The Unexplained Creature of Ilkley Moor

In the 1980’s, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park of northern England, a retired policeman had a very unsettling experience.

On December 1st 1987, retired policeman Phillip Spencer set out on a walk across a windswept Ilkley Moors in the early hours of the morning, taking with him a camera in the hope of photographing the ‘strange lights’ that had recently been reported in the area.

As well as it being dark, the moor was swirling with mist and Mr Spencer doubted that he would get any pictures at all, despite having loaded his camera with ultra-light-sensitive film.

Suddenly, to his immense surprise, he spotted a human-like creature ahead of him in the gloom. He clicked the camera and duly photographed one of the most talked-about photographs in the history of unexplained phenomena. Although very blurred, the photograph appears to show a ‘humanoid’ figure over 1 metre high, that bears an uncanny resemblance to the ‘Greys’ of UFO legend.

Spencer claimed that he ran after the creature, which entered a ‘dome-shaped’ craft that rose rapidly into the sky before he could get a shot of the craft. Spencer remained adamant that what he had seen was an alien, and donated the photo to UFO watchers.

Analysis carried out at the Kodak laboratories in Hemel Hempstead suggested that the picture had not been interfered with in any way, but a later computer analysis of the photograph by US Navy expert Dr Bruce Maccabee was inconclusive.

When the retired policeman took the photograph on the Moors, of the strange ‘human’ looking creature and saw the craft, he believed the incident lasted merely a couple of minutes, yet when he reached his father-in-law’s house in the village, his intended destination, he noticed that the village clock was an hour fast, or so he thought. It wasn’t – and he appeared to be have ‘lost’ some time.

It was this which led him to suspect something else had happened to him after seeing the strange figure on the gloomy Moors. He suspected it was possible he had been abducted. In fact, he would later claim that he had indeed been abducted by an alien craft.

When he walked across the moor that early morning, he had with him a compass to help him find his way, and through the gloomy fog he saw the strange-looking being ahead of him on the slopes of the moor.

Intrigued, and too surprised to feel any fear, he found himself running toward it, trying to get closer and make out what it was, and it was then that he realized there was a flying craft of some sort, with a dome on top of it, rising up from the moor.

It disappeared from sight within seconds however, and the unidentified creature was gone too. He hung around for some time, hoping that both would return so that he could figure out what it was he had just witnessed but neither returned and so he made his way to the village.

His compass however was now of no use to him – it was pointing south now instead of north and when he got to the village, his watch said a different time to the village clock. He had lost an hour of time.

The photograph that Spencer took was first analysed by a wildlife expert. He concluded that whatever was in the photograph was not any known animal. There was no way to ascertain what the creature in the photo was however.

It was dark and quite blurry given the conditions of that morning but analysis of the image in the photo concluded that the strange figure hadn’t been superimposed or added in later, and indeed the photo had not been tampered with at all.

It was after this odd encounter, that the policeman began to experience strange dreams at night. It was this that led him to undergo hypnotic regression, organised through the researcher Peter Hough, to try to get to the bottom of what had happened to him on the moor.

A Dr Jim Singleton conducted the session and surprisingly it seemed that from Spencer’s recall, his encounter with the creature came after his abduction, and indeed, in his words, the creature was “waving goodbye to him” when he snapped the immortal photo.

While on the craft, he says that he was given a tour of it, taken up into orbit, and then shown ‘videos’ one of which depicted a coming apocalypse, and the other, he would not reveal, saying that he was “not allowed to disclose” the content of this one.

Researcher Peter Hough asked a psychologist to assess the retired policeman, and the psychologist apparently verified that, in his opinion, the policeman appeared to be telling the truth.

The transcript from the hypno-regression session goes as such; Says Spencer, “I’m walking along the moor. It’s windy and there are a lot of clouds. Walking up toward some trees I see this little something; can’t tell… He’s green and moving toward me… Oh! I’m stuck. I can’t move and the creature is still coming toward me. I’m stuck and everything has gone fuzzy. I’m floating in the air. I want to get down. I can’t get down.”

“I don’t like it. This green thing is in front of me.’ (He later said that the creature was in front of him below him, and it was like the creature was like a child pulling a balloon on a string.)

‘Oh God! I want to get down. There’s a big silver saucer thing, there’s a door in it. I don’t want to go in there. Everything has gone black. I’m in a funny room. A voice is saying “Don’t be afraid.” I don’t feel afraid. There’s a beam above me, fluorescent tube. I don’t want to look at it. My nose feels funny. I can see a door and there is one of these green creatures motioning for me to go with him. I don’t want to go with him. Oh God! Don’t want to be up here.”

