On a bright summer’s day in 1964, a Carlisle fireman took a photo of his daughter that created headlines around the world. Fifty years later are we any closer to solving the mystery of the “Solway Spaceman”?
“We went on a normal outing and picked our spot,” Jim Templeton recalled in a BBC interview before his death in 2011.
“We sat down and I said, ‘Now I’ll get some photos of you with the new dress on’, never expecting this to happen.”
By “this” he meant worldwide media attention and decades of debate over the mysterious figure shown behind his daughter, Elizabeth.
For UFOlogists, it was clear.
A white suit. A helmet. A dark visor. Mr Templeton, they believed, had photographed a spaceman.
Other than his wife, Annie, and two pensioners sat in a car, the Carlisle fireman maintained he had not seen anyone else that day on Burgh Marsh, overlooking the Solway Firth in Cumbria.
It was, he said, only when the chemist who processed his pictures pointed out the shot had been spoiled by a figure that he realised there had been somebody – or something else – present.
Mr Templeton took it to police in Carlisle, who declared there was nothing out of the ordinary.
Film company Kodak said the same and even offered a reward to anyone who could prove the photo was faked.
It was never claimed.
Perhaps the strangest turn of events was a link to the planned launch of a Blue Streak missile in Woomera, South Australia.
Just days after Mr Templeton had taken his photograph, that missile test on the other side of the world was aborted by technicians who reported seeing two men in the firing range.
Upon later seeing the Solway Spaceman picture on the front page of an Australian newspaper, they were said to be stunned as the figure looked the same as the figures they saw close to the missile.
The plot thickened as the Blue Streak had been built at RAF Spadeadam in Cumbria – just a few miles from where Mr Templeton photographed Elizabeth – and as the story gathered momentum it was also claimed a UFO had been seen at Woomera.
The mystery remains unsolved to this day…