFO followed his car for four miles before disappearing. One report describes how an eyewitness was left in awe after spotting something in the night sky above Filey in September 2009.

“It was a brilliant and dazzling, pure white, horizontal ring of light. I was completely transfixed by it and watched it for a few minutes before I panicked and ran back to my parents’ flat. It was the strangest experience of my life.”

Not everyone who reported sightings to the Ministry of Defence was convinced they had seen a UFO though. One report from January 2009, from near RAF Menwith Hill, claims there were: “aircraft performing manoeuvres which should rightly be impossible within the bounds of Newtonian science.”

The report continues: “Much as I would love it to be aliens I am sure they are just some sort of classified aircraft, presumably used for spying on the Chinese. If you wanted to keep these amazing things secret, perhaps it would be better not to put big orange lights on them?”