Perhaps the interesting thing about the alleged UFO incident in Charlton in July 1963 is that it went from a story of intrigue that even the BBC covered, to being nothing but a hoax that a local resident “confessed” to, to be an account that all of a sudden wasn’t a hoax when the resident in question retracted his confession.
There have been many UFO researchers who have investigated the case over the years. And it is easy to see why. Was this a case of an alien craft landing before taking off again and leaving evidence of its visit? If so, why would someone then claim it was a hoax only to quickly retract the statement? Does this point to an attempt to suppress the real events of that late summer night over half a century ago?
Quite possibly one of the best accounts can be found in Cosmic Crashes by veteran UFO researcher and author, Nick Redfern. It is from his research that much of what follows is based.
Strange Activity In The Skies Over Charlton
It was some time shortly after midnight, in the opening hours of 16th July 1963 when several residents of Charlton noticed strange lights and movement in the skies overhead. One such witness was a policeman who would claim to have seen an “orange light streak across the sky”. Another, a farm laborer at Manor Farm would hear a strange explosion somewhere in the distance around the same time as the officer’s sighting.
However, the most important discovery would come several hours later, when another worker on Manor Farm found a huge crater near to where he worked. The witness, Reginald Alexander, would immediately run to inform the farm owner, Roy Blanchard, of what he had found. Blanchard would follow Alexander to the spot where the strange crater was.
He would later recall that the indention was around eight feet across and approximately three feet deep. More intriguing was the “outwardly spreading spoke marks” that were clearly defined. Indeed, it appeared to the two men that a solid object had made the impression upon they each stared in wonder.
From here, the pace of the event picked up somewhat. Blanchard would inform the local police, who after inspecting the area for themselves would speak to the military. They would arrive on the scene shortly after, including a member of the Bomb Disposal Unit, Captain John Richards.
Perhaps given the sudden arrival of police and armed forces to the Charlton countryside, it didn’t take long for chatter to circulate of something out of the ordinary taking place near Manor Farm. Nor for this chatter to reach local newspapers and television stations, one of whom was the BBC.
Several Intense Studies By The Military
The media would soon seek out the witnesses for comment, in particular Blanchard and Richards. As stated in Cosmic Crashes, Blanchard would offer the media that there wasn’t a “trace of the potatoes or barley that was growing where the crater is now”. He would continue that whatever the object that made the crater was, it was “heavy enough to crush rocks and stone to powder” before elaborated that it was his belief the object was “a spaceship from another world”.
Richards, while much more reserved and measured would also state that he and his colleagues were “baffled”, adding that they could find no evidence of an explosion or of burn or scorch marks.
As Redfern notes of his research into the case, the military maintained an intense interest in the encounter for some time after the incident. They would send several units with different areas of expertise to examine the location. And following these examinations, various theories surfaced, including that the crater may have been the result of a previously unexploded bomb left over from the German bombing campaigns of the Second World War.
However, things would take a new twist when, according to since released files, the military discovered “something tangible” within the crater itself. Initial reports were that the bebris was metal in nature. This would suggest that whatever the object was, it had perhaps left something more solid than a mere crater. This might explain, then, the overly intense interest the military had with the incident.
When this discovery leaked out to the media, a surge of stories would appear in newspapers claiming that the disturbance near Manor Farm was an “alien spacecraft” and then proof of the otherworldly object had been discovered. Such stories only galvanized public interest in the case.
Investigations With No Answers
An already strange and intriguing account then took an even stranger turn when the military would claim that the discovery was, in fact, a meteor. They would send the rock for analysis at the British Museum. However, they would state that the rock was simply ironstone, which was found all over the south of the country.
Was this an innocent error? Or was this a first attempt to distance the public from the true goings-on at Manor Farm? Whatever the truth of the matter, the military now appeared to wish to draw a line under the investigation, admitting that it remained unexplained.
The matter had already been discussed in parliament, and following the intense and continued media scrutiny, it would return there following the announcement of the non-meteor discovery. It was during this second parliament mention that it came to light that as well as the army, the Air Force had also been investigated the incident.
Did this Air Force involvement suggest that the case was indeed one of a UFO? It very well might be the case. However, then the story took another twist when a man would volunteer to the media that he was responsible for the strange crater. It is to this gentleman that we will turn our attention to next, a 37-year-old TV repairman from Middlesex, John Southern.
The Apparent Confession Of John Southern
Southern would claim that he, along with two friends (who still wished to remain anonymous) had planned to dig strange holes all over the country so as to make it appear the spaceships were landing all around the UK.