“I’m in a big round room. I’m on a raised platform. He says I’ve got nothing to fear but I’d still like to go home. It’s got such big hands. It’s so bright. Two of those creatures have come with me.”

“I’m looking at pictures on the wall. Scenes of destruction like on the news. People starving. It’s not very nice. Pictures changing, another film. He’s asking if I understand. I’m not supposed to tell anyone about the other film. It’s time to go. Everything is black.”

“I’m walking up the moor again, near some trees. I see something. A creature. I’ve shouted to it. I don’t know what it is. It’s moving quick. I’ll photograph it. I’m running after it. It’s got big eyes, pointed ears. Hasn’t got a nose. His hands are enormous. Three big fingers. Its arms are long. Looks odd. Funny feet – V-shape, two toes. Must be difficult to walk – he shuffles along. It’s gone round a corner….’

One crucial fact came out from his regression. The only problem that had existed with the photo (other than of course, an inability to identify what the ‘thing’ was in the photo) was that light conditions seemed to imply that the photograph had not been taken at the time in the early morning that Mr Spencer had said it had been taken. This had been a problem for the investigator Hough; that was until his hypno-regression session revealed that he had in fact taken the photo after he had been taken aboard the craft, and an hour or so later than he had thought.

This now matched the lighting conditions that day, later in the morning, on the moor, and to Hough this was more verification that the Policeman was indeed being truthful in his account. In fact, the policeman’s account never wavered or varied. He also sought no publicity at all, nor did he seek any financial gain from his experience.

Had it simply been a fern or shrub, or a tree stump, captured in early morning light, throwing shapes that made it appear like a creature as opposed to an inanimate feature of the landscape? Or, could it have been a hoax, utilizing a staged prop such as a mannequin? – But wildlife experts and film experts had all insisted it was a genuine but inexplicable photo, and why would a sensible policeman, no doubt a rational and logical kind of person, wish to jeopardise his career and his reputation to become a laughing stock to sceptics? Spencer was a policeman with a solid background and a solid reputation, whose story never changed.

The Daily Star Newspaper in 1989 said they had ‘exposed’ the photo and debunked it, saying that the unidentified creature had in fact been an insurance broker, riding a bicycle, who had no idea that he was being photographed as he cut across the moors while visiting a client who lived on the edge of the moor.

Luckily, Peter Hough and Jenny Randles were able to track down the source of this rather silly interpretation: someone had given this possible “explanation” actually as a joke to his colleagues in the news room, and the newspaper had run with it and simply printed the joke as the debunking explanation. This joke/explanation, while imaginative, was proved to be incorrect however when the photo was enhanced and no man on a bicycle carrying a brief-case could be seen. It still looked like some kind of creature.

According to veteran investigator Jenny Randles, the story of Mr Spencer’s encounter and subsequent abductions did not end on the Moor. A few weeks later Mr Spencer heard a knock on his door. Opening it, he found two men standing on his doorstep. They were both dressed in black. They asked to come in and told him they were from the Ministry of Defence.

Spencer was a little surprised at this, as he certainly had not told the Ministry of Defence anything. On entering his living room, one of the men looked at his electric fire and asked him how it worked. Then they announced that they had come to talk to him about the incident on the Moor.

image credit: wiki

Again, this surprised Mr Spencer as he had only told three people about what he’d experienced that early morning on the Moor, and the three people he had told had no connection whatsoever to the Ministry of Defence. However, these two men in black appeared to know all of the details about it.

He wasn’t sure what to say to them, but he thought that given they were saying they were from the Government, he ought just to be honest and so he gave a short account of his experience and said that he had taken a photograph. At this, the two men in black appeared themselves to be very surprised. It would seem that they had not actually known about the photograph.

When they discovered that a photograph existed, they were quick to ask for it, but Spencer explained that it was not in his possession, but rather, it was with a friend. (It wasn’t, but he didn’t want to give it to them) At this, strangely, the two men seemed to lose interest in questioning him any further, and got up to leave.

After this visit, the investigator Spencer was working with, Hough, contacted the Ministry of Defence and the Air force, to enquire about who these two men had been. He gave the names the two men had given to Spencer, but was told that no such men existed.

What makes Spencer’s story all the more interesting, is that seven years earlier on 16th June 1980, a short way away on the Ilkley Moor near Todmorden, 56-year old coal miner Zigmund Adamski was found dead, lying on top of a pile of coal over twenty miles from his home in Tingley, with an ointment covering a wound which no lab could identify. The coroner ruled he died “of fright.”

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