Moonlight at Warminster
Alan W. Sharp

From MUFORG Bulletin. December 1966

To any British investigator of the UFO phenomenon the little town of Warminster nestling below rolling chalk hills on the edge of Salisbury Plain holds a fascination second to none, and after learning from Mr Arthur Shuttlewood that sightings could be made on any clear night, your investigator determined to visit the place again at the earliest opportunity.

So it was that shortly after dusk on Tuesday, November 1st, 1966, a small car, loaded with paraphernalia and with myself at the wheel, approached the town from the direction of Frome, some eight miles distant to the west, on what promised to be a perfect night for observation.

The moon had just begun to rise and the planet Saturn was visible in the sky to the south as the main street came into sight and with it the house which had been recommended as a base for operations and where a top-floor room was immediately secured having an excellent view of the surrounding hills in the direction where the anticipated events were expected to occur.

A key to the premises was obtained and the task of moving a carload of impediment was completed, but not before clouds had begun to obscure the sky in ever increasing amounts until ebentually even the moon was hidden and a thin drizzle began to fall.

However, as the best time for seeing strange things had been put at around 4 a.m. not too much notice was taken of the weather and the writer retired to bed unwontedly early after setting the alarm for 3 a.m. and making suitable preparations for a sortie at that hour.

Promptly at three the peace was shattered and your observer staggered to the window to find everywhere bathed in moonlight with the last of the clouds moving quickly away to the south. Needless to say the streets appeared deserted and the car started without any difficulties due to ignition failure. Evidently I was at last to be allowed to make a move in the right direction, though subsequent events might make the return journey less easy.

Proceeding up the main street, the Westbury road was taken as far as the signpost pointing towards the West Wilts Golf Club, where a right turn was made up the long hill leading to the Imber Ranges.

Driving up the narrow road with headlights out, half expecting to meet some apparition from another world, I felt a distinct sense of uneasiness as the lights of the town were left behind and the moon’s ghostly radiance became virtually the only source of illumination, until suddenly a cluster of bright lights sprang out on the hilltop to the left.

I stopped the car and felt a tinge of fear as I opened the door and stepped onto the road, fingers fumbling with the binocular case.

What could those lights be at such an hour? Curiously I raised the glasses and focused on the hill. A dim shape was revealed but, disappointingly, seemed to bear more resemblance to a house than to a space-craft. I determined to investigate further on the way back, but the incident left a heightened feeling of unreality as the journey was resumed.

Then, as the road began to level out I was amazed to find the way barred by a white iron gate where on a previous visit there had been no obstruction. The unexpected event was not reassuring and as I stepped out of the car for the second time I realised that it would now be necessary to complete the last half mile on foot.

A chill wind was blowing and, as I collected camera and binoculars, a bright meteor flashed overhead from the direction of the moon. The time was 3.40 a.m. and the omens appeared auspicious for some unusual event. I hoped I should not regret having dared to scoff at the possibility of extraterrestrial activities at Warminster and felt a keen sense of loneliness as I looked back at my car, forlorn and desolate in this strange place.

I had half expected to meet some other humans out here on the UFO quest and every roadside shadow took on a strange form as I trudge up the hill, occasionally looking backward in apprehension of being stalked by the unknown.

However, no beings materialised and eventually the shape of the guard house came into view with the barrier for some unaccountable reason raised into the open position. Was this some sinister invitation to enter?

The planets Mars and Jupiter looked down in silent scrutiny as I shone a torch inside the building but ther was no one in occupation. The muted roar of the wind in a nearby copse and its whistling sound round the hood of my anorak were sufficient to drown most other noises, I reflected as I peered round the hut into the forbidden territory, to see to my apprehension what appeared to be a crowd of formless black shapes a hundred or so yards away and an indistinct, saucer-shaped white patch reflecting the moonlight slightly to the right, whilst the distant glow of some reflected light enhanced the eeriness of the situation.

I determined to press on, come what might, and gingerly eased round the barrier onto the concrete apron.

To my surprise the dark shapes materialised into the forms of wrecked cars and I clambered onto one of them for a better look round.

The reflected light seemed to come from a naked bulb somewhere out on the range and the white shape was in fact a long mound of chalk bulldozed out of the hillside to create what appeared to be a refuse pit of some description.

Then I saw a faint yellow light glide across the sky at a low elevation from east to west and I focused the binoculars on it as it passed close to the star Deneb, almost due north of the constellation Cygnus. A pulsating red light could now be seen and a faint drone was borne on the wind above the nearer sounds. The object was evidently an aeroplane bound for some unknown destination, possibly Bristol. The time, 4.10 a.m.

Cold but reassured I returned to ground level and continued my reconnaissance, but without meeting anything further out of the ordinary.

I looked at Jupiter to pass the time. Two of the Galilean satellites were visible close to the planet. Nothing unusual there.

No clouds, either, to be investigated, so at five-thirty I began to walk downhill to the car which I was relieved to find still where I had left it and without any sinister occupants waiting to escort me to an exciting rendezvous.

A quick cup of hot tea and I was on my way back to Warminster, though not without first finding the origin of the mysterious lights. It was the Golf Club-house, strategically situated, I thought, for UFO observation, though why the outside lights should be on remained a mystery. Perhaps the members liked to play by moonlight. Or did they?

Arrived in Warminster, I surprised an early milk roundsman and made two purchases. He seemed to take my odd appearance for granted fortunately and, armed with refreshing fluid, I parked the car and eventually climbed back into bed as the first signs of dawn appeared in the eastern sky, a somewhat disappointed but perhaps rather relieved ufologist.

Interestingly enough I had seen no satellites during my sojourn but a quick glance at the official predictions showed that Echo I had been visible earlier in the night, but had moved too far to the west, while Echo II was in southbound transit and hence was eclipsed in the earth’s shadow.

Looking back now I am glad I made the trip; it was an adventure, but the vigil was not one which I could recommend to anyone of a nervous disposition.


A Recent Skywatch at Warminster
John Harney

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, Volume 2, Number 6, November-December 1969

On the evening of January 3, 1970, Alan Sharp and I attended the regular Saturday night skywatch on Cradle Hill, Warminster. The night was frosty, but cloudy at first, with only a few stars visible now and again.

As we reached the gate, we could hear the party of watchers walking towards us down the road from the guardhouse. Mr Shuttlewood car came over and spoke to us and we asked him about the significance of the spot known as Heaven’s Gate, on the Longleat estate. He told us that one of the usual “breaking points” for Cradle Hill UFOs (i.e., the part of the sky in which they first appear) was on a line with Heaven’s Gate. He repeated his opinion that it night be a place where different dimensions meet. (1) It was also reputed to be the meeting place of an all-male coven of witches. Three was some talk of strange smells and atmospheres noticed by observers on Cradle Hill and at Heaven’s Gate.

Eventually most of us, including Mr Shuttlewood, set off up the road to the guardhouse As we passed the copse on our left we were told that horses refused to go near it. We continued to walk for a few hundred yards on to the ranges. On our way back we decided to investigate the copse. An undentified odour was noticed immediately we entered it and after much sniffing, Alan Sharp traced it to a barrn full of hay, just outside the copse. With that little mystery solved we resumed our walk back to the gate where the cars were parked.

By now, the sky was clearing and Arthur Shuttlewood told us to watch the Plough, which was behind us as we walked down the road. We walked on, glancing back now and again, but Arthur hung back and was soon lost to view. Suddenly, when we were about half-way to the gate, there was an outbreak of exclamations from members of the party. A bright, flickering, orange light was seen from somewhere up near the Cradle Hill copse. Most of us saw it. One or two people leapt over the barbed wire fence and raced off in its general direction.

“It’s like somebody lighting a cigarette,” I said. Someone else said it looked like “rapid Morse”.

People shouted to Arthur, asking if he had seen it. An affirmative answer floated faintly back on the frosty air. However, when he rejoined us he said he thought at first that we had seen what he had seen, which was an object moving horizontally across the lower part of the Plough. The object was something like a shooting star, except that it flashed on and off.

Meanwhile, people were scrambling over the barbed wire fence and running up to the Cradle Fill copse. Less energetic watchers strolled down to the gate. I eventually joined the party up by the copse. The sky was quite clear now and many meteors were seen. The strange light was generally agreed to have been someone lighting a cigarette.

We were told that, before we arrived that evening, a strong smell of sulphur was noticed on Cradle Hi11, near the gate. It seemed to be wafting from the direction of the copse and it persisted for about a quarter of an hour. We were unable to explain this odour, as we had also been baffled by the experience of John Rimmer, when he and I visited Warminster last September. On that occasion he became aware of a smell, “like scented soap,’ which he detected on Cradle Kill in an area extending from the gate to about 80 yards down the road. The strange thing about it was that not one of the other people present was able to detect it.

Finally, back at the gate, the skywatch seemed to be coming quietly to a close, as the frost grew more penetrating. Mr Shuttlewood shook hands and said goodnight. Suddenly he turned and pointed: “Look, over therel”

“Where, where?” everyone shouted.

Our gaze was directed to Battlesbury Hill where we made out a faint light twinkling just above it. Mr Shuttlewood and some others thought it was noving up rather rapidly. Perhaps it was the same thing as a rather puzzling object which had been seen in the same direction during a BUFORA skywatch last June? However, the light soon shone out clearly and steadily and Alan Sharp quickly identified it as the star Arcturus.

Mr Shuttlewood conceded this, but it certainly seemed to some of us that it rose rather rapidly at first over the crest of Battlesbury. As the star rose higher, the group of watchers broke up and drifted away down the hill.


1. Arthur Shuttlewood. ‘The Latest Warminster Landing’, Merseyside UFO Bulletin, vol. 2, no. 4, July-August 1969/



Our Visit to Warminster.
Dave and Natalie Gould

from Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 3, number 6, December 1970

MUFOB’s interest in the Warminster phenomena drew this contribution from two visitors to the little town, who give an interesting account of the skywatching scene on Cradle Hill

After reading various literature on Warminster we decided to spend several days there.We were lucky in that the weather was good and our first night took us to the famed Cradle Hill, where we joined a couple from London. We watched the sky for most of the evening, but apart from a couple of satellites, saw nothing of note. We did however have a very interesting conversation with the Londoners, who, it transpired, were fortunate enough to be present several weeks previously, when some very good photographs were taken of a sighting. They did, in fact, show us some blown-up prints of these photographs, which were most impressive. They were later published in Flying Saucer Review.

During the days whilst we were in Warminster, we visited various places of prehistoric intcrest, and walked up endless hills, such as Clay Hill, Glastonbury Tor, Windmill Hill, and even Cadbury Hill.

We found it a most intriguing idea that many sightings appeared to follow lines of alignment between tors and/or barrows. This theory appeared to be generally accepted by the local crowd, and we began by day to investigate certain barrows.

cradle-hillThe second night was again cloudless. But apart from the usual satellites and a couple of shooting stars it was an uneventful evening.The next evening on Cradle Hill there were several new faces and much exchanging of news and experiences. At about 9.30 p.m. we saw our first UFO. It was boomerang-shaped and very large, and had five white lights spaced along its length. Not a sound came from it, though it was reasonably low. It moved parallel to Cradle Hill, and after about half a minute banked to the right and went out of sight. It was most eerie having no sounds particularly as a few minutes earlier we distinctly heard the sound of a plane which we saw as a speck in the far distanice.Shortly after this we were joined by Arthur Shuttlewood, who arrived just in time to see a large white object race across from east to west.