After doing this, as well as setting up a car with the door open and a single trainer left inside so as to push the idea of an alien abduction, Southern planned to “disappear” for several days. His friends would make it known that he was missing so as to generate publicity, before he would then appear with a story of alien abduction, during which he was taken to a mothership or space station.
After preparing several “craters” in various places, they prepared the crater near Manor Farm. However, according to Southern, as interest began, he suddenly backed out of the plan. And despite his friends wishing to continue, he no longer wanted any part in the hoax. He would further state that his friends also lost interest following this as they had “no more holiday time allowed to them” from their respective jobs. He would also state that the reason he was coming clean was that he felt that has “been a fool”.
However, as Redfern explores, despite the military willing to draw an even firmer line under the events, there are a “variety of problems” with Southern’s strange admission. Not least that he would eventually retract everything he had said.
A Hoax That Wasn’t A Hoax?
Perhaps of most suspicion is the fact that the friends Southern claimed had assisted him at no point appeared to back up the account. Furthermore, the explosion heard by the farmworker and the streak across the sky witnessed by the police officer were still left unexplained – remember, the notion that it was a meteor had all but been dismissed. And, as Redfern again highlights, what should be made of the mystery metallic object the army claimed to have detected.
Even Blanchard, the farm owner would claim that he didn’t believe the claims of the crater being hoax. He would be seemingly proved correct when Southern surfaced once more in the public domain. This time, the TV repairman claimed that he and his friends were not at all responsible for the hoax. However, he had made the claim in the hope that the real hoaxer would come forward.
Even stranger, following no “real hoaxer” stepping forward, Southern would state that he believed the crater had been caused by a UFO from elsewhere in the universe.
What should we make of Southern’s constantly changing statements? Was he telling the truth that he was attempting to lure out the real person behind the apparent hoax? Or did he simply realize the bizarreness of his previous statement and wished to distance himself from it?
Might it even be possible that he was “convinced” to issue such a statement in order to draw attention from what the real truth of the matter might be? If this was the case, then suspicion for this speculative coercion would surely fall on the military. However, there appears to be no evidence of that, only that the military appeared quietly grateful for the “get out” card Southern’s confession offered them.
An Almost Missed Piece Of Evidence!
Perhaps most intriguing of all, however, and what might prove to be the crucial missing piece of the whole episode, was the discovery by Wallace Binns of a crop circle only no more than 200 yards from where the crater was discovered. What’s more, also with him was astronomer, Patrick Moore, who would write a letter of the discovery to New Scientist in August 1963, less than a month after the incident.
The letter would state that the area in the wheat field was “circular or elliptical” and the wheat itself had been “flattened”. Furthermore, there was “evidence of spiral flattening”, something that comes up a lot in crop circle discoveries.
What is also perhaps interesting is that before their discovery, many witnesses speak of strange orbs or balls of energy near the fields themselves. Might this have been the case here? Might the streaking orange light have been this bizarre energy globe and might it have been responsible for the strange circular markings in the field near to the crater.
Perhaps, unfortunately, crop circles wouldn’t really come to the forefront of peoples’ minds until the following decades. Consequently, many of the people at the location would simply step on and over the markings in order to investigate the crater. Consequently, its pattern and shape were severely compromised before further investigation could go ahead.
An Early Crop Circle Account?
The Charlton crater case remains one of the most intriguing UFO encounters, certainly on the records of the United Kingdom. It would seem apparent that the claims of a hoax are themselves on shaky ground. And while the military was happy to accept such claims, their intense interest is also an area of concern for some researchers. Might the whole thing have been some kind of military experiment? In this case, it appears quite unlikely.
With that in mind, then, was this a case of an alien craft landing in the countryside of the UK? If so, was that landing out of necessity, or was it a purposely planned mission, perhaps a fact-finding mission of sorts?
Maybe of most interest, though, is the apparent connection of the case to crop circles, and if that might have been what was happening here. After all, the discovery of the crater did not occur until the early hours of the morning, several hours after the explosion, and the flash seen by the respective witnesses.
And when we consider that, according to research by those who investigate them, some crop circles are said to appear in a matter of minutes, there was ample time for this to have been performed by whatever intelligence is behind them.
Without further information coming to light, however, the mystery and intrigue surrounding the Charlton crater cases of 1963 remains. And will undoubtedly draw the attention of UFO researchers for some time.
Check out the video below. It looks at crop circles in a little more depth.
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