The Solway Firth Spaceman is one of the most salient and enduring mysteries of photographic imagery. The enigmatic photograph, captured by Jim Templeton in 1964, appears to show an astronaut or spaceman standing behind Templeton’s young daughter. As with most Fortean phenomena skeptics and believers alike have put forward theories to explain the image. These theories have ran the gamut from plausible to ridiculous but to date none have offered a conclusive explanation. This inconclusive status has given the mystery a life of its own and though Templeton passed away in relative obscurity in November of 2011 the mysterious image that he captured by accident while photographing his daughter continues to confound skeptics and believers alike. To see full image click Full Image.
A Carlisle fireman by occupation, Templeton was strongly interested in photography, and on May 24th, 1964 he took a photograph of his oldest daughter while they were out on the Solway Marshes, a narrow strip of land that separates England from Scotland. After he took the film to a local shop for processing, the attendant complimented Templeton on his picture, but then asked him who the “big fellow” was. Jim was puzzled by this question until he examined the photographs for himself. One of the exposures showed a large figure standing in the background behind his daughter, possibly only a few feet away from where she was sitting. The figure appeared to be dressed in a light-colored spacesuit similar to what astronauts of that time would wear. According to Templeton, nobody else was around at the time the photograph was taken. He quickly submitted the photograph for testing by the local police department as well as by Kodak (the film manufacturer). Both stated that the image had not been forged or tampered with in any kind of way. The image was eventually submitted to a local newspaper known as the Cumberland News, and it quickly gained popularity, spawning the descriptive moniker “The Solway Spaceman”.
The photograph soon became a widespread sensation, and within days Templeton and his daughter became unintentional celebrities as the news of the strange image began to travel around the world. Unfortunately, the onslaught of media attention took its toll on Templeton, and especially on his daughter. She began to be bullied and taunted at school, and suffered to the point of having to be withdrawn from school due to anxiety and stress.
The Ministry of Defence was somewhat benign regarding the situation until they were contacted by the Cumberland News for their opinion. They showed a definite interest in analyzing the photograph, but once Templeton found out that he would have to hand over the original camera and film for testing, he chose not to comply with their request. No official record exists indicating that the matter was pursued any further by the MoD. Many analysts have speculated that Jim may have had a more personal reason for not handing his camera and film over to the MoD, but there are also skeptics that hold the view that Templeton was being unjustifiably cautious in his refusal to cooperate with the agency. The events that immediately followed have convinced several ufologists that the Ministry of Defence may have taken a much more earnest interest in the matter, to the point of dispatching two secret agents to examine and investigate the mysterious photograph more closely.
Later in the summer of that same year, a brand new black Jaguar arrived at Templeton’s workplace. Out stepped two men dressed in all black, a particularly unusual sight for that day and time. The two men asked Templeton to accompany them and direct them to the location where the photograph had been taken. When Templeton asked for some identification, one of the agents presented a card that featured a crest insignia and the word “Security”. According to Templeton’s account, the men stated that they were from the Ministry of Defence, and that they did not go by names, only by numbers. Templeton took note of the fact that they only referred to each other as “Eleven” and “Nine”. According to Templeton, they asked certain questions that gave away the fact that they were not from the local area, including garbling some commonly known place names and being seemingly unfamiliar with the local geography.
Once they arrived at the Solway Marshes, Templeton stated that he showed the men the exact location where the photograph was taken. One of the agents asked Templeton to confirm if the location was the spot where he “saw the alien”, to which Templeton replied that he didn’t see anyone the entire time he was with his daughter that day. Once Templeton made this statement, the two men simply said “Thank you very much” and promptly drove off, leaving Jim stranded at the location and forcing him to hitch a ride back to the Carlisle fire station. From that point on, Templeton never encountered the “Men in Black” again.
The Solway Firth Spaceman case gained popularity in the ufology community after a possible link to another incident was discovered, a mysterious event that took place at a missile test range in Woomera, South Australia. The Blue Streak missiles that were utilized at the Woomera firing range were developed at the RAF Spadeadam base in Cumbria, and were intended for use as part of a British missile system for launching satellites. A planned Blue Streak missile test at Woomera was aborted only one day after the Solway Firth Spaceman photo was taken due to reports of two “large men” being present on the firing range. The technicians that were responsible for the missile test at Woomera were astounded when they discovered a picture of the Solway Spaceman on the first page of an Australian newspaper, because the anomalous figure in the Solway picture looked the same as the figures they had seen on the test range. Up until they saw the paper, they had not been aware of the Solway Spaceman sighting at all.
No known retraction from Templeton has been uncovered regarding the authenticity of the Solway Spaceman photograph, and to this day even the most critical skeptics have not been able to fully prove or explain how the photograph could have been faked. Although the photograph does not feature an image of a UFO, it has been inextricably connected with UFO-related phenomena due in part to the interest that the larger UFO community has taken in its possible link to the mysterious Woomera sightings. Without a doubt, the finer details of the Solway Firth Spaceman case have been clouded by sensationalism and government cover-up conjectures, but the photograph continues to stand for itself.