On the Friday before we left there was quite a crowd gathered on the Hill. There were several of our new acquaintances of previous evenings — Bob Strong, Arthur Shuttlewood and his group, plus twenty-odd Scouts from Swindon, and some BUFORA observers.

Two or three objects were sighted — but not with complete certainty were they thought to be UFOs. However Arthur Shuttlewood, who was situated in a much better position than most of us, claimed them to be definite sightings. The Scouts seemed impressed anyway.On our final evening there was a good crowd, mostly regulars. Two very good sightings were observed by everyone except us. We just seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; as many of us were walking up and down the road, talking.

We found our few days in Warminster most informative. Arthur Shuttlewood seemed a nice, genuine person. It was interesting speaking to people of their experiences regarding poltergeist activitiesq strange smells, ghostly footsteps and stories of witchcraft, all connected with the area.



Arthur Shuttlewood’s “Warnings from Flying Friends”
A Book Review by John Harney

Warnings from Flying Friends Arthur Shuttlewood, Portway Press, Warminster, 1968

A review by John Harney

“UFOs not Bourgeois Journalist Fabrications”, “Young Drug-Takers Groped and Grovelled”, “Earth Time is Desperately Short – Warning”, “Anatomy of a Holocaust — and Dying Fishes”

These are some of the exciting chapter headings in the second UFO book to come from the inimitable pen of Mr Arthur Shuttlewood. The book contains photographs of UFOs and poems by Pauline Roberts and Veronica Cadby. The author writes in his foreword: “We hope you will like the poetry and not consider it totally irrelevant.”

I suppose that this work falls into the category which the more esoteric ufologists call “New-Age” literature. Much of the book is devoted to recording the views of various people who have communicated with Mr Shuttlewood since he became wellknown for his investigations of the Warminster “Thing,” It seems that most of these people are sincerely convinced that the world as we  know it is likely to come to an end in the near future and this event will be followed by the dawning of a new “Golden Age” of spiritual enlightenment and enhanced awareness of man’s relatiozzshib with the universe.

This is the general sort of idea behind most of the messages quoted but they are, inevitably, heavily embroidered with pseudo-scientific speculations, apocalyptic visions and vague verbiage.

shuttlewoodAlthough most of the visionaries appear to be basically sincere, it is obvious that some of them, apparently lacking a sense of humour, fall easy victims to the leg-pullers. One of these elaborate jokes is quoted in detail and Mr Shuttlewood gently indicates, to the perceptive reader, that he appreciates the jest — I think. I must point out here that we will probably get letters from his more obtuse readers earnestly requesting further details. It seems that Mr Shuttlewood was approached by “a charming Norfolk man with honest blue eyes, humble approach, disarming candour and integrity, sparking his personality.”

This gentleman reported that a philological expert to whom he sent a tape of the Venusian language and a sample of Venusian script went into raptures over them.

The philological expert came to some hilarious conclusions such as: “Sound production is diphasic: this means that the two lungs are accurately out of phase with one another, thus enabling the creature to speak for a long time without taking breath … The script: this is quite uncharacteristic of anything found on earth except possibly the Sacred Boggah Script of the Abluti Indians of Paraguay,..” and “From an application of Reinmann Phoneme analysis techniques — first stage, naturally — it can be concluded with fair certainty that the creatures in question possess a large hand, possibly with all thumbs…” I feel sure that many of us know beings who have these characteristics and whose terrestrial origin is not in doubt.

I was agog to read Mr Shuttlewood’ s version of the memorable events of May 27th and 28th, 1967 at Warminster, in view of the fact that Alan Sharp and I were there at the time and had published our version of that weekend (Report on a Visit to Warminster, by John Harney and Alan W. Sharp, Flying Saucer Review Vol.3, No.5}. Disappointingly, he only mentions in passing the controversial skywatch of the night of May 27th-28th, whein we saw lightning and he saw the ‘Thing’. He goes into considerable detail, though, about the visit of the ‘Aenstrian’ to his home on the afternoon of May 28th. He was in a bad mood just before: the Aenstrian’s visit and this was due to lack of sleep and the fact that: “With Bob and Sybil, I shared weariness of libellous comment over the integrity of our team and Warminster witnesses that had gained unmerited headlines in ill-informed magazines published by a certain group of ‘armchair’ ufologists begrudging our experience.”

The magazine referred to is possibly MUFORG Bulletin, of which I was editor, in which we had published a rather critical review of Mr Shuttlewood’s lecture on the Warminster phenomena delivered at the 1966 BUFORA Northern Conference in Bradford. We learned indirectly, that Mr Shuttlewood was very annoyed about the article in question, even though the Bulletin had only a very small circulation.

From the depths of my armchair I recommend this book to all connoisseurs of the Warminster phenomena.


Note: click on the title at the head of this article to order a copy from Amazon.

A Very British Ufology
John Rimmer

Editorial notes, Magonia 95, May 2007

At last, it seems, the Warminster revival is getting underway. With the publication in 2005 of Dewey and Reis’s In Alien Heat (reviewed in Magonia 91) an almost forgotten aspect of British ufological history was brought back into focus. Two recent books also revisit the site of England’s biggest UFO flap. Andy Roberts and David Clarke’s Flying Saucerers: A Social History of Ufology (1) places Warminster into the broader context of UFO development in this country, and Kevin Goodman’s UFO Warminster: Cradle of Contact (2) presents the place and the events associated with it into a more personal context. All three books, I believe, reveal Warminster as an intrinsically English phenomenon, and part of a very distinctive national UFO tradition.

Roberts and Clarke begin their survey with the usual brief account of the 1947 events in the USA, starting with Arnold’s sighting on June 24. Amazingly, it took just six days for the saucers to cross the Atlantic; Britain’s first UFO report came from a vicar’s wife in Kent who saw a `dark ring’ in the sky as she waited at a level-crossing near Sandwich.

Even in this pioneering report some of the classic characteristics of the mass-media UFO report were apparent: the immediate search for, then dismissal of, a prosaic explanation: “I am positive it was not a smoke ring from the passing engine”; the immediate linking with other reports: “Flying saucers were also reported yesterday as having been seen during the last couple of days over Denmark, Johannesburg and Sydney”; then as a clincher of authenticity: “The United States Army Air Force announced at Roswell, New Mexico last night that a ‘flying disc’ was found last week on a ranch near Roswell, and was now in the Army’s possession.”

So within days of Roswell, UFOs were already established in the UK. ‘Ufology’ as an organised pursuit began with the foundation of small clubs, mostly just groups of friends, like that founded in Hove by Richard Hughes, called simply The Flying Saucer Club. It was organised to the extent of issuing membership cards and publishing a magazine, Flying Saucer News.

Clarke and Roberts outline the development of the earliest years of British ufology in some detail, but there is clearly a great deal of material still waiting to be discovered. But what is very clear, even from the limited amount of material available to us, is that ufology in this country, even in the earliest years, developed differently from its American counterpart. Perhaps significantly ufology in Britain attracted a number of ‘establishment’ figures, and in the early years, like much else in Britain in the 1950s, had a distinctive class profile.

Early British saucer enthusiasts (‘ufologists’ is perhaps too strong a word) included a number of high-ranking RAF personalities, most notably Lord Dowding. For some reason the minor Anglo-Irish aristocracy were also to the fore in early British UFO research with Brinsley le Poer Trench (Lord Clancarty) and Desmond Leslie, with a castle in Ireland and family links to Sir Winston Churcill. The aristocratic connection even reached to the Royal Family, with both Lord Mountbatten and Prince Philip expressing keen interest in the subject. (Gordon Creighton claimed that Philip was a subscriber to Flying Saucer Review, but whether this meant more than just that Creighton sent him a copy of every issue is hard to say).

Class divisions characterised much of British ufology on a less rarefied level as well. Throughout its history BUFORA (now defunct but once Britain’s leading UFO organisation) was riddled with factional in-fighting, which often showed a class overtone. Many of the founders and senior figures in BUFORA were primarily occultists, to whom UFOs were a way of challenging scientific values; so that groups and individuals who wanted to bring a scientific approach to the organisation were seen as a hostile force challenging their own occult agenda.

A classic example of this attitude was displayed by BUFORA veteran John Cleary-Baker when involved in a spat with the scientifically-oriented Cambridge University UFO group, dismissing them as “these white-coated godlings of the laboratory”.

British ufology took some strange paths in the 1960s and 1970s, and Andy Roberts’s descriptions of the ufological foundation of the Findhorn Community (an early version of which appeared in Magonia 89) shows how the founder, Peter Caddy, was drawn into the flying saucer world through his involvement with the aristocratic, spiritualist Attingham Park group, with included figures such as Sir Victor Goddard (a former Air Marshall) and Sir George Trevelyan.

Roberts’s description of the ‘hippie’-UFO connection (again outlined in a preliminary article in Magonia 87) shows just how much ufological ideas permeated the underground culture of the era, linking it with ideas about leys, Glastonbury and ‘the Matter of England’: and also how these ideas emerged into a broader culture of mysticism, occultism and anti-rationality, which has continued through to contemporary obsessions with crop-circles.

It is interesting that the development of the crop-circle community has followed the same class-based divisions that marked the early stages of ufology, with an elite of minor aristocracy and the Aga-classes blithely lording it over the lower-middle-class foot soldiers; a situation hilariously described in Jim Schnabel’s Round in Circles and P. G. Rendall’s Cereal Killers.

But the British UFO story is not confined to an aristocratic clique. There are ordinary people in it too, and Clarke and Roberts tell their stories as well. People like Cynthia Appleton, the young housewife who gave birth to a star-child after meeting an Adamski-style alien in her terraced house in Birmingham. Where is the would-be Saviour now? Despite determined investigation the authors were unable to find any trace of him.

Unknown to me until I heard Roberts’s talk at the FT UnConvention last year, is the strange phenomenon of the Flying Saucer Vicars, in the great tradition of eccentric Church of England clergymen (and a few other denominations as well), like characters from an Ealing Comedy. Although some saw saucers as evidence of God’s omnipotence possibly offering, literally, new worlds for evangelising, others found evidence of the devil’s works of entrapment and picketed cinemas showing UFO films.

Britain has only ever produced one UFO cult worthy of the name, the Aetherius Society, and the account given here of its founding by George King is vigorously disputed by the current leadership; but there is something encouragingly English about the idea of it being conceived in a Soho drinking club and ending up at the less fashionable end of Fulham Road like some ‘fifties Chelsea-set demi-mondaine. The Aetherius Society is usually dismissed as a fringe organisation of no account to ‘serious ufologists’, who ignore the fact that it has a much higher profile to the public and the media than most ‘serious ufologists’ are prepared to admit. Clarke,and Roberts are surprisingly sympathetic to it, finding its members genially eccentric.

And now to Warminster, that most English of UFO flaps. Clarke and Roberts devote a chapter to it, outlining the major stages in its growth, and look at some of the curious individuals involved. Greatest of all, of course, was Arthur Shuttlewood. The account of Warminster in Flying Saucerers is a straightforward account of the events in the small town, from the events leading up to the famous town-hall meeting in 1966, to the gradual fading away in the ‘seventies.

