50 years ago, mysterious events took place in the English town of Warminster that served as the impetus for the legend of a phenomenon called “The Thing.” An event will be held later this year marking the 50th anniversary of UFOs and other weirdness in Warminster.
Although UFOs are part of the Warminster phenomena, it all started with a weird noise. According to a story in the Warminster Journal printed in January, 1965, early in the morning of Christmas day, 1964, a housewife heard a strange sound on her way to church. She left at about 6:30 in the morning, and soon after heard a “crackling” noise. The sound got more and more loud and seemed to pass over head. However, nothing could be seen.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of being ridiculed, said the sound was like branches being pulled over gravel along with a faint hum.
A website called UFO Warminster chronicles the strange occurrences of the area, and it lists the anonymous housewife as Marjorie Bye in its timeline of strange events. According to the site, there were other witnesses that day. One man heard pounding on his roof, while a woman named Mildred Head apparently reported, “Our ceiling came alive with strange sounds that lashed our roof… as if twigs were brushing the tiles… ended up with a noise [like] giant hailstones.”
Little did the townsfolk know, this was only the beginning of a number of weird occurrences that would take place over the coming years.
One of the strangest stories comes from a news clipping from August, 1965 that, according to UFO Warminster, may have been the Warminster Journal, but they are unsure. The article reads like the plot of a 50s sci-fi movie. The story is about a Warminster town hall meeting that was arranged to discuss “The Thing.” The council chairman invited Mr. David Holton, a local scientist, to attend the meeting. Holton had been investigating the mysterious happenings, and was asked to share his findings.
In dramatic fashion, Holton said he would rather destroy his dossier than read it aloud to the crowd. He did not feel a town hall was the right way to go about an investigation. He told the paper, “This is a serious matter and must not be thrashed out in a half-hearted way by local people in front of newspaper men and television.”
The article goes on to describe some of the strangeness that had gone on since the first Christmas day occurrence. They say people had heard a crackling in the sky that “killed pigeons in flight, peppered dormice with holes and stuns animals, partridges and pheasants. Some people say they have been knocked down by the force.”
The article also claims that Mr. Horton warned the townspeople weeks ago “that the happenings indicated that people in Warminster would soon be seeing objects in the sky.”
Sure enough, soon after, “the Vicar of Heytesbury, the Reverend Graham Phillips, and his family, reported seeing a glowing, cigar-shaped object over the south of town form the vicarage in the village.”
Arthur Shuttlewood, a journalist for the Warminster Journal, is credited with making “The Thing” famous. He reported on the events and eventually wrote books about it as well.
However, according to a BBC article by Kevin Goodman, one of the founders of the UFO Warminster website, “The Thing” first received national attention when a UFO photograph hit the news.
The image was captured by a man named Gordon Faulkner in 1965. Faulkner shared the image with Shuttlewood who then gave it to the Daily Mirror. The Daily Mirror printed it in September of 1965, and Warminster’s “Thing” became famous. Goodman writes, “Within weeks, thousands of people began to converge on the town to see this strange phenomenon for themselves.”
Warminster’s notoriety as a UFO hot spot was sealed when BBC West produced a documentary on the whole affair in 1966. The documentary can be seen in Goodman’s BBC article.
Goodman says frequent sightings of “The Thing” continued until the early 1970s, then they began to decline.
Another documentary on “The Thing” was made in 1990, and can be seen below.
It was 50 years ago this month that the first news article on the hapless housewife who was terrorized by “The Thing” appeared in the Warminster Journal. According to an article by the Western Daily Press, a group of UFO researchers have decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary with a conference. It will be held at The Old Bell Inn in Warminster in August, 2015. You can read more about it on their Facebook page.
With any luck, “The Thing” will make an appearance. If it does, it sure does have a lot of explaining to do.
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- David O’Leary – Creator, Writer, and Producer of History’s Project Blue Book – December 18, 2018