Tuesday, May 17, 2016

ALIEN INTRUSION AT WOOMERA? - a case of "Chinese Whispers"?

A very bizarre story surrounds the events of the beginning of the Blue Streak missile programme at the Woomera facility during the middle of 1964.  The UK project involved missiles that were assembled at what was the most advanced testing facility in Europe - the Ministry of Supply Rocket Establishment built at the Spadeadam Waste suite in Cumbria, England.  The missile would then be shipped to the remote Woomera site in Australia for final assemblage and test firing.
In the same Cumbrian region as the Spadeadam facility is the city of Carlisle.  From there former local fireman Jim Templeton and his wife took his two young daughters to spend Sunday, 24 May 1964, taking pictures at Burgh Marsh, an isolated location on the banks of the Solway Firth estuary.  He took a photo of his 5 year old daughter Elizabeth.  Apart from being a pleasant late spring day nothing seemed out of the ordinary except perhaps for the cows and sheep nearby which seemed to be behaving oddly, huddling together.  The only time he had noticed similar behaviour was immediately before a thunderstorm when the air seems heavy with static.
About a week later Jim Templeton was very puzzled when he learnt that his photo of Elizabeth had been spoilt by a “man in the background wearing a space suit.”  Examining the photo he could see that a man seemed to be standing behind Elizabeth’s head at odd angle that gave the impression that the man would not have been standing on the ground, but was seemingly situated in the air.  What was even odder was that Jim was absolutely certain that no one was anywhere near them in that isolated area and he would had noticed anyone anyway had they come into the shot as he was taking it. 
Jim sought the assistance from the police and it was through them that the picture got wider circulation through a story in the local paper “The Cumberland News.” Kodak got involved and despite extensive examination no one could solve the mystery.  Eventually the paper contacted the Ministry of Defence to request they look into it.  It was unclear whether the MOD did look into the matter at that point, but things soon took a decidedly odd turn. 
Following an initial phone call, two men turned up at the Templeton house in late June, driving a big black Jaguar car.  They were well dressed in black suits and seemed very officious, and sometimes a little off hand.  Oddly they referred to each other by numbers (Number 9 and Number 11) but cursorily flashed some identification saying they were from some government unit.
While this might for some represent a sinister resonance for an event that would horrify the world some 37 years later, it probably reflected the periods popularisation of number identifications in TV series such as the Prisoner or James Bond’s 007 title, as UK researcher Jenny Randles pointed out in her investigation of this 1964 mystery.
The strangeness of the situation escalated when the two men drove Jim out to the site of the photography.  They wanted to know the precise nature of the weather on the day the photograph was taken, how the wildlife and livestock behaved, whether he noticed any birds, any ambient sound and a similar litany of questions, but none about the camera or the film.  They then insisted on knowing where the man in the photo was standing.  When Jim responded he didn’t see a man at the time.  They seemed to get more confronting in their line of questioning seemingly trying to get him to admit to a hoax. 
When Jim insisted there was no man, they abruptly walked back to their car and left him there 5 miles from his home! A few weeks later Jim took another photo on the marsh area.  Upon development it showed “a streak of light climbing into the sky” (perhaps a lens flare?).  When the fire service asked him to give a talk on his experience, Jim returned to Burgh Marsh to take some more location shots to illustrate his lecture.  The developed slide film was returned but minus the Marsh shots.  Exasperated, Jim contacted the police, who subsequently intimated that the film had been appropriated for some sort of government enquiry and that was all they could say.  Pressing further Jim was told that at the time he took the photo of the man, some automatic cameras recording a rocket launch had captured “more or less the same thing” which led to the launch being aborted.  He could now understand why there was so much interest in his photograph.
It was also suggested that the Templeton photo had appeared in Australia media and Woomera test range staff in South Australia had seen it and the claim was made that a Blue Streak rocket launch had been aborted when two automatic survey camera had separately shown “two large figures in the firing area during the countdown phase.”  They were allegedly very similar to the “man” caught on Jim Templeton May 1964 photo. These suggestions appear to be attributed to the editor of the Cumberland News in conversation with Jim Templeton.  Whether it was a mangled cross reference or not Group Tom Dalton-Morgan, the officer in charge of the Woomera Range Operations between 1959 and 1963, was also attributed with saying, “that in 1964 they had aborted the launch of another test when a "white being" was seen on the automatic security cameras.” (From http://www.ufologie.net/htm/solwayfirth64.htm by Patrick Gross)