One thing that comes across clearly in this account, and which distinguished Warminster from American experience, is the almost total lack of military involvement, despite the enormous army presence in and around the town. The ufologists and the sky watchers were careful to distance the phenomenon from the military, which featured in their accounts merely as the source of a few (very few) UFO misinterpretations, and a minor nuisance to keen skywatchers who wanted to wander across the countryside at night. No crashed saucers in sinister hangers, no secret retrievals, no Men in Black.

The second new book gives us a much more personal, view of the Warminster phenomenon. Kevin Goodman started visiting the Wiltshire town in 1976, a few years after the ‘Great Days’, when establishment ufological interest had moved on and Warminster was being seen as a bit of an embarrassment to many British ufologists. The original stories of ‘The Thing’, strange noises and mysterious objects in the sky had developed into a complex of contactees, hoaxes and the semi-coherent New Age ramblings of Arthur Shuttlewood’s later books. But to the enthusiastic seventeen-dear old and his friends from the Midlands, Warminster still held the magic of the previous decade; it was a place where one could sit on a starlit hillside and be virtually guaranteed to see UFOs.

By the time Kevin arrived, the centre of the Warminster scene had largely moved from Arthur Shuttlewood, who was suffering from increasing ill-health, to Peter and Jane Paget at the Star Foundation in Fountain House. This was a full-on New Age establishment promoting meditation and spiritual healing more than ufology.

* * *

The contact events experienced by the author and his friends, are subtle and ambiguous. No blonde-haired Nordics striding down ramps from shining discs, but more a low-key ‘psychic’ contact, conducted through dream and meditation

* * *

The story of Kevin’s time at Warminster is told in UFO Warminster, Cradle of Contact. This is a fascinating account of the Warminster scene from the mid-seventies through to the late nineties, when most ufologists had given up any interest in England’s major UFO flap.

It is also a very personal story of friendship, enthusiasm, trust and even betrayal, and gives a fascinating insight into the cultism surrounding organisations such as the Star Fellowship. And, as the title implies, it is the story of UFO contact.

Well, not quite. The contact events experienced by the author and his friends, are subtle and ambiguous. No blonde-haired Nordics striding down ramps from shining discs, but more a low-key ‘psychic’ contact, conducted through dream and meditation. Although the ‘contactees’ receive messages and images that suggest an extraterrestrial connection, Goodman and his friends are too intelligent and self-aware to take this all at face-value. They are as puzzled by what is happening to them as we are, reading about it.

I have spoken to a number of English contactees and abductees, and have in every case found that they are aware of the ambiguity of their experiences – there is none of the evangelical zeal, the ‘believe me or else’ attitude that comes across from many American contact accounts.

There has recently been a movement to write the contactee experience out of the ‘real’ UFO narrative, claiming it is not a suitable subject for ‘serious ufologists’. But it is clear from stories such as that of Kevin Goodman that there is no real division between the contact experience, the abduction experience, and the UFO experience in its widest form. The simple ‘abductees good; contactees bad’ dichotomy which is being promoted is hopelessly crude.

Too often now, especially on the Internet, we see ‘ufologists’ who have little or no knowledge of the history of the subject, and who are constantly trying to re-invent the wheel. These two books are an invaluable antidote to that ignorance. Clarke and Roberts give a sound social and historical description of ‘ufology in one country’: Kevin Goodman gives an account of someone who explored one facet of that history, became a part of the experience, but retained the objectivity and self-awareness to give us a fascinating account of a journey to Magonia.

These are important books, please read them.


  1. David Clarke and Andy Roberts. Flying Saucerers: A Social History of UFOlogy Alternative Albion, Heart of Albion Press.
  2. Kevin Goodman. UFO Warminster: Cradle of Contact [2nd edition] Swallowtail Books.














Of Many ‘Things’
Paul Hopkins

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 3, number 4, September 1970


It is now [September 1970] almost six years since the “Thing” came to Warminster. Not forgetting that, as the Daily Mirror once put it, ‘It Started on Xmas Morning’, papers in general had a field day and were for a while seemingly full of such gems as – ‘It’s the “Thing” from Space’, ‘The Thing Probe’ and ‘What shall we do about the Thing?’ Then alas, ‘That THING appears again’, (Daily Mirror, 11/9/65) or as the Express said, ‘The Thing Pops Back Again’. Mind you a little over a month previously the Daily Mirror had reported that the Thing had returned to a town of fear, and with the recent report in FSR (Vol.16, No .4, pp.4-7) it seems that the ‘Thing’ really never left.

With the colossal amount of both sense and rubbish printed in papers and UFO magazines on the subject of Warminster, it is almost needless to say that the area has become almost a shrine to the hardened believer of the space brother cult; to the sceptic an area of interest, and to the scientifically minded researcher an area in which there are still a great many questions unanswered and consequently a lot of scope for experiment and level headed observation.

It is I believe pertinent that in spite of almost six years of alleged activity in the area, the serious UF0 investigator is seemingly no nearer the truth as to the exact nature of the manifestations in the skies above Warminster despite its persistent nature, but then, is this not a characteristic of UFO research ever since the UFO aroused keen interest in the post war years?

Considering the brain power involved in attempting to solve the mystery over a good twenty-five years we are still very much at the starting post. Perhaps the reason why many UFO groups fold up, is that once the novelty has worn off and the frustration of inactivity sets in, the social activities of the group are too weak to hold the group together for any appreciable time or purpose. Surely this process of group fragmentation could be avoided if groups would only take on a subsidiary interest. A project of some nature to keep the group the tight knit, hard working communty it ought to be. Consider the variety of talents and skills to be found in many groups where the members are drawn from all walks of life. There is I believe through this fact, a great potential for inventiveness that could be harnessed not only for the paper work, but also for the construction of scientific equipment of an analytical nature.

It is, I believe, futile to attempt the investigation of phenomena as complex as that occurring at Warminster armed only with a note pad, a pair of low power and often cheap binoculars and perhaps a camera. About all such equipment is liable to achieve is a riotous evening as the antics of the local cretins are related in some smoke-filled bar, or meeting hall. The aim of all good UFO researchers should be good and sound scientific methods by which they should strive to add to the advancement of science, rather than to attempt to knock orthodoxy for six as so often happens with disastrous results and subsequent ridicule by great minds who have based their knowledge on the foundations of past scientific experience.

The derivation of scientific knowledge evolves from old facts and fallacies, experimentateon, observation and consistent results and the subsequent remodelling of existing ideas. Of course genius, flashes of insight and chance play their role, but there is no shortcut to any scientific knowledge or achievement to be found by disregarding present day science as a load of bumbledom to be replaced by some new science, as some of the ‘space brother’ pundits would have us believe. Luckily, the enlightened investigator no longer sees every mysterious crater as being derived through the effects of some equally mysterious alien space creature landing on our planet, but realises that there are other possible natural and artificial causes to be investigated before jumping on the bandwagon of sensationalism, Alan Sharp has shownn in previous writings how such craters can be formed through a variety of agencies: lighting, water, meteorites, or even fencing posts.

Perhaps one of the most recent fields of investigation regarding UFO explanations is that of ionisation which may it is now realised, manifest itself in a variely of forms, and with a variety of effects. The type of ionised air that the UF0 investigator should be most concerned with is highly ionised, that is where the electrons surrounding the atoms of the gas in question are stripped off, the gas becomes neutrally charged and, as far as conduction is concerned, the gas which under normal circulstinces is insulating acts rather like a metal, being able to pass a high current. When the charges (positive ions and negative electrons) within the gas are in equilibrium, then the plasma, as it is called, becomes relatively stable, and thus may persist for some time. Such plasmas may be produced artificially – accidentally, as in the case of overrated high tension power lines – and also by natural agencies.

According to our present day knowledge, the most common occurrence of this phenomenon is through the action of lightning. Considering that a typical lightning discharge from a cumulonimbus cell releases nearly 100 million volts over a path of around two miles long, and passes a current of 250,000 amps, the temperature along the path of the discharge may reach a peak of 30,00O degrees celcius, roughly five times the temperature of the surface of the sun. Under such conditions it is hardly surprising that plasma may form, Luckily the conditions for stable plasmas to form are very stringent since the strike must ionise a packet of air differing slightly from the surrounding air by virtue of some degree of contamination as well a other parameters such as local magnettic and electric field strengths. The degree of contamination can be satisfied by a number of agencies such as methane, ammonia, or even fine dust particles, thus very few lightning discharges result in plasua formation, otherwise each thunderstorm would really be like an aerial bombardment with fiery balls exploding left, right and centre.

A plasma once formed becomes subject to the changing magnetic and electric fields around itself and will thus move accordingly. Donald J. Ritchie, who has made an extensive study of ball lightning (plasma formed through the agency of lightning) observations, concludes that there are probably two main types. The first is a diffuse red ball that fades slowly without doing any apparent harm, and the second is a bright, bluish-white ball that decays rapidly with a loud report, often causing, severe damage to surrounding objects through burning and blasting. The average size for such lightning balls is one foot in diameter, though they may range from one inch to as large as 40 feet. Their form is by no means confined to spheres, but may take on a variety of curved forms amongst which are saucer, dumbell and cigar-shaped bodies. The duration of such lightning balls is between a few seconds to three minutes on average, though lifespans far in excess of these figures have been observed.

Work also done on the subject of plasmas by Drs M. A. Uman and C. A. Helstrom. who aided by a computer constructed mathematical model that could predict the properties of ball lightning, showed that the temperatures within a ball are of the order of 60-100% of that of the sun’s surface, so it is not surprising that an eight inch diameter ball with a 5,000°C centre would glow as bright as a one kilowatt bulb, and would indeed be a veritable headlamp in the sky at night.

Thus the theoretical latent energy of a plasma ball is quite high, and in practicee this certainly seems to be the case from numerous observations of then phenomenon, as well as the odd unfortunate human contact. The movement of such balls often leads the casual observer to assume that they are under some form of remote control: remember reports of the form and antics of the foo-fighters of WWII. Plasma balls have been observed rolling down roofs, along gutters, rising over hedges, passing through houses and even entering moving aircraft.

Another peculiarity of some plasmas is the ability to generate noise. Witnesses may describe it as a buzzing, whirring, hissing, or even humming, though the exact mechanism for such noise production is not yet clear. It is also interesting to note that, some fireballs (meteors) make similar noises. Such noises are also
attributed to flying saucers,.

There is some evidence that plasma balls may be capable of travelling some considerable distance away from the vicinity of the storm, and as far as natural production of these events is conerned, a thunderstorm is possibly not the only agency that can produce them. Some plasmas may be formed at extreme heights in the atmosphere and further research is required into their production before all natural mechanisms are accounted for. What is known for sure is that plasma balls do periodically turn up in strange places without an apparent cause. So don’t get too near that landed flying saucer – it may well fry you in your own fat!

To me it is little surprising that strange objects should be persistently sighted over Warminstor considering the number of skywatchers and nuts concentrated into such a small area by virtue of the tradition of the place which, you may well remember, ‘started one Xmas morning’. For I have one simple recipe for anyone wishing to see some strange aerial phenomenal that is, to sleep during the day and watch by night. If by the end of the first week you see nothing, try again the next week, and again and again. This method works for me and I have seen numerous satellites, even more meteors, a few plasma balls pretending to be flying saucers, and some objects that remain unidentified by all known artificial and natural processes.

