Ilkley Moor, known world wide because of it’s links with the Bronte family, can be a remote and desolate place at the best of times, reminiscent of the setting of the moors of Baskerville Hall in Conan Doyle’s “Hound of the Baskervilles.” The rugged, hilly moors are just a few miles north of Haworth, and home to the Bronte sisters and the setting for Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.
On 1 December 1987, Philip Spencer, a retired policeman saw and photographed what he believed was an alien being on the Moor. He said he saw the strange creature rush up the hill and give a signal to him with one of its arms as if telling him not to approach. He later saw a dome-topped craft at the top of the hill after following the being which shot into the air at a blinding speed. The Daily Telegraph included this event in a 2011 list of “Top 10 UFO incidents in the UK”.
It is a place of mystery. There is the Swastika stone; boulders etched with strange markings; the Badger Stone; and the Twelve Apostles stone circle.
Many times the only living creatures on the moor are the sheep. Ilkley has other legends too, like the hovering lights at night, which bring occasional reports of UFOs. There are strange, swirling lights that are filtered through the fog and seem to have a mind of their own. Possibly some of the mysterious sights can be attributed to the not too distant Menwith Hill Military Base, or the nearby Leeds Bradford Airport.
The activities of these two facilities will not, however, explain what happened to Spencer. There were also stories of strange creatures that roam across the moor at times.
Philip Spencer and the incident.
After four years of being a metropolitan policeman in London, Philip Spencer had left his job and moved with his wife and baby to the West Yorkshire area of Ilkley moor to be closer to her family.
One early morning , Philip decided to take a walk across Ilkley moor towards his father-in-laws house some miles away. He took with him a camera loaded with fast film with the intention of photographing the mysterious lights which are often spotted on the moor.
Along with his camera, Spencer also took a compass to navigate through the fog before sufficient daylight shone through the moor. As he was searching for some photo angles, suddenly he caught the sight of a strange looking being in the slopes ahead of him. He aimed and snapped a picture of the creature which seemed to be gesturing for him to stay away.
He managed to take one photograph of the creature before it then ran away. Spencer gathered his wits and took off in pursuit of the being. Today he says he doesn’t know why. It was just an impulse reaction. He arrived just in time to get a glimpse of a flying craft with a domed top rise up from the moor and disappear into the sky at great speed. He didn’t manage to get a photo of the UFO as it happened too fast and he was in shock but he was convinced he had captured the creature he saw on film.
When he saw nothing else of the being or its craft, he began to walk to the nearest village. This walk took about 30 minutes, Spencer walked to the nearest village to get his film developed and was surprised to find his compass pointing in the wrong direction – and also the village clock showed a different time to his watch – 2 hours ahead.
The film development.
He headed by bus to the nearest town with instant film development. Sure enough, he had a picture of the creature! It looked to be about 4 foot tall, and had a blue-green tint to its skin. He knew he had something of importance, or at least, he thought he did. He found the proper channels to contact UFO investigator Peter Hough.
Hough knew what he was hearing was a “too good to be true” case, and it worried him, but after meeting Spencer, he was convinced that he was a man of integrity and was not seeking fame or fortune for his picture. There was no reason to not believe what Spencer had told him. Hough began a thorough investigation. The film with the alien picture would be the first thing to undergo professional scrutiny.
The alien picture was first looked at by a wildlife photography expert. The object in the image was not an animal of any known kind. It could not be determined either way if the figure was animate or static. A reconstruction of the original site did establish the alien’s height at or near 4 and one half feet.
The photograph was next sent to Kodak laboratories in Hemel, Hempstead. An analysis showed that the object was indeed part of the original photo, and not superimposed. This conclusion did not, of course, determine what the creature was.
Next, the picture was sent to the United States for computer enhancement and analysis. Dr. Bruce Maccabee, optical physicist with the United States Navy gave his expert conclusion, He stated that the slow film speed used for the low light conditions made the film too grainy for proper testing;
“I had great hopes that this case would prove definitive. Sadly circumstances prevent it from being so.”
Something strange was noticed in the picture. Appearing on the hill at exactly the spot where Spencer says the UFO was is a white square. Could it be that he had gotten a part of the UFO in the shot unknowingly? He was not sure.
There have been numerous theories and much speculation about the Ilkley Moor photograph. Because of the poor lighting conditions present on the moor at the time the picture was taken, it was not possible to get a complete and definite conclusion. But with Spencer being a well respected man, and not given to making up stories, it can be said with certainty that Spencer lost about an hour in the moor, saw an unknown flying object of some type, and took a photograph of some unknown creature on December 1, 1987.
Spencer’s Second Encounter
Just a month or so later in January, Spencer would have a visit from the Men in Black.
On a Friday evening, Spencer heard a knock on his front door. He opened it, and saw two men of middle age. They were dressed in typical Men in Black suits. Both men showed Spencer their Ministry of Defence identification badges. Humorously, their names were Jefferson and Davis.
Spencer, not knowing what to expect from the two visitors, invited them inside, and the three sat down for a talk. One of the alleged agents, Jefferson, told him that they had come to discuss his encounter the month before in the Ilkley Moor.
The two men were very well versed on the case, and asked him a number of questions about what had happened in December, 1987. Not sure how to react, and yet afraid to offend them in case they were officially government officials, he told them about the photograph he had taken.
Spencer, not wanting to have the photo confiscated, lied to the two men, and told them that a friend of his had the photograph. In fact, Hough had the photograph, and was having it analysed at the time. Almost immediately the two men seemed to lose interest in questioning Spencer any further.