What can be confirmed is that Dalton-Morgan was the Officer in Charge of Range Operations at Woomera between 1959 and 1963. He had spoken about his own UFO experience at Woomera in about the late 1950s, shortly before the test firing of a Black Night rocket. He received a radio call from Percy Hawkins, the Recovery Officer, reporting an exceptional bright light at about 5000 feet traveling at high speed directly towards the test site.  Dalton-Morgan and his team, who were 80 to 90 miles SE of Hawkins position, were able to view the incoming light from their elevated control building position. They watched it fly in from the NW, then orbit around the range buildings some 5 miles to the south.  When the UFO was east of the control building, it seemed to accelerate and climb very steeply away to the NE.   Dalton-Morgan concluded, "I am unable to conceive of any object, plane or missile during my posting to Woomera that was able to perform the manoeuvers seen by my team.  Observers at the control tower and the launch site all agreed on the brilliant white-greenish light; the high degree of manoeuvrability, including rate and angle of climb; complete lack of sound; the lack of positive identification of the vehicle fuselage because it was a dark moonless night; and the exceptionally high speed of which it was capable." (See Ken Llewelyn’s 1991 book “Flight into the Ages” which described Australian military witness stories of the paranormal and UFO accounts.)
Jenny Randles’ investigation of the Templeton photo affair also highlighted that the UK government files. There is a letter in the Public Records Office in Kew, London dated 1964 December 29th referring to the Cumberland Spaceman by the MOD, with references by the Department of Scientific and Technical Intelligence (DSTI) to an investigation into the events. There is also a letter of enquiry from a reporter dated June 15th 1964 enquiring about the aborted launch, which said that film of the Blue Streak launch effort shows an extraordinary object “impossible to miss” hovering nearby. The MOD responded suggesting the reporter contact them if he wishes to view the film.
There is confusion here because there was no Blue Streak launch on the scheduled day of May 25 due to various delays, including heavy cloud.  Obviously aliens or UFOs were not suggested in official launch records.  The launch did finally take place on June 5. (See “Fire across the Desert – Woomera and the Anglo-Australian Joint Project 1946-1980” by Peter Morton (1989), pgs. 458 – 463.)
It was this launch and film of it that was connected with possible UFO imagery, but lens flare was suggested as an explanation.  Aviation writer and ufologist Waveney Girvan claimed he saw film of the Blue Streak launch at a private screening during 1964.  According to Jenny Randles, “the colour original footage of the launch depicts the object very clearly, and the UFO seems to be on the ground right beside the missile before take off.”  Jenny Randles indicated that Girvan’s response to the suggestion of a lens flare was “the camera was protected with a hood to shield against the sun as this is always very strong in the Australian desert.  So the camera operators did not think the object was a lens flare.” See Jenny Randles, “MIB – Investigating the truth behind the Men in Black phenomenon” (1997), pgs. 75 – 88.
Of course the sun would not have been the only source of bright light during the launch – for example the rocket exhaust blast would be an obvious source, as well as other light sources closer to the camera. 
British Pathe in a piece of footage entitled “Blue Streak Two, One, Zero!” clearly shows a “disc-shaped UFO” which does not move with the Blue Streak take off.  It is clearly lens flare from a stationary light source.
In the end it is unlikely that aliens or UFOs intruded at the Woomera site during the Blue Streak programme on either the May 25 scheduled date or the June 5 actual launch date.  Woomera authorities nor the Australia department of Defence had any file details and the UK MOD files while not coming to any conclusions add evidence to the film showing only a prominent lens flare.  When you look at the original film it seems dismaying that the “saucer” shaped thing prominent in the launch was not recognised for what it is – a lens flare. 
The May 23 1964 Templeton photo still remains something of a mystery but various explanatory analyses seem to make sense. I wondered if parallax error and perspective had a hand in the shot.  While the 2 shots of the girl either side of the strange photo do not show the “spaceman” is it possible someone wandered by – a “bee keeper” or someone else, who wasn’t noticed by Mr. Templeton while he was intent on capturing his daughter on film.  Still it is an intriguing photo.  I have seen what seems a compelling argument for explaining the parallax perspective suggestion.  There is even an analysis that suggest that the figure is Mrs. Templeton.
In the absence of a “spaceman” photo from Woomera, the Woomera connection fades away and leaves only the Templeton photo.  Your choice as to whether you think there is an alien mystery here.  I suspect not. It seems it may have been a case of "Chinese Whispers" - facts, reality and mystery mangled on the retelling, hot on the trail of seeking mystery not facts. 







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