I will admit to the strong possibility of alien intelligences observing us by some unknown process of their super-advanced science, but I must object strongly when one reads as I did recently such fuss over a small light moving in the sky, and photographs of the offending luminescence taken under atrocious conditions. So next time you encounter a strange light buzzing your car, or zig-zagging across the sky, is it not better to say – it isn’t a planet, star, or plasma, etc. therefore it is unidentified, rather than it is a UFO because it isn’t lightning, will o’ the wisp, etc. After all, are there not more ‘Things’ in heaven and earth than are dreamt in your philosophy of flying saucers, O space brothers?



  • HAEREDEL, G. & LUST, R. Artificial Plasma Clouds in Space, Scentific American 219,  5.
  • KALSS, P.J. ‘UFOs Identified’, Science Journal, April 1967, p25.
  • MICHAELIS, E.I. ‘Thunderstorms’, Practical Electronics, 2, 10.
  • New Scientist. UFOs and Plasma, 31, 453.
  • SMITH, ALLEN B. Lightning, Plasma and Balls of Fire, Radio Electronics, April 1967.
  • NEWTON, H. W. The Face of the Sun, Pelican Books (p 17 ).
  • ROMIG, M.F. & LAMAR, D. R.M., 3724. ARPA. Rand Corp.
  • GAMOW, GEORGE. A Star Called the Sun, Pelican Books, (pp.103-107)
  • Flying Saucer Review, 16, 49, pp.4-7

An Account of Experimental UFO Hoaxing. David Simpson and Ken Raine

From Magonia 75, July 2001


It was interesting to read Magonia 74’s Editorial Notes about the 1970 Warminster photographic hoax, twenty five years after publication of Experimental UFO Hoaxing in MUFOB New Series 2, and we thought that some background information, plus details of a couple of other UFO hoaxes might be of interest for the Hoax Special edition. As recorded in MUFOB [1] the photographic hoax was designed “…to provide those watching on Cradle Hill with a simple visual stimulus, to introduce photographic evidence inconsistent with the stimulus and to observe the effect this evidence had on subsequent investigation, recording and publicity” – in other words to test the investigators who got involved.

The motivation and plan came after about two years of investigation by members of the Society for the Investigation of UFO Phenomena (SIUFOP), which formed in 1967 at a time when such groups seemed to be forming frequently – due the high level of interest in the subject in the mid-1960s. It all seems very naïve now but the society started with about ten members, with an average age around 19 years. Like most of the other groups at the time, its members were aware of frequent press reports which, if taken literally, meant that there certainly were odd things to be seen in the sky – there could not be smoke without fire we believed.

We set about finding and interviewing witnesses, the first near the South Downs in Sussex. They turned out to be interesting but clearly not the most impressive of observers, with stories that got more elaborate with each telling. Nonetheless we still believed, from the sheer number of sightings being reported, that something really was flying around the skies. So strong was this feeling that we decided to spend a night watching the sky from Chantry Hill, a nearby vantage point on the Downs, with a tripod-mounted camera at the ready. Apart from a few satellites, nothing was seen but we appreciated that statistically it might take more than one night to see something! Undaunted by sub-zero temperatures, four members returned the following evening for a second night of watching. Tired but full of youthful enthusiasm, we drove to the same spot.

A sighting!

SIUFOP Newsletter reported [2]: “No sooner had we reached the top of the hill than the driver pointed excitedly to a point of light a few degrees above the horizon. We all saw it. It was a light of a kind that we had never seen before. It moved slowly upwards, across, then disappeared. Two appeared from behind the horizon in the same place as the first was seen, drifting upwards, across, and then darting a little. Up to six were seen dancing around together in a random pattern changing colour from time to time. Time exposure photographs ranging between 5 and 20 seconds were taken. After an hour and a half or so, the dancing lights appeared less frequently and we had run out of film.

Convinced that the film contained images of world-shattering importance we rushed home in the early hours to develop it but were puzzled and disappointed by what we saw. We were expecting up to six line-traces to have been recorded on each image (lines caused by photographing a moving light with a long time-exposure) but the images all looked roughly the same with no more than two line-traces per frame. The lights were only a fraction of one degree above the visible horizon too, much lower than thought. A week later we were back at Chantry Hill, no longer tired or so fired-up with faculty-dimming enthusiasm, and observed car headlights on a distant hill – a hill that had not been visible in the weather conditions prevailing the week before.

To this day the lights can be seen there; they look so obviously like car headlights it is difficult to believe that tiredness and enthusiasm could have warped our observational skills so much. We had converted the simplest of white lights, moving mostly horizontally, into variously coloured, multiple objects moving vertically. Reasonably good photographs had made analysis possible and were it not for them we would still be retelling stories of the strange lights in the sky; if asked whether they might have been car headlamps we would surely have rejected the possibility.

It wasn’t the only time we fooled ourselves either. At around the same period three members of SIUFOP were walking along a dark, frosty, lane surrounded by trees, illuminated only by moonlight and in an area where umpteen odd lights had been reported. They were heading for an interview with a witness but noticed the silhouette of a tall object through the trees to one side. Fully spooked by the circumstances they thought they had stumbled on a landed machine of some sort. Falling over a fence to get a better look they were alarmed to see a red glow at its base and presumed it was about to take off again. They prepared to retreat in haste, although not before taking a photograph with a flashbulb (it was before electronic flashguns were commonplace). The illumination from the flashbulb was enough to identify a sand-washing machine sitting in a quarry; there was also an inhabited workman’s caravan near its base with red curtains in its windows! The photograph is still amusing.

Earlier Warminster photographs

Undaunted – we presumed that others had not been so easily fooled – in February 1968 a party set off for Warminster where, according to reputation, we stood a better chance of seeing the real thing. There we met none other than Arthur Shuttlewood who showed us his collection of photographs, supposedly of lights in the sky over the local hills. They consisted of white lines wandering across a black background; some were single, some dotted and some showed multiple images of wiggly lines.

On returning home we successfully replicated the three broad styles of the photographs. One had resembled the dotted lines produced by photographing tumbling earth-orbit rocket casings as they passed overhead, periodically reflecting light downwards. Most others were clearly not satellites but the second style could be closely imitated using a small neon bulb (similar to those sometimes fitted to the back of 13 amp plugs). Waving it in a dark room, in front of an open-shuttered camera, gave just the characteristics [3] seen in the Shuttlewood collection. The third style of photograph could be produced by moving the lamp slowly in front of a mirror, again in a dark room in front of an open-shuttered camera. This produced three wiggly lines ‘flying in perfect formation’. The first and brightest image was that of the lamp seen directly by the camera, the second brightest image was a reflection of the lamp from the aluminised (or silvered) back surface of the mirror, and a much fainter third image was a reflection of the lamp from the mirror’s front glass surface.

We even developed techniques to help analyse other white-line type photographs. Using an optical microdensitometer [4] made it possible to differentiate between gas-discharge lamps, filament lamps, ‘beam chopped’ lamps and also the nature of their power supplies. Unfortunately we were never allowed to borrow any negatives!

Scepticism set in

We had found out how easy it was for us, and presumably anyone else, to be fooled by simple earthly lights, including plenty of non-car-headlight example [5]; we had seen what we were expecting or wanted to see, and did not observe objectively. Few of our interviewees or other investigators, however, seemed to give much credence to the idea that such misperceptions might be commonplace; there was always a let-out “…but he was a trained airline pilot!” or more commonly “…Ah but you haven’t explained this one…”

Attending lectures organised by the British UFO Research Association did nothing to stem our increasing belief that, whilst UFOs had undoubtedly been observed by lots of people, scientific evidence that they were observations of something unearthly appeared to be non-existent. Most ufologists disagreed with this viewpoint, siding instead with the then fashionable Extra Terrestrial Hypothesis, claiming that there was plenty of good evidence to support it if scientists would only snap out of their pre-conceived beliefs and take the evidence seriously. Several SIUFOP members were, or were training to be, scientists and felt that such views could be put to a scientific test – ufologists should be tested for their observational and investigational abilities. We thought that the best way to do this was to give them something to see and then observe how they investigated the sighting; in other words to conduct a hoax with scientific intention.

First hoax

On 15 July 1968 BUFORA held a National Skywatch, with twenty nine watching points across Britain. One was at Pewley Downs in Surrey; it was organised locally by the Surrey Investigation Group on Aerial Phenomena (SIGAP) and SIUFOP ensured they saw something whose origin was certain. Just before midnight a parachute flare was launched about 3 miles from Pewley Downs in the direction of Godalming. The watchers saw it but no one took a photograph – no one even had a camera ready. Therefore, to be sure that there was at least one photograph of it, David Simpson had to get his own camera out and take it.

Unknown to us, George Hughes, of Amateur Photographer, had been a visitor to the skywatch. He reported [6]: “I wanted to see how such groups carry out there investigations, and to what extent photography was being used. Sadly, it wasn’t; or hardly at all.” Richard Beet, secretary of SIGAP, responded indignantly [7], pointing out that “… a photograph of a red object was taken by a skywatch official, Mr David Simpson”, giving him instant promotion.

On inspecting the photograph Geoffrey Doel, of BUFORA, commented that it could be of a firework. At the following BUFORA meeting, however, the National Skywatch organiser, Edgar Hatvany, dropped this suggestion when he elevated the photograph’s status by proudly waving it saying, “Last year we had a sighting, this year a photograph; next year we will have it in the bag!”

“Last year we had a sighting, this year a photograph; next year we will have it in the bag!”

One year later

In June 1969 SIUFOP went to Warminster, on BUFORA’s next national skywatch day, equipped with some plastic bags and balloon gas (crude helium). The aim was to launch a number of brightly lit torch bulbs and batteries under a single helium-filled plastic bag from Sack Hill, opposite the watchers on Cradle Hill. Our estimate of the bag’s inflated volume and hence buoyancy were not very accurate, however, and it did not take off until we had removed four of its ten battery/lamp packs [8]. It then rose slowly into the sky, drifting silently with the just perceptible wind, crossing the nearby army range at tree-top height.

Even we were particularly surprised by the stunning brightness and spectacular image of the small bulbs against a clear black sky, even when a mile or more distant. (It was in the days before small quartz halogen bulbs were available and we powered 2.5-volt bulbs with 4.5-volt batteries, making the bulbs very white for a short while.) The watchers on Cradle Hill were even more impressed, and it was generally rated the best sighting ever seen there. A second balloon was launched a while later on the western side of Cradle Hill and it drifted much closer to the watchers than the first balloon. Excitement on the hill was electric and emotional. Telepathic communication was claimed with the light bulb, which was said to be as bright as a searchlight and also to be metallic with portholes.

We were all surprised and almost shocked by the reaction. A few simple components had provoked what seasoned watchers were describing as the best sighting ever made. What did that suggest about the credibility of the other sightings in one of the world’s most famous UFO hotspots?

Over the next few weeks we revisited Cradle Hill – it was invariably populated on a Saturday evening – to listen to the gossip. One SIUFOP member had been less than discrete soon after the hoax, letting it be known what had happened. Oddly this explanation was not generally accepted; apparently the objects had changed direction against the wind, so they could not have been lights on a balloon! Also, another sighting was made by three people the following evening where “…the object appeared just like those of Saturday night…” raising the question “Why should any UFO-rigging pranksters hang around Cradle Hill area on Sunday, long after BUFORA members had left?” [9]

BUFORA’s Research Bulletin acknowledged the balloon theory [10] and indeed described it accurately but the consensus was against it.

