Sunday 24 May 1964 may not stick out as an important date for many unless it’s your birthday…but there are some in the UFO community who may be familiar with the colour photograph below taken by the late Jim Templeton on that very date.
Also known as the Cumbrian Spaceman and the Solway Firth Spaceman, a full account of this fascinating story can be found here on Dave Clarke’s blog. The photograph at that time caused a sensation in the media and even made an appearance in an issue of Flying Saucer Review of that same year. However, despite this, the story of the mystery photograph and its link to Woomera in Australia doesn’t seem to have appeared in many UFO books that pre-date 1997, certainly those published in the late 1960s and 1970s.
The photo was almost immediately labelled as a fraud, merely because of the spaceman-like figure that oddly protrudes from side of the little girl’s head. Perhaps instead of it being a fraud it’s more of a photographic anomaly? In an interview with the Daily Mail on 13 December 2002, Jim Templeton said
“The picture is certainly not a fake and I am as bemused as anyone else as to how this image appeared in the background. Over the four decades the photo has been in the public domain, I have had many thousands of letters from people all over the world with various ideas or possibilities – most of which made little sense to me.”
As fakes go this photograph is considered a really poor attempt. A fake is an attempt by its maker to convince others that the article they’ve created is genuine and not a modern copy. Faking is the art of deception. So why hasn’t that happened here? The photograph looks odd, even stupid…how can that weird looking figure be an anomaly? Surely this is a fake? There are good fakes and there are bad ones, the problem we have here is that we do not yet have an explanation to account exactly for how this ‘fake’ has been made.
Additionally, the late Jim Templeton, his wife and daughters have never admitted to faking this image, they’ve also not financially profitted from it. So if it has been faked who made it? Jim Templeton perhaps? If so, where and when did he do this? If it’s the work of someone else then was this fake simply a practical joke played on Mr. Templeton who was known for his fun sense of humour?
The image itself has become transformed into a UFO myth, in the way that (dare I mention it) Roswell has, particularly because of its links to the Blue Streak missile, its testing area within Woomera in Southern Australia and the mystery men who allegedly had been sent by the Ministry to visit Mr. Templeton some time after the photo had been published in the local press. Yet the claimed halted Blue Streak launch never happened and the strange visitors cannot be confirmed, certainly not by the Ministry where official documents relating to this period are available at the Public Record Office in Kew.
One other factor that brings dispute over the authenticity of this photo is that Mr. Templeton was known for his practical jokes, he even apparently claimed he had once forged a five pound note. Taking a Keelian perspective on this, could the photo not be a case of ‘the boy who cried wolf’? Certainly, one cannot accuse the Templeton family of making lots of money from this event because they’ve shunned the publicity. The photograph even takes pride of place displayed framed on a wall within their home.
So here we have it, like many other tales, the Cumbrian Spaceman has become woven into UFO lore and unsurprisingly remains unexplained. If a similar photograph is produced today and presented as a genuine anomaly, how would the public treat it? They would of course think that we have the technology to be able to fake anything. We are of course in a society that’s too quick to judge and we often come out with the wrong conclusion. Until we have satisfactory answers I do feel that the Templeton photo should not be immediately dismissed as a fake.