You're not alone in County Durham

County Durham has been named as a hot spot for close encounters of the third kind.

New figures – supported by the former head of the Government's UFO project, Nick Pope – rank Durham at number eight in the list of places with the highest number of unusual sightings.

Compiled from data that dates back to 1961, the figures show 17 unexplained sightings in the county with West Yorkshire taking first place with an out-of-this world 34 UFOs witnessed.

UFO researcher Sam Willey, from Hetton, is in no doubt that there is something going on in our skies.

He said: "I have seen a number of things in County Durham. The most unusual was in 2003 when I saw a triangle shaped object with three orange lights on each corner and one in the middle. It stayed overhead for up to 50 seconds.

"It happened again in 2006 in the same spot in Hetton.

"I contacted RAF Leeming and they were at a total loss because their aircraft don't use orange lights."

The 16-year-old, who hosts his own UFO-themed radio show, says he has witnessed other strange lights in County Durham but can't say for definite that the area is a hot spot.

He said: "One thing is for sure – something is definitely going on. There is huge activity going on around the world. People need to take notice and some real investigation needs to go on."

The Hetton Comprehensive School pupil added: "General astronomical things, like planets and satellites, can look very deceptive in the night sky. I have no doubt that some reports will be UFOs, but some will be normal occurrences.

"What's important is to get witness testimony out there. So many people are seeing things, they can't all be lying."

Speaking about the figures, which have been released by Virgin Media, Nick Pope said: "It's fantastic to see local folk taking an interest in UFO activity and keeping an eye on the sky.

"While we currently have no explanation why certain places in the UK are alien hot spots, as the research reveals, there are areas where mysterious objects are repeatedly witnessed, so people who want to alien-spot should definitely head to Durham."

Top 10 areas

1. West Yorkshire – 34 sightings.

2. Nottinghamshire – 29 sightings.

3. Lancashire – 23 sightings.

4. Shropshire – 22 sightings.

5. North Somerset and Avon – 22 sightings.

6. Suffolk – 19 sightings.

7. South Wales – 18 sightings.

8. County Durham – 17 sightings.

9. Lanarkshire – 15 sightings.

10. Devon – 15 sightings.