The Warminster Photographs

Thus we designed a new hoax, to be less deniable, and hence the ‘Warminster Photographs’ came about. In summary, during March 1970 a ground-based purple light was shone from the hill opposite Cradle Hill, a colleague appeared to photograph it, a bogus UFO detector sounded and the film was handed to a stranger who agreed to get it developed. The film had been pre-exposed to show frames of airborne UFOs much stranger than the purple light but they also contained enough serious inconsistencies to allow any competent investigator to question their authenticity. The most experienced investigators in the subject, however, repeatedly pronounced the photographs genuine and failed to spot any of the built-in clues.

At a BUFORA meeting some time later David Simpson publicly pointed out that the case was full of anomalies which probably meant it was a hoax. Ivor McKay and John Cleary-Baker, both BUFORA stalwarts, argued otherwise, confidently pointing out that if it had been a hoax the hoaxer would not have made such mistakes; the very presence of the anomalies apparently made it more certain that the case was genuine. A classical heads they win, tails we lose. John Cleary-Baker then launched Project Warminster and unfortunately asked us if we would investigate the Warminster photographs on behalf of his Project. Soon afterwards he sent signed documents giving us all sorts of authorisations; we didn’t do the job very well.

“The trouble with this SIUFOP lot is they never come down here to see for themselves”

One evening Arthur Shuttlewood was talking to a group of people on Cradle Hill, unaware that we were there; he was moaning about our ‘disbelief’ in the Warminster photographs; “The trouble with this SIUFOP lot is they never come down here to see for themselves” he complained.


It was satisfying to have confirmation of what we suspected was probably going on but it was also disillusioning to find out just how poorly investigations were carried out. We had, after all, started out by presuming that there may be something in the sightings. We repeated the experiments with one or two more UFO hoaxes – repeating experiments is a necessary scientific practice – using kites instead of balloons, and single (hence easier to lift) bulbs that were coated on one side so they would appear to flash irregularly as they rotated in the wind on a suspension thread. Electronic timers were added to delay switch-on until the apparatus was well clear of the ground (to stop the hoaxer being illuminated!) and we became expert at flying kites in the dark.

BBC Nationwide

In the summer of 1972 there was considerable publicity concerning a forthcoming BBC visit to a skywatch on Cradle Hill. We reverted to balloon technology, albeit much smaller ones than the originals, each carrying just one torch bulb. By then we knew that a single over-run bulb was still an impressive sight at a range of one mile or more against a dark sky. But this time we added photographic flashbulbs to the payload, timed to flash after about 2 minutes.

Two balloons were launched, as usual in complete darkness, about 1 minute apart. The weather was perfect – clear and with just the faintest wind blowing – and the balloons carried their winking lights majestically and in tandem across Salisbury plain. We could see across to Cradle Hill and immediately noticed a row of torches, pointing in the direction of the balloons, being flashed on and off. More torches appeared and they were quickly joined by more powerful lights as motorcyclists upended their machines to use the headlamps for even better signalling.

The watchers were thus looking directly at the little points of light in the sky when one of the flashbulbs was triggered. Presuming this to be a response to their signalling they flashed even more enthusiastically and were rewarded when the second flashbulb ignited shortly afterwards.

The BBC interviewed the watchers who again claimed it to be the best sighting they had ever made, some saying that the UFOs had been communicating with their “random yet intelligent” flashings and that the “explosion of light” was in response to the rows of flashing torches and motorbike headlamps.

“These were obviously lights on a silly little balloon that did not and could not replicate the complex flying pattern seen the week before”

After the story was broadcast, on BBC Nationwide, we owned up and were subsequently given a studio interview alongside ufologist Rex Dutta. We showed examples of the plastic bags and torch bulbs etcetera but he refused to believe that he had been hoaxed and the BBC therefore asked us to stage a re-enactment. This we did the following weekend, albeit in rather poorer weather conditions. On seeing the balloon-suspended lights for a second time Rex Dutta declared them to be nothing like the lights of the previous week. “These were obviously lights on a silly little balloon that did not and could not replicate the complex flying pattern seen the week before”. He had been investigating these things for 19 years and “any fool could identify a balloon when they saw one”.


Our experiences and hoaxes of 30 years ago were very interesting, stimulating and disillusioning at the same time but they also demonstrated to us something useful as well – that human beings tend to see what they want, or expect, to see. Very simple stimuli had provoked an astonishing range of entirely imagined attributes including shapes, sizes, colours, motions and other false effects which tended to grow in order to stop a particular belief being disproved. Most disappointing of all was the low calibre of the investigations being undertaken, partly due to a lack of technical knowledge, no desire to be rigorous and a marked tendency to select only those bits of evidence that most suited a particular belief.

Science and scientists

At the time, UFO sightings were argued to be evidence of extraterrestrial visitations (and still are in some parts of the world). Science and scientists, we were repeatedly told, should be more open minded and look into this possibility. What seemed to be constantly bypassed though was an appreciation of what constitutes a scientific claim. To demonstrate that a scientific conclusion is valid, testable evidence has to be provided and the quality and repeatability of the evidence required is related to the significance of the conclusion being drawn. To conclude that UFOs represent evidence of extraterrestrial visitations is a very significant claim and this requires correspondingly high quality, rigorous and testable data as evidence. But instead we had (and have) a loose array of unrepeatable sightings which, when scaled against the observational uncertainties and investigative confusion clearly demonstrated by hoaxes, come nowhere near to providing adequate evidence.

It is often pointed out that maybe 90% of UFO sightings are explainable if an investigator looks hard enough but that science should concentrate on the unexplained remainder. This is a false argument; the fact that they remain unexplained does not make them better evidence. The point was well illustrated by Alan Hendry [11] in his UFO Handbook. He had good statistical data to show that, apart from them remaining unidentified, there was nothing about the unidentified cases to differentiate them from the identified ones; they had just the same mixture of characteristics.

Non-UFO hoaxes

We were aware that our hoaxes were illustrating the characteristics of an existing subject and in the mid 1970s thought that it would be interesting to measure just how easy it might be to create an alternative self-sustaining myth, perhaps triggered by a few pump-priming hoaxes. A while later crop circle stories took hold and again we were confronted with strangely illogical statements like “this circle is too accurate to be a hoax” from the investigators. Just like ufologists they argued that hoaxers (who appeared to be able to replicate any circle on demand) merely got in the way of serious investigations. We were certainly accused of being involved but can say that we did not think up the idea or participate at all!


Hoaxes have been a useful tool for testing observational skills and the investigational abilities of ufologists. They have clearly illustrated that humans see what they want to see and that the quality of UFO investigations is generally very poor indeed.


Notes and references

1. Simpson, David; Experimental UFO Hoaxing, MUFOB New Series 2, March 1976
2. Simpson, David; SIUFOP Newsletter, 1, March 1968
3. The intensity of the light from such gas discharge lamps increases and decreases in time with the alternating mains voltage powering them – essentially going on and off 100 times per second. The human eye cannot see this cycling but if the lamp’s image is moved quickly across a photographic emulsion it is easily recorded. A tell-tale characteristic of this technique is the ‘bunching’ together of the recorded dots as the arm of the waver changes direction from left to right; the slower the arm movement the closer together the dots become. This bunching was certainly evident in Arthur Shuttlewood’s photographs.
4. Densitomer: an instrument which allowed the optical density of negatives to be measured by scanning a narrow beam of light across them.
5. Including searchlights from a film studio reflecting on clouds, aeroplanes at sunset, being in a car ‘followed’ by the moon, and even a spider’s web unusually illuminated by the sun.
6. Hughes, George; Are Ghost Pictures Real?, Amateur Photographer, 136, 31, 24 July 1968
7. Beet, Richard; Reader write: Investigating UFOs, Amateur Photographer, 136, 34, 21 August 1968
8. The six remaining lamps were suspended close to each other and from a distance appeared to be a single source of light.
9. Arthur Shuttlewood; Root Out These Stupid Hoaxers, BUFORA Journal, 2, 12, Summer 1970
10. John Clear-Baker; Editorial comment, BUFORA Journal, 2, 12, Summer 1970
11. Hendry, Alan; UFO Handbook, New York, Doubleday, 1979

Of Hoaxes and Hoaxing. Paul Hopkins

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 3, number 6, December 1970′

This article was published in Merseyside UFO Bulletin nine months after David Simpson and SIUFOP conducted their famous experimental hoax at Warminster. Despite comments and suggestions made over the years Paul Hopkins was unaware that SIUFOP had conducted their experiment when he wrote this piece. The nature of the experiment did not become publicly known until summer 1972, when Flying Saucer Review published an editorial exposing the hoax. A link to David Simpson’s MUFOB article revealing full details of the hoax/experiment can be found at the foot of this article

Wherever there is a mystery or intrigue, or when man hovers on the brink of dicovery, hoxes will inevitably occur. Great hoaxes of the past such as the Piltdown Man have made scientists and authorities ever cautious, with some good reason since their reputation as experts is vulnerable through the mass media. Of all subjects that come under the shadow of hoaxing, the UFO receives more than its fair share, which is unfortunate since it is so easy for both the public and the experts to disregard any evidence in favour of the UFO, and thus to class any number of events as due to the unquestioned activities of hoaxers. Looking at hoaxes, so far the UFO scene is concerned they can be roughly placed into three broad categories. The first, hoaxes perpetrated for sheer amusement and performed in a light-hearted manner. Secondly, hoaxes perpetrated by cranks for a number of devious reasons, such as a genuine belief that they are messengers or ambassadors for alien creatures. Also a need to be accepted as a prominent figure in UFO activity; to create an aura of mystery about themselves, and through sheer insanity. Thirdly, hoaxes by publicity addicts and those that are in the game for personal and financial gain.

There is of course no strict dividing line between one category and the next, and a hoaxer will more often than not cover all three of these categories, but will be heavily biased towards one. In the examination of a hoax one must consider the quality of that hoax as regards the total cost to the hoaxer in terms of time, finance, and possible enhancement or damage of reputation, and on the other hand the total barrage incurred by the hoaxed, and finally the success of the whole operation as far as the hoaxer is concerned. It is the determination of success that is perhaps the hardest factor to assess, since the motives of the hoaxer, or suspected hoaxers have first to be determined, Allowance must be made for the time factor between event and investigation, thus the investigator, in order to initiate his works and to have a reference point from which he may follow a line of investigation, will have to use a great deal of conjecture as regards the personality of any persons connected with the observations.

UFOs are very much transitory phenomena, and even more so when they appear as lights in the sky. From such sightings or claims there is little that the investigator can deduce since he has not only to consider the possibility of a hoax, but also such things as mistaken identity of common objects under peculiar circumstances, or ignorance on the part of the claimant of astronomical objects and atmospheric phenomena. A hoaxer has little to gain from remote observations except perhaps a mention in the local rag, unless the ‘observation’ is an intricate part of a larger hoax, and the hoaxer is relying upon the cumulative effect.

The cumulative effect may operate in a number of ways according to the control the hoaxer has over his situation. Opportunists may operate immediately after a sighting elsewhere so that momentum is added to their own story; while some will rely upon others coming forward with similar stories. The subsequent influx of investigators, gullible tourists (hoping to witness an event) and the lunatic fringe then primes the locality so that a carefully planned hoax may be carried out fairly successfully, since the influx of the differing factions causes confusion to the serious investigator. This, I suspect, is what happened at Warminster. Though such a situation is hard to rationalise owing to its complex nature which often affords some degree of protection to the hoaxer or hoaxers.

