When I was writing the recent post on the basics of the Men in Black phenomena, I came across a reference to the Solway Firth Spaceman. I left it out of that article because I think it is interesting enough to warrants its own mention.
The Solway Firth Spaceman refers to a photo taken by local historian, photographer and former foreman Jim Templeton. On 23rd May 1964, Jim was with his five-year-old daughter and wife on a trip to Burgh Marsh, on the Solway Firth in what was then Cumberland. He took three photos of his daughter, Elizabeth, that day in a similar pose but received an unexpected shock when the photos were developed. The middle picture of the three appeared to show a spaceman-type figure at a strange angle behind Elizabeth’s head.
At the time, Jim said there were two old ladies sitting in a car at the other end of the marsh from their location. Other than that, he did not recall seeing anyone in the area. Experts at Kodak examined the photo, confirmed that it was genuine, and had not be altered in any way.
Weirder and weirder
Jim was so shocked by the strange photo he contacted the local Cumberland News who carried the story and within no time, it was known around the country. Jim knew the photo wasn’t a fake but was at a loss to explain where the figure had come from.
Just after the photo was published, Jim had a visit from two men who said they represented the government but refused to show any form of identification. In fact, they claimed to work for a government agency and not have names for this purpose, simply numbers. They had Jim take them to the site where the picture was taken where he once again explained that he had not seen the figure when taking the picture. At this, the men became weirdly angry with him and drove off, leaving him to walk home. Jim later said he thought it was some sort of joke and was sure they weren’t real government agents.
One explanation came from lecturer and writer David Clark whose assessment was that the spaceman was actually Annie Templeton, Jim’s wife. She was present on the day and she had been wearing a blue dress with short bobbed dark hair. His explanation was that Annie had walked into the shot and Jim didn’t see her because the viewfinder of the camera only showed 70% of what was photographed. He also believed that the image had been overexposed accidentally to cause the strange look.
This may be the case, although the question has to be asked that why wasn’t the rest of the photo altered in some strange way – only the shot of Annie. And why did she appear to be standing at such a strange angle, when everything else appeared to be at a normal angle?
Another curious connection was made by the Australian authorities no less to an incident at the Woomera missile testing site in South Australia and reported on the Spaceman Central site. Around the same time as Jim took the photo in Cumberland, a missile test of the new Blue Steak system had been abandoned because some technicians has seen two figures in white outfits near the missile. When someone from the facility saw Jim’s picture he recognised the same figure and the authorities ask Jim for a copy of the negative to further investigate.
As a slightly curious side-note, the Blue Streak rocket had been assembled at RAF Spadeadam, which is around 25-30 miles from the Burgh Marsh spot, on the border with Northumberland. They were then shipped out to Australia for testing as part of the UK’s post war intercontinental ballistic missile program.
Jim Templeton passed away in 2011 and never changed his story about the photograph he took that day. His account of the odd government agents that visited him are also one of the earlier MIB encounters, at a time when the stories were less well known than today. Altogether, a very curious story and one that may never be conclusively solved.