On 23 May 1964 Jim Templeton from Carlisle, a fireman and keen amateur photographer, took his family out to Burgh Marsh, overlooking the Solway Firth, in Cumbria, for the day. His little daughter, Elizabeth, was wearing a new dress, and Jim offered to take a picture of her in it. What should have been simply a charming picture of a little girl holding a posy of flowers though was to become one of the most famous photographs in the paranormal world. Nothing abnormal was seen at the time the picture was taken. Jim says the only people on the marsh aside from his wife and daughter were a couple of pensioners nearby.
“I took three pictures of my daughter Elizabeth in a similar pose – and was shocked when the middle picture came back from Kodak displaying what looks like a spaceman in the background.”
Jim took the film to a chemists to be developed. Once it was processed one of the assistants said what a charming picture it was, and what a shame about that spaceman figure in the background ruining it. There, standing a short distance behind Elizabeth, was what seemed to be a beefy-looking figure wearing a tight-fitting white jacket with a hood on the back. It appeared to be standing with it’s back to the camera, arms slightly akimbo (or with their hands stuffed into front pockets, as it always looks to me), and wearing a weird helmet-like head-piece.
The figure bemused Jim, who asked both Kodak and the local police for their opinion. Both said the picture wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. A local newspaper got onto the story (as they tend to do), and before long a media frenzy ensued. These days we would say Jim’s picture “went viral”, as the Solway Spaceman photograph was taken up by newspapers all over the world. The Templetons found themselves the targets of anyone who had a pet theory as to what the mysterious figure could be. One woman psychic came up with the mind-numbingly dull idea that the figure was the ghost of an RAF pilot killed in an accident at a rocket-testing base. She also claimed little Elizabeth was probably psychic, and could “emanate an invisible power which the sensitive camera negative can pick up and use automatically”.
More interestingly, in Australia a technician on the proposed launch of a Blue Streak missile in Woomera, South Australia, said the figure bore a remarkable resemblance to two figures who had strayed into the launch area, causing it to be aborted. To add to the mystery, the Blue Streak had been built at RAF Spadeadam, in Cumbria, a few miles away from where Jim’s picture had been taken.
Back home, Jim claimed he was visited at work by two men in dark suits, driving a dark-coloured Jaguar, who said they were government officials, and wanted Jim to show them the spot where he had taken the picture. They briefly flashed ID at him, which he said simply showed what looked like a crest, and the word “SECURITY”. These strange characters, who refused to give their names, and referred to each other as No.9 and No.11, questioned Jim at Burgh Marsh, demanding to know if he had seen any unusual people or animals around that day, and quizzing him as to what the weather conditions had been like. On being taken to the exact spot where the picture had been taken, they said “this is where you saw the large man, the alien?” Jim said they hadn’t seen anybody that day. They pressured Jim to admit that the photo was a hoax, and when he refused, they both had a hissy fit, got in their car and drove away, leaving him to walk the 5 miles back to work!
Jim went on to say that he didn’t believe the MIB were government officials at all, but somebody playing an elaborate practical joke on him. It is thought he may have been trying to down-play the strange visit though, unsettled after he found journalists had been quizzing the local police about it. David Clarke, author of Britain’s X-traordinary Files, interviewed him in 2001, and Jim confided to him then that he firmly believed the MIB were sent by the British Government.
A year later, in 1965, Jim returned to the marsh to take some more photographs. When he handed them over (at the same chemist) to be developed, they were returned with a note saying that the film couldn’t be processed. Kodak meanwhile had put up an offer of free film for a year for anyone who could prove what the Spaceman photograph really was. It was never claimed.
According to UFO author David Clarke in 2014, the “spaceman” is most likely Templeton’s wife, Annie, who was present at the time and was seen on other photographs taken that day. “I think for some reason his wife walked into the shot and he didn’t see her because with that particular make of camera you could only see 70% of what was in the shot through the viewfinder”, said Clarke. Annie Templeton was wearing a pale blue dress on the day in question, which was overexposed as white in the other photos; she also had dark bobbed hair. It has been argued that, when using photo software to darken the image and straighten the horizon, the figure increasingly appears to be a regular person viewed from behind.