Another way in which the cumulative effect may influence a hoax is in the case of a fairly simple ‘class one’ hoax where the hoaxer, seeing that the public — at least some elements of the public — are taking him seriously, carries the hoax a little further. As long as he remains relatively undetected the hoaxing continues until the hoaxer suddenly realises that his fame has spread beyond the confines of his country, and also that some eminent persons are taking a keen interest in the whole affair. The hoaxer is now faced with a dilemma. He must either admit to his wickedness and be castigated through the press, or maintain a front until the whole issue dies away. If we consider the Adamski saga in this context, as a man trapped by his own hoax, then the peculiarities of the story are self explanatory. Certainly the Adamski affair was, and still is, an integral part of a cumulative hoax due to the numbers that jumped onto his band wagon before and after his death. Two of the best known factions (at any rate to me) being the IGAP, USA, and in England the Aetherius Society. Both these societies rely upon the fact that human beings of this modern age are essentially insecure especially in the West where Christianity is slowly dying, and the world is seemingly balanced on the edge of a nuclear holocaust. The new religions centred about Adamski-type space beings fill to some degree this religious void since they provide the security of extraterrestrial guardians of the earth. The appeal of such a religion attracts and fulfils the needs of many people and as such the hoax of Adamski has become a self-proliferating legend.

From the experience of Adamski, it is evident that in order to perpetrate a successful hoax with a long life and the probability of good returns in terms of support and finance one must resort to a contact claim with some mythical or imaginary being bearing a message for mankind. Such were the essences of the claims of Dan Fry, Truman Bethurum and many others. Alternatively one can appeal to man’s aggressive instincts by attributing acts of violence and interference with machinery to visiting aliens. Such claims however do not seem to be as successful as those of friendly visitors.

Each new contact claim, each close observation, and claim of UFO photography presents both a challenge and a burden to the UFO investigator that may extend for several months with no definite result forthcoming at the end of that period. Apart from mistaken identity, one is invariably left with the conclusion either that an extraterrestrial event did indeed occur, or that a hoax was perpetrated and the hoaxer is intent on keeping quiet. (Persons often talk about the ‘men in black conspiracy’, but it seems to me that there is just as much evidence for a world wide hoax conspiracy.)

Those readers who have been to Warminster will probably appreciate my meaning when I refer to it as a hoax-sized town

The point is, in my opinion, that we probably know more about UFO phenomena than the phenomena of hoaxing, and to this end I suggest adding a fourth class of hoax to the three already given. Namely, hoaxes perpetrated for the purpose of the study of hoaxing and its cumulative effect upon people. To suggest deliberately setting up a hoax would no doubt invoke a great deal of controversy in the UFO world. No doubt this has been done before on a small scale. Many amateur photographers fake UFO pictures just to prove that it is easy, for indeed it is. Yet such pictures seldom take the serious investigator in for long. Likewise the more nutty or occult tinged stories. I suggest that there is a case for the setting up of a carefully planned and controlled hoax on a grand scale. In effect it would be desirable to create a second Warminster for the sole purpose of examining the time it takes to get a hoax off the ground, to observe the influx of parasites and nutters, to take account of the total cost, and most important of all, to study witness reactions.

Those readers who have been to Warminster will probably appreciate my meaning when I refer to it as a hoax-sized town. It is too large for its inhabitants to know each other intimately, and yet information would spread fairly rapidly via the various media. Being situated on a main trunk route it has a fairly large itinerant population, especially during the tourist season, Further relevant properties of this town are that it is situated in a region of the country that is deeply imbedded with man’s primitive history. As well as the conventional historians, the area is very much a shrine for those occultists who believe that the Holy Grail is still to be found, or that a new age will dawn with Avebury or Stonehenge at the centre of the universe. The Army encampments naturally add interest and help further the mystery of the area both by their presence and weird activities, especially when it comes to making noises.

In such an area it is little wonder that a hoaxer could, after acquainting himself with the surroundings and the traits and haunts of the local populace (and also accounting for the small influx of new-ageians keeping their vigils) guarantee himself an audience. Thus for an experimental hoax, the investigators would have to find a town that has very similar properties to those of Warminster. This done, their troubles are only just starting, if they are not to transgress in any manner the law. It is a simple matter to make lights appear in the sky at will, providing one has an assistant. A couple of polythene clothes bags filled with coal gas and tied together will lift a small battery and bulb high into the air. Strictly speaking this is illegal, unless you have obtained permission from the Ministry of Defence and also notified local airports.

Again, it is not too difficult to make a crater appear in a farmer’s field, and to experimenters I would suggest they try the following method. First obtain an iron pipe, say about five feet long and l½ inch diameter. At one end films a couple or more sharp cutting teeth, and at the other drill a hole to take a tommy bar. Armed with this device and a large hammer the tube can be driven deep into the ground and cores of earth removed by a number of repeated borings until you are left with a fairly smooth straight hole. To add interest you can scoop out several radiating channels from the central hole and make several other interesting depressions round about. Fill the central hole with a finely divided mixture of magnesium, aluminium and tin, (the three supposed constituents of flying saucer metal) insert an igniter wick and retreat. With a high proportion of magnesium in the mixture an extremely hot and brilliant flame will be produced that should attract some attention. Should you have got your timing wrong and there was nobody within the vicinity, then the farmer is sure to come across the desecration of his field some time or other. This is to be preferred since it may give rain time to wash away the tell-tale traces of white ash.

We can now see what the score is. First there is the cost of the tubing. Then several pounds will be required to pay for the cost of filling the bore with an explosive mixture. You will have fallen foul of the law on several counts. For trespassing, and doing damage to a crop, (Remember, grass is a valuable asset to a farmer, let alone barley, oats or potatoes.) and for discharging and possessing explosive materials. As your hoax gained momentum so also I suspect would the number of antisocial acts that you committed rise in proportion.

Which brings us to two points. Firstly a hoaxer most probably has antisocial tendencies. This would explain why so many saucer contactees want to kick, modern science and society in the teeth. They want to be considered apart from the herd, as selected beings often guided by superior intellects from above. Like so many restless ‘students’ they want to give convention a jolt; to have reporters and camera men rushing about on a wild goose chase while they themselves sit back enthralled by their powers of disturbance, while their egos swell. Secondly the hoaxer of a large hoax runs the real risk of being sued or prosecuted. Thus he is often forced to remain anonymous.

With these points in mind the setting up of an experimental hoax is not the sort of thing that should be attempted overnight. Neither should it be set up by an amateur body, since the results are not only likely to be disastrous but also wasted. The co-operation of local bodies would be required, including the police and the local council. Permission would have to be obtained from the Ministry of Aviation if one wished to eject objects into the sky, and so on.

To sum up, a large scale, will organised UFO hoax could provide valuable insight into how people think and react to what they think is an unknown phenomenon. By facing then with artificial UFO situations modelled on past case histories, even though the stimulus is false, the reaction would be the same as would most probably occur under the genuine conditions of a UFO sighting and flap. Then, and then only, will the UFO investigator really know what he is about.

Read the story of the actual experimental hoax at Warminster HERE




Experimental UFO Hoaxing. David Simpson

From MUFOB New Series 2, March 1976 


By examining the effects of a controlled hoax, the reliability and objectivity of UFO experts is analysed. It is concluded that the enthusiasm and credulity of many commentators hinders the scientific appraisal of UFO phenomena.


Over the years many thousands of UFO reports have been documented; numerous individuals and UFO organisations have analysed the information, and attempted to correlate sighting data in order to discover a pattern that will help to solve the UFO enigma. However, rarely has much thought been given to the lowest common denominator, the UFO enthusiasts themselves. How do they influence the collection and compilation of UFO data? Are investigators unbiased, thorough and scientific? Although the answers to these questions are of fundamental importance if a realistic understanding of UFO phenomena is to be achieved, most enthusiasts remain intolerant of such questions. Few are prepared to accept the suggestion that gross reporting errors frequently occur, and even fewer that UFO mysteries are often the result of incompetent partisan investigators.

The Society for the Investigation of Unidentified Object Phenomena (SIUFOP) felt that experimental results were needed to continue the debate. It was considered that useful experiments would compare the details of fabricated UFO stimuli with the descriptions given by unsuspecting witnesses. Subsequent documentation by ufologists would then provide a measure of their objectivity and general ability as UFO investigators. From a third-party viewpoint, results of the tests would enable genuine UFO accounts to be assessed more realistically.

The merits of controlled UFO hoaxes have rarely been discussed (1) but I report here, that during its formal existence, SIUFOP embarked upon a programme of such experiments designed primarily to involve those already engaged in the study of UFOs, rather than other members of the general public. Accounted below is one experiment: a UFO sighting created in 1970 that was substantiated with photographic evidence. Flying Saucer Review (FSR) was largely responsible for documenting the case and by reference to their headline (2), this experiment is entitled Warminster Photographs.

The Experiment

Warminster, in Wiltshire, was the location chosen for this experiment because of its high density of skywatching ufologists. The scheme was to provide those watching on Cradle Hill with a simple visual stimulus, to introduce photographic evidence inconsistent with the stimulus and to observe the effect this evidence had on subsequent investigation, recording and publicity.

UFO landing marks were dug and an appropriate area of grass was singed a few feet from the road along the side of Sack Hill, Warminster. At 11.00 p.m. on Saturday 28 March 1970 a light was shone from this position towards a group of ufologists on Cradle Hill, about three-quarters of a mile away. The light was produced by a 144 watt tungsten lamp, roughly collimated by a 4« inch diameter concave mirror and powered by a car battery. A purple gelatine filter was placed in the beam and the entire assembly was placed directly on a car roof. The lamp was switched on for 5 seconds, off for 5 seconds, and then on for 25 seconds. From start to finish, therefore, the stimulus lasted 35 seconds and throughout this period the car and lamp remained stationary. Taking care not to be seen, the car and lamp were then quickly removed.

Amongst the skywatchers on Cradle Hill (who were soon aware of the strange light) were two items of SIUFOP apparatus: a UFO detector and a camera on a tripod. The outward appearance of the UFO detector was that of a typically home-made magnetic field sensor. Inside there was just a buzzer synchronised to sound 15 seconds after the purple light was first visible: this it did.

Whilst the skywatchers were viewing the purple light and noting the corroborating UFO detector, SIUFOP member Mr Norman Foxwell appeared to photograph the light. The film in his camera had already been exposed, however: the latent image thereon having been arranged to show a spurious UFO in a different position, and bearing no resemblance to the circular purple light. The spurious image was superimposed on two 35 mm frames, each showing the night-time street lamp scene familiar to skywatchers on Cradle Hill.

In the first frame the UFO was montaged above the (invisible) horizon and approximately 22 degrees south of the position of the purple light. The second frame showed the UFO still further south by about 8 degrees, below the horizon, fainter and blurred. Neither frame included the location of the purple light. The UFO image was made cigar-sectioned, horizontal and with a circular blob above and below centre. This design was created on an oscilloscope using Lissajous figures.

Headlamps of cars (about three miles away) driving westbound along the main road into Warminster are momentarily visible to the right of Battlesbury Hill when viewed at night from Cradle Hill. Therefore time-exposure photographs taken in this direction often show a white line traced by the movement of cars during the exposure. It was ensured that the background scene used in each montage showed different lengths of line consistent with time-exposure photographs of a few seconds.

