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Tuesday, 07 July 2015

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Perhaps Michael Knighton was right after all. You won’t find many Cumbrians who agree with that statement, but we’re not talking about football.

The former Carlisle United owner was responsible for plenty of mysterious behaviour during his decade at Brunton Park but the most famous example concerned flying saucers rather than flying footballs.

He’s not the only one. Hundreds of Cumbrians have reported seeing UFOs in the county’s skies.

And it’s exactly 60 years since the most famous UFO incident of them all.

In July 1947 something came crashing down in the hot sands of New Mexico, USA, about 75 miles from the town of Roswell.

Sixty years later the most famous Unidentified Flying Object in history remains unidentified. Opinions still vary as to what was found in the desert by a local ranch hand. The debris was quickly removed by soldiers from Roswell Army Air Field. After initially claiming that they had found the remains of a “flying disc”, the military then said it was a weather balloon.

What happened after that is difficult to determine, clouded by six decades and countless conspiracy theories.

It has been claimed that the remains were part of an alien spacecraft and that bodies were found inside. It is also said that the men who took part in the recovery were told by government officials never to talk about the incident.

Was there a cover-up or was this really a humble weather balloon which has taken on mythical proportions?

Since then thousands of people claim to have seen alien craft in the skies. And many such sightings have been in Cumbria. Indeed, one of the most famous unexplained sightings in the world – or any other world – came near Burgh by Sands on May 23, 1964.

Carlisle fireman Jim Templeton took three photographs of his five-year-old daughter Elizabeth on a day trip to Burgh Marsh. When the photos came back, one of them showed what appears to be a space-suited figure in the background.

The so-called Cumberland Spaceman has been a source of international fascination ever since.

In 1996 Michael Knighton made headlines with his claim that he saw a spacecraft while driving along the M62 and heard a voice say: “Michael, don’t be afraid.”

While Knighton was predictably ridiculed, plenty of people were listening rather than laughing.

They included Chris Parr from Whitehaven. Chris has been a UFO enthusiast for many years, and is the former co-ordinator of British UFO Hunters.

“There will always be UFOs because people will always see things in the sky that they can’t identify,” he says.

“People have been seeing UFOs for centuries but there’s nothing factual to say that it’s alien life. But we can’t rule it out either. They’ve found water on Mars and on the moons of Saturn. And where there’s water there’s life. I think we have to be open-minded.”

Cumbria has traditionally had a lot of UFO sightings, partly because its night skies are relatively unaffected by light pollution. But in recent years the number of sightings has fallen steeply.

“The mid-90s was the peak for sightings,” says Chris. “A lot of that was to do with the popularity of The X-Files.”

Chris has written a book about UFOs. It has details of sightings and activities of UFO enthusiasts, including those who have broken into military bases.

But he is not looking for a publisher yet. “The climate for a book isn’t right at the moment. We need another X-Files to grab people’s attention again.”

Sharon Larkin is a prominent member of North West Cumbria UFO Research and Investigation.

She is familiar with dozens of UFO stories in Cumbria’s skies. The group says most sightings have been above the Solway Firth.

A Bassenthwaite farmer contacted Sharon in 2000. He said that in 1954 he and his son had come across some strange wreckage from a disc-shaped object on Knott Fell, Branthwaite, near Workington.

He claimed the army recovered the wreckage of the silver disc and that he and his son had spent two weeks at Kirkbride airfield while the army cleared the land.

“It was just before he died,” said Sharon. “He said the army had trained him not to speak about the incident, but that he felt he wanted to tell someone and unburden himself of the story.

"Cumbria is definitely a hotspot for sightings. There are also a lot of sightings associated with nuclear installations.”

THE incidents reported to North West Cumbria UFO Research and Investigation in recent years have included:

n A west Cumbrian woman who claims to have been abducted numerous times from her house over the past 20 years.

n A woman putting out her rubbish near Flimby seeing a bright white light doing manoeuvres for three minutes before shooting north at extreme speed.

n A Branthwaite farmer terrified by a UFO which lit up his field .

n A cigar-shaped UFO flying over Carlisle.

n A black triangular object with a huge emerald coloured light on its undercarriage at Uldale. It flew by at great speed and made the sound of an electric generator.

n A triangular craft flying over Workington. It sat over Great Clifton before heading to the Lake District.

n An orange ball spotted over Broughton Moor near Maryport.

n A red object hovering above the road from Whitehaven to Workington.

n A “flying light” over Whitehaven Golf Club.

n Nine UFOs flying in the night sky above Allonby.


After the incident in 1947, the case was forgotten for more than 30 years. Then, in 1978, UFO researcher Stanton T Friedman interviewed Major Jesse Marcel, who had been involved with the recovery of the debris.

Marcel believed the military had covered up the recovery of an alien spacecraft. Additional witnesses emerged. There were claims of a large military operation to recover alien craft and aliens themselves, and alleged witness intimidation. In 1989 former mortician Glenn Dennis claimed that alien autopsies were carried out at the Roswell base.

The Office of the Secretary of the Air Force conducted an internal investigation. This concluded that the material recovered in 1947 was probably debris from a secret government programme called Project Mogul.

Reports of recovered alien bodies were thought to be a combination of innocently transformed memories of military accidents involving injured or killed personnel, and the recovery of dummies which had been used in some military programmes.


Jim Templeton did not see the figure on Burgh Marsh until his photograph, above, had been developed.

Analysts at Kodak have confirmed that the photograph is genuine.

After the photograph was published Jim was visited by two men who claimed to be from the government but refused to show their identification.

They drove Jim to the place where he had taken the photo. When he explained that he hadn’t seen the figure at the time, they drove away and left him to walk home to Carlisle.

In the past 43 years some UFO experts have linked the “spaceman” to the Blue Streak missile tests which were happening in Cumbria when the photograph was taken.

Other people have claimed that the figure is someone standing with their back to the camera, perhaps wearing a hat or helmet.


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