Posted on: February 23, 2015

The Solway Firth Spaceman is one of the most famous photographs in the UFO world.  It is still hotly debated now, in spite of numerous attempts to debunk it.  There are plenty of websites and chat-forums which go into exhaustive detail taking the photograph apart, and putting their own theories on it.  I’m not really bothered about going into the technological minutiae of the picture though.   I’ll leave that to others.  It is the story itself which interests me, particularly Mr Templeton’s claims of being visited by the Men In Black afterwards.

On 23 May 1964 Jim Templeton from Carlisle, a fireman and keen amateur photographer, took his family out to Burgh Marsh, overlooking the Solway Firth, in Cumbria, for the day.   His little daughter, Elizabeth, was wearing a new dress, and Jim offered to take a picture of her in it.  What should have been simply a charming picture of a little girl holding a posy of flowers though was to become one of the most famous photographs in the paranormal world.  Nothing abnormal was seen at the time the picture was taken.  Jim says the only people on the marsh aside from his wife and daughter were a couple of pensioners nearby.

Jim took the film to a chemists to be developed.  Once it was processed one of the assistants said what a charming picture it was, and what a shame about that spaceman figure in the background ruining it.  There, standing a short distance behind Elizabeth, was what seemed to be a beefy-looking figure wearing a tight-fitting white jacket with a hood on the back.  It appeared to be standing with it’s back to the camera, arms slightly akimbo (or with their hands stuffed into front pockets, as it always looks to me), and wearing a weird helmet-like head-piece.

The figure bemused Jim, who asked both Kodak and the local police for their opinion.  Both said the picture wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.  A local newspaper got onto the story (as they tend to do), and before long a media frenzy ensued.  These days we would say Jim’s picture “went viral”, as the Solway Spaceman photograph was taken up by newspapers all over the world.  The Templetons found themselves the targets of anyone who had a pet theory as to what the mysterious figure could be.  One woman psychic came up with the mind-numbingly dull idea that the figure was the ghost of an RAF pilot killed in an accident at a rocket-testing base.  She also claimed little Elizabeth was probably psychic, and could “emanate an invisible power which the sensitive camera negative can pick up and use automatically”.

More interestingly, in Australia a technician on the proposed launch of a Blue Streak missile in Woomera, South Australia, said the figure bore a remarkable resemblance to two figures who had strayed into the launch area, causing it to be aborted.  To add to the mystery, the Blue Streak had been built at RAF Spadeadam, in Cumbria, a few miles away from where Jim’s picture had been taken.

Back home, Jim claimed he was visited at work by two men in dark suits, driving a dark-coloured Jaguar, who said they were government officials, and wanted Jim to show them the spot where he had taken the picture.   They briefly flashed ID at him, which he said simply showed what looked like a crest, and the word “SECURITY”.  These strange characters, who refused to give their names, and referred to each other as No.9 and No.11, questioned Jim at Burgh Marsh, demanding to know if he had seen any unusual people or animals around that day, and quizzing him as to what the weather conditions had been like.  On being taken to the exact spot where the picture had been taken, they said “this is where you saw the large man, the alien?”  Jim said they hadn’t seen anybody that day.  They pressured Jim to admit that the photo was a hoax, and when he refused, they both had a hissy fit, got in their car and drove away, leaving him to walk the 5 miles back to work!

Jim went on to say that he didn’t believe the MIB were government officials at all, but somebody playing an elaborate practical joke on him.  It is thought he may have been trying to down-play the strange visit though, unsettled after he found journalists had been quizzing the local police about it. David Clarke, author of Britain’s X-traordinary Files,  interviewed him in 2001, and Jim confided to him then that he firmly believed the MIB were sent by the British Government.

A year later, in 1965,  Jim returned to the marsh to take some more photographs.  When he handed them over (at the same chemist) to be developed, they were returned with a note saying that the film couldn’t be processed.  Kodak meanwhile had put up an offer of free film for a year for anyone who could prove what the Spaceman photograph really was.  It was never claimed.

There are some blood-curdlingly vicious forums out there debating the story of the Solway Firth Spaceman, many of whom get extremely offensive about the people involved.  Likewise there are numerous theories.  Here are a few: (1) it is Jim’s wife Annie.  She had been wearing a pale blue summer frock that day, and it is theorised that this would appear white in the picture (hard here not to be reminded here of that blasted Internet phenomenon The Dress).  Backed up by some arguing that the “Spaceman” has effeminate tapering arms.  Annie had skipped behind Elizabeth without Jim noticing.   Jim always denied it could have been Annie, as he had said she had been standing behind him at the time, holding their other child’s hand (2) The Spaceman is Jim, and it is Annie who took the picture.  (3)  Jim was a practical joker, but the joke got out of hand.  (4) the chemist, who got fed up with Jim’s practical jokes, decided to play one on him … but the joke got out of hand.  (5) It’s a time-traveller.  (6)  It’s a figure from another dimension.  (7) it’s a laboratory technician taking the air in his white coat, and going completely unnoticed by everybody (8) It really is an Alien … but the joke got out of … no, sorry about that.

This is one of those stories that could suddenly be solved by a death-bed confession, a bit like the notorious Surgeon’s Photo of the Loch Ness Monster.  Jim sadly passed away in 2011 though, and no such confession appears to have been forthcoming.  So until technology can prove emphatically what it is, with No Room For Argument Whatsoever, I guess the debates will continue to rage, (and probably still will then as well), and the Solway Firth Spaceman will continue to tantalise Ufologists for quite some time to come.



[…] Templeton even went as far as to say they were quite intimidating as they drove him to Burgh Marsh – the site where he had photographed the strange figure. They apparently questioned him about […]

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