Shortly after the purple light had been finally extinguished and the UFO detector had been switched off, Mr Foxwell took two genuine pictures that included, as comparison photographs, part of the aforementioned street-lamp scene. This was to provide future photographic investigators with the following significant clues that the UFO photographs were at least of a dubious nature. Firstly, the images on the prepared negatives were magnified over 10 per cent more than the genuine ones – individual street lamps were easily identifiable and measurement of the distances between them highlights this inconsistency. Secondly, the background scenes used were photographed many months before March 1970 and showed gaps in the street-lamp pattern where two lamps were not working. When the genuine pictures were taken (minutes after the purple light incident) these street lamps had been mended. These inconsistencies had been deliberately used to see if ufologists would critically examine the photographic evidence.

Sketch of view from Cradle hill

Mr Foxwell’s brief was to pass the film from his camera to any ufologist who would arrange for it to be developed privately. This was considered to be the part of the experiment most likely to fail, as encouraging a complete stranger to accept a potentially valuable film may well have been viewed with suspicion. It should be stressed that at this stage Mr Foxwell was totally unaware of the identity of any person or representative group on the hill (apart from three SIUFOP members).

He approached two people and asked where he could get his film developed. The reply was: Don’t know at this time of night . He approached another skywatcher who was the only person attempting to log information and mentioned that he had got a couple of pictures . During the short conversation that followed, it transpired that this person was Mr John E. Ben, who had contact with FSR. He agreed to take the film and about half an hour later it was handed over.


In an experiment of this type, results arrive in many forms: letters, telephone conversations and published articles, etc. Detailed reference to them all would require more space than is available here, and would probably serve little purpose anyway. I have attempted to extract from the records data which in my estimation indicate the nature of the investigation being carried out by the ufologists concerned. On Tuesday 31 March 1970, after having the film developed, Mr Ben telephoned a relative of Mr Foxwell (Mr Foxwell was not on the telephone) and dictated a message. Part of it read:

There appears to be a large cylindrical object with two smaller objects leaving the main sphere. In one photo it seems one of the smaller spheres is still in contact.

Straight away patches of light on a two-dimensional negative were described as three-dimensional objects by the use of the words cylindrical and sphere.

The next day Mr Foxwell telephoned Mr Ben, who described the prints further and sought permission to take them to a meeting of the FSR consultative committee. He added that the top six men from Europe were fortuitously due to attend.

Mr Ben worked at the Wellcome Institute of the History of Medicine, and the film had been developed by Messrs Stanard and Hazell of their photographic department. During a telephone call on 3 April, Mr Foxwell was informed that they had decided the pictures could not possibly be faked. He was also told that the day after the sighting Mr Ben and his friends had visited the area where the purple light was seen, to look for marks on the ground. They found nothing, not even the landing marks left by SIUFOP.

In further communications with Mr Foxwell, Mr Ben indicated that FSR was very interested in the pictures and would have them examined in their laboratory. On 26 May he wrote:

Mr Charles Bowen of the FSR has contacted me this morning to tell me about your Warminster photographs. I am pleased to inform you that they have now proven the negatives to be genuine beyond all doubt.

The July-August 1970 issue of FSR gave the case its first publicity. (2) The cover illustration was an impression of the purple light painted by Mr Terence Collins, a professional artist who had been with the skywatchers on Cradle Hill. Although the general details of this impression were correct, the size of the object was exaggerated. In fact the diameter of the purple light subtended an angle (to those on Cradle Hill) similar to the nearby street lamps, whereas the artist’s impression showed the purple light subtending an angle about ten times larger than that of the street lamps.

This issue of FSR headed its editorial Warminster Phenomenon and printed two articles reporting on Mr Foxwell’s photographs, the first entitled Photographs from Cradle Hill by John Ben. (3) In his article Mr Ben recalled the sighting back in March that year of what was actually a stationary, grounded light, visible for 35 seconds, and with respect to watchers on Cradle Hill was situated at an elevation of approximately zero degrees:

…at 11.02 p.m. an object was seen at an elevation of approximately 20 degrees in the eastern sky. The object appeared very suddenly as if it came through the clouds and appeared to the eye as a very bright ovoid light, purple in colour with a periphery of white. Two members of my group who observed the object through binoculars both remarked they could see a crimson light in the centre; this was also attested to by witnesses with good vision…

The object remained stationary for approximately 30 seconds during which time Mr Foxwell was able to take the first of his photographs. The object then moved slowly to the right – towards the town – and lost a little altitude in the process. At one stage in the movement it dimmed considerably as though obscured by low cloud. The object continued moving for about 20-30 seconds, and then stopped again. The light then increased considerably in intensity, though we could not be sure if the object was moving directly towards the observation point, or if it remained stationary. At this point the alarm of a detector sounded, and a witness ran to switch it off. After 10-20 seconds the light dimmed and then went out as though concealed by cloud. However we were all certain that the object had not moved once more. The sighting had lasted for approximately 1-1« minutes…

The stated elevation of the object and the duration of the sighting are obvious errors in observation, whilst the reference to clouds is misleading. Perhaps the most interesting part of the report is that section dealing with the movement of the purple light. Instead of noting it as stationary, the description is consistent with the implied movement recorded on the fake photographs. The scenes shown on Mr Foxwell’s photographs did not include the position of the purple light but this fact seems to have gone unnoticed.

The second article, ‘The Warminster Photographs Examined’, (4) was written by Percy Hennell FIBP, a photographer and consultant to FSR. He wrote:

Let me say at the outset that there is nothing about these photographs which suggests to me that they have been faked in any way…

Later he draws readers’ attention to the left-hand edges of the UFO shown in his enlargements. Because these edges are more pointed than the right-hand ones he suggested:

…that some propulsive jet may have been operating to move the object to the right.

Both articles noted car headlights in the background scene, but incorrectly placed them on the hill beyond the street lights. Neither author seemed aware that they were to the right of Battlesbury Hill and on a main road.

Charles Bowen, the editor, added a note What the Eye Sees… (5) questioning why the object seen was so different from the image recorded by the camera. He ended his note by quoting an observation made by Mr R.H.B. Winder after seeing the painting:

These colours are reminiscent of the colours associated with ionisation in air.

(Mr R.H.B. Winder BSc CEng MIMechE is listed as a consultant to FSR.)

During September 1970 Mr Ben invited Mr Foxwell to join him and his group at a meeting, to discuss the case further. By this time, I had contacted Mr Ben in my capacity as Chairman of SIUFOP and expressed interest in the Warminster Photographs. As a result, I too was invited to this meeting. It was considered expedient that Mr Foxwell should not attend, but Ken Raine (Vice-chairman of SIUFOP) and I did.

Among those present were John Ben, Terence Collins (the artist) and an independent consulting photographer, Michael Samuels FRMS. Much of the evening was spent trying to establish the positions of the photographic UFO relative to Battlesbury Hill. Ken Raine and I suggested photographically superimposing a twilight picture of Battlesbury Hill (taken from Cradle Hill) on to Foxwell’s pictures. Photographs taken at twilight show the street lamps as well as the outline of Battlesbury Hill. These components would have enabled accurate superimpositioning and placing of the UFO respectively. The position of the car headlights would also have been correctly established. Little notice was taken of our idea: the others preferred to transfer construction lines from one photograph to another. Had our suggestion been heeded, they would have had a reasonable chance of discovering the magnification discrepancy outlined earlier.

A few weeks later Mr Ben told me that they had calculated the length of the UFO to be 56 feet and in the second picture it was 50 yards from the car headlamps.

Dr Pierre Guerin, Director of Research at the Astrophysical Institute of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, presented a Tentative Interpretation of the Warminster Photographs in the November-December 1970 edition of FSR, translated by Gordon Creighton. (6) Initially he cleaned the negatives and then made new enlargements. He stated:

In my opinion there is no question of the object photographed being in any possible way the result of faking…

He then questioned the difference between the appearance of the image on the photographs and the eye-witness descriptions. To answer the question he suggested:

…that the object photographed was emitting ultraviolet light which the eye does not see. Around the object, however, a ruby red halo, probably of monochromatic colour and doubtless due to some phenomenon of air ionisation, was visible only to the eye and in actual fact has made no impression on the film…

If this interpretation is correct, the consequences which we can draw from it are important. As will be known, in a recent issue of FSR (15, 2), John Keel disputed the presence of any solid material object inside the variable luminous phenomena which he calls soft sightings , claiming thereby that the solid phase of the UFO phenomenon is only one of the aspects – and no doubt the least frequent aspect – of the phenomenon in question. The Warminster sightings do indeed appear to furnish us with an example of a soft sighting linked with the presence, at its centre, of a solid object not visible to the eye, but emitting ultraviolet light.

That UFOs can appear, or disappear, on the spot, when leaving or entering our visual four-dimensional space-time is probably true. But it would be rash to assert that they do not always possess a material, solid body right from the very moment that they have penetrated into this space-time. Despite the claims of John Keel, the soft sighting could in fact very well be merely secondary effects of the presence of solid objects, whether or not visible to the eye, in the gaseous medium of our atmosphere. This hypothesis had already been formulated long ago, and the Warminster sightings seem to confirm it.

By January 1971, SIUFOP published its Newsletter No. 19 to which I contributed a characteristically critical article about the Warminster Photographs entitled The Hoax of 1970?. (7) The SIUFOP Newsletter had a reputation for strongly attacking ufologists’ methods and motives so this article was quite in keeping. In it I summarised the published case history and went on to criticise the investigations carried out by Messrs Ben, Hennell, Gu‚rin and others for stated reasons. My conclusions contained the following sentence:

At no stage in its publicity campaign has FSR referred to an investigation of the photographer – the most important person, because without the photographs this would be merely another light in the sky report.

An investigation of the photographer was not referred to because, surprisingly, nobody had interviewed him.

The March-April 1971 issue of FSR carried a surprise headline ‘New Mystery at Warminster’ . Mr M. Samuels (previously met by DS and KR) had recently returned to Warminster with a camera to take some photographs from Cradle Hill in daylight. In his report Unexpected Photographic Effects at Warminster (8) he recounted a high light-meter reading and linked this with a later discovery of a very small, dark amorphous blemish in the sky area on one of his pictures. He wrote:

My feelings now are that some link needs to be found between the facts that the image that was formed on the film appeared during the time of excess ultraviolet radiation – especially as none of the four persons present on Cradle Hill at the time when the photographs were taken remember seeing any object, either usual or unusual, over Battlesbury Hill.

and later:

If we assume that our object was of solid matter, emitting ultraviolet radiation, we find, on consideration, that the solid outline would be broken down by the non-focusing ultraviolet radiation, but would still be dark enough to cause a loss of density on the negative.

Suffice it to point out that an ultraviolet source, like any visible one, would cause an increase in the density of a negative, not the decrease observed.

A total of five articles relating to the Warminster Photographs were published in this issue of FSR. Charles Bowen chronicled Progress at Cradle Hill (9) and printed a contact print of Mr Foxwell’s negative strip, showing the order of the four exposures. The images on this published contact strip are obviously quite small, but anyone with normal eyesight and a ruler can measure the aforementioned magnification error by comparing the distance between the ten street lamps on negative 1 with the distance between the same ten street lamps on negative 4.

