The Mysterious Solway Spaceman

On 23 May 1964, Cumbrian fireman named Jim Templeteon took his wife and daughter for a picnic on the shores of the Solway Firth which separates part of Scotland from England. It was a bright spring day and he took several photographs. After the film was developed, Jim was surprised to find an anomalous figure on just one of the snaps, apparently floating in mid-air behind his daughter's shoulder. The Cumberland News published the image, dubbed it as the 'Solway Spaceman' or also known as 'Solway Firth Spaceman', and Templeton achieved notoriety, with his photo appearing in numerous books, magazines and TV documentaries to the present day.

A few weeks later after the photograph was published, Jim Templeton received two mysterious visitors who claimed to be from the government, and they refused to show their identification to him. He had never heard of Men In Black (the subject was almost unknown in Britain then). But the two men who came to his house in a large Jaguar car wore dark suits and otherwise looked normal. The weird thing about them was their behavior. They only referred to one another by numbers and asked the most unusual questions as they drove Jim out to the marshes. They wanted to know in minute detail about the weather on the day of the photograph, the activities of local bird life and odd asides like that.

Then they tried to make him admit that he had just photographed an ordinary man walking past. Jim responded politely, but nevertheless rejected their idea, at which they became irrationally angry and hustled themselves into the car, driving off and leaving him.

Jim Templeton's Photograph
(Solway Firth Spaceman, 1964)
Kodak's laboratories tested the negative and claimed the image was of a solid object external to the camera. Although nothing was seen in the sky, tales of 'Men in Black' visitations led the 'Solway Spaceman' to become part of UFO-lore. Templeton always claimed that he could see no one else in the viewfinder of his camera when he took the photograph, emphasizing the anomalous nature of the image. But a new theory suggests this way because the camera he used, a Pentacon F SLR, only revealed 70% of what the lens was capturing. This being the case, he failed to notice Annie, his wife walking briefly into shot, and making her mark in history. At that time the photo was taken, Annie was wearing a pale blue dress on the day in question, which was overexposed as white in the other photos taken that day. She also had dark, bobbed hair. Using photo software to darken the image and straighten the horizon, the spaceman increasingly appears to be the figure of a normal person viewed from behind. This is a vaguely plausible, scientific-theory.

Interestingly, in a BBC Look North interview and a letter to The Daily Mail, Templeton also claimed that a Blue Streak missile launch at the Woomera Test Range in South Australia had been aborted because the figures of two large men were seen on the firing range. Templeton alleged that technicians later saw his photograph in an Australian newspaper and found the figures to be exactly the same.

Jim died in 2011, but the mystery of his photo has survived him. Numerous explanations have been put forward over the years from hoaxing to an alien astronaut.

Fortean Times Magazine vol. 305: "Solway Spaceman Solved?" by Andy Roberts & David Clarke;

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