In a full-page letter to FSR, (10) Mr S. Scammell did actually suggest superimposing day and night photographs; but he proceeded to do this by measurement, rather than photographically. As a result he concluded that the UFO pictures were taken from a location on Cradle Hill known as Field Barn. They were not; from this location much of the detail shown in the UFO pictures cannot be seen as it is obscured by Cradle Hill itself. From John Ben’s original report he calculated that the object photographed was probably an army vehicle travelling at about 15 mph. He too, incorrectly placed the main road car headlamps on Battlesbury Hill.

In John Ben’s second report ‘Continued Investigations at Warminster’ (11) the car headlamps were placed on Battlesbury Hill yet again.

‘A Further Examination of the Warminster Photographs’ by Terry Collins (12) featured a double-page elevation diagram of Battlesbury Hill. With measurements from the UFO photographs he constructed, with gross errors, the two positions of the UFO and the position of the car headlamps. (The published diagram was 13 inches long and the error in positioning the headlamps was 2 inches.) According to his calculations the main body of the UFO was 60 feet long and 15 feet wide.

In order to record more accurately the true appearance of the purple light, SIUFOP had revisited Warminster on Saturday 13 February 1971. The light was shone twice that evening, once from the original position on Sack Hill, and once from a car moving along Sack Hill. Several ufologists were skywatching at the time. When the sixth supplement of FSR Case Histories dated August 1971 was published it became apparent that one of the skywatchers had photographed our light and submitted the transparency, with a covering letter, to FSR. (13) In his letter, Mr Frank M.G. Morton drew attention to the similarity of this sighting to the cover illustration of FSR, Vol. 16, No. 4. He described the events reasonably accurately in a manner contrasting with John Ben:

The appearances and disappearances of the light in all cases were like a lamp being switched on and off suddenly.

Little more was published in the second year since the start of the experiment, but verbal comments made by various ufologists at lectures etc. gave the impression that this case was becoming a classic reference.

Unfortunately for SIUFOP, June 1972 heralded the end of its control over the experiment. The success of the experiment depended on secrecy and it was therefore regrettable that a friend in whom Mr Foxwell confided was also a friend of Carl Grove, a contributor to FSR. As a result FSR were informed that the Warminster Photographs were faked, although I do not think they knew of SIUFOP’s involvement. Mr Foxwell had changed his occupation and as a result the good communication channels that had previously existed between him and SIUFOP members were lost. As a result much time elapsed before SIUFOP was aware of the extent of the disclosure. Were it not for this, Messrs Ben and Bowen would have received full answers in reply to their subsequent courteous letters to Mr Foxwell. I must apologise for the fact that no such answers were sent.

The experiment was ended after 2« years by the editorial column in the July-August 1972 issue of FSR, (14) headlined Dubious Photographs.

Summary and Conclusions

In any detailed investigation, whether into UFOs or something else, all evidence should be subjected to critical appraisal if it is to be thoroughly understood. Scientific evaluation requires that inconclusive, suspicious, or self-contradictory evidence be classified as such and subsequently shelved. Unless this is done we are left with either a hypothesis made weak and unconvincing by disreputable evidence, or a hypothesis based on myths which add nothing useful to the understanding of our environment. The Warminster Photographs provided a group of ufologists with the opportunity to use such a classification. The inbuilt flaws were easily detectable had the negatives been subjected to a critical analysis.

The vast amount of literature published leads one to the conclusion that the pictures were considered very significant by UFO researchers, yet despite this and their impressive list of consultants, the investigators concerned did not analyse the evidence critically. Not once did they interview Mr Foxwell, yet without his photographs the sighting would have been insignificant. Their statements and actions were often not those of people trying to understand a strange event, but those of people prepared to ignore relevant criticisms in order to support a cause.

In the eyes of many a UFO case takes on an aura of credibility when endorsed by someone of high professional standing like Dr Pierre Guerin. It is therefore disappointing that Dr Gu‚rin should apparently be unaware of the ease with which perfect fake photographs can be manufactured. It should be stated that FSR was not singled out for this experiment: its involvement was pure chance. Charles Bowen, the editor, his consultants, John Ben and most people associated with the case are not archetypal flying saucer fanatics: indeed FSR is considered by many to epitomise dispassionate UFO research. It is therefore unfortunate that when presented with a UFO case of such potential importance, so little was achieved. The sighting took place in England, the photographer lived near London, and his negatives yielded what many considered to be the most convincing pictures of an unidentified flying object ever taken. Knowing this, investigators failed to learn the geographical layout of the sighting area, they failed to interview the photographer and they failed to discover the substantial inconsistencies introduced into the negatives.

The other UFO cases published in FSR often originate in distant parts of the world and are rarely corroborated with scientific data. Is it likely that they have been reported or investigated more competently than the Warminster Photographs? I doubt it.


    • 1. Hopkins, Paul. Of Hoaxes and Hoaxing, Merseyside UFO Bulletin, Volume 3, number 4, December 1970
    • 2. FSR, 16, 4, July-August 1970, front cover
    • 3. Ben, J. Photographs from Cradle Hill , FSR, 16, 4, July-August 1970
    • 4. Hennell, P. The Warminster Photographs Examined , Ibid.
    • 5. Bowen, C. What the Eye Sees , Ibid.
    • 6. Guerin, P. Warminster Photographs, a Tentative Interpretation , FSR, 16, 6, November-December 1970
    • 7. Simpson, D.I. Hoax of 1970? , SIUFOP Newsletter, 19
    • 8. Samuels, M. Unexpected Photographic Effects at Warminster , FSR, 17, 2, March-April 1971
    • 9. Bowen, C. Progress at Cradle Hill , Ibid.
    • 10. Scammell, A.E. A Surveyor’s Criticism , Ibid.
    • 11. Ben, J. Continued Investigations at Warminster , Ibid.
    • 12. Collins, T. A Further Examination of the Warminster Photographs , Ibid.
    • 13. Morton, M.G. Yet Another Photo from Warminster , FSR Case Histories, No. 6, August 1971
    • 14. Bowen, C. Dubious Photographs , FSR, 18, 4, July-August 1972


I would like to thank all those members of SIUFOP who helped in the experiment, and the editors of MUFOB for printing this belated report.

Editorial Note (from MUFOB New Series 2):

We wish to make it clear that until being presented with this report by Mr Simpson, none of the editorial team of MUFOB had any more information about this hoax than was published at the time in FSR. The appearance in MUFOB in 1970 of an article by Paul Hopkins about such an experimental hoax was one of those synchronicities so beloved of Charles Fort!

* * * * *

The Wrath of Shuttlewood

Vol. 4 No. 5 of Merseyside UFO Bulletin (December 1971) was entirely devoted to an article by Alan Sharp which attacked unscientific approaches to the UFO phenomena. On Warminster, he had this to say, amongst other things:  “Gullibility, wishful thinking, belief in the supernatural and sheer ignorance are prime factors in the generation and acceptance of UFO reports. The new ufologists devote much energy to the encouragement of these human failings,which can be seen in operation at almost any gathering of UFO enthusiasts, but nowhere better than at Warminster where contactee, author and journalist Arthur Shuttlewood has directed affairs for several years and has worked up a fine air of mystery and an enormous collection of spurious sightings have now been generated.”

This provoked the following letter which was published in our next issue (Vol. 4, No. 6). It should surely be regarded as a classic of its kind.

A Letter From Mr Arthur Shuttlewood

shuttlewoodOne notes, with a quiet and understanding chuckle, that Alan W. Sharp looks out from his sacred ivory tower and INSISTS that ufology “must be studied in a logical, objective manner, or not at all.” This has the ring of dictatorship about it. You’ve got to be sharp to out-sharp Sharp, eh? But let’s be democratic.

His vision-restricting attitude, in face of swelling testimony globewide, will get neither him nor more earnest research students anywhere at all as to the true nature of this important subject. It is a matter which – by virtue of numerous facets and aspects that bewilder and befog scientific concepts of today that are universally inadequate in vision – will always defy the approach he advocates – nay INSISTS – must fit his puritanical rather than pure terminology.

I see, too, we are back to scurrilous attacks on personal character and integrity, rather than objective presentation of facts, in your latest abysmally trite issue. Out with the scalping hatchets and carving knives to cripple those whose views (because they have had considerable experience of the phenomena) are more valid, sensible and fair than your own, which are strangled in a one-sided web of ignorance.

Those whom you try to intimidate (and I’m positive we have no fear of a trio of critics, especially armchair variety, of earth, when we dare to walk among the unknown!) are amused and share welling pity for MUFOB content and policy; for they have enjoyed a privilege none of your home-bred correspondents (or so-called editors) have known. At least, they have had more than casual brushes with UFO manifestations and assess them accordingly. Has it ever struck your rather feather-pated attitude that it needs a great deal of moral courage to stick one’s neck out and affirm: “I have seen something inexplicable”? It does need enormous courage, equal to that I knew on the battlefield in the last war, to do this, knowing one will automatically be branded a liar, crank, hypocrite or worse. This courage deserves respect, instead of MUFOB belittling and crude criticism far removed from human decency.

“Those people from the north who are blind to reality” is a description I have frequently heard

Without our experience, such puny puppets of Condon thinking are sunk without trace; and the MUFOB MOB (“those people from the north who are blind to reality”, is a description I have frequently heard) is drowning in deep water with no public interest in their dogmatic and dreadfully dull viewpoints based on personal INEXPERIENCE only.

Anyway, why should we suffer the short-sighted, visionless, prejudiced and self-inflating pontificating of three stick-in-the-mud scribes whose active research in operational fields of practical work is practically nil? A trio whose pompous and pedantic phraseology is boring and lifeless, because it is not chained to links of personal experience? Who on earth do Sharp, Rimmer and Harney think they are; and whom do they represent so bovinely in the face of weighty evidence that shrieks: “UFOs are for real.”? Why do they persist in bedevilling instead of aiding the UFO cause in credibility? We know, of course, but are too polite and gentlemanly to speak so bluntly and cruelly!

What acid-tongued and one-track-minded minority groups like MUFOB fail to appreciate is that their voices are mere squeaks against the leonine roars of the majority. Therefore, they are freaks who cannot understand that statistical weights of evidence are more valid than the infamous Condon report which blew up into nothingness because not one of the “experts” (??!!) had ever seen anything unusual. MUFOB comes into the same abysmal bracket of ignorance.

I say this not unkindly, for I have always stressed one has to see to credit or believe in UFO manifestation.

I could not sink to the intolerance of Sharp, whose constant and petty allusions and sniping about Shuttlewood mistaking a thunderstorm for a UFO have appeared in print so many times with monotonous repetition. Has it ever entered your devious minds that poor old Shuttlewood, knowing full well even at that early stage that MUFOB carried scalping knives everywhere they went to try and kill off valuable evidence at source, said this deliberately in order to get rid of the dragging influence of disbelieving MUFOB MOBsters? Think it over… Look at yourselves for a welcome change and note the many human failings in contradistinction to “judge not lest ye be judged”. You have cast enough stones, but soon they will rebound. Mark my words, uttered without malice aforethought like those crawling over your bulletin like aimless spider-legs!

A feather-brained attitude of mind always fights a losing battle against the better-thinking majority. So wake up! Start to really live (there’s a nice split infinitive for purist Rimmer to grip onto) and go out among your fellow beings in search of that which DOES exist, despite your nagging doubts and at times character-savaging mania.
Yours not unkindly, Arthur Shuttlewood, Warminster

P.S. Happy New UFO Year!

P.P.S. After your next issue, please DON’T send me any more! I want HELPFUL aids, NOT destructive nonsense, in MY search for UFO truths.