Fifty Years of Mystery

This blog has rather been in the doldrums since before Christmas. In part, Christmas can be blamed; but I was also tidying up drafts in preparation for (self-) publishing a new book about the Warminster mystery.

The mystery was 50 years old on Christmas day 2014. Until the 1960s, Warminster had never been famous for much. It is an army town, home to the Land Warfare Centre (formerly the School of Infantry). Salisbury Plain, to the north of the town, is used for military manoeuvres and training, including live firing. Very few luminaries had come from the town, and very little had happened there. In the 1960s, that was to change. Warminster was to become famous – notorious even – for its UFO sightings. These UFOs were described in the books of Arthur Shuttlewood, a local journalist. However, these books can only be found, if at all, second-hand, and only take the story of the mystery up until the late 1970s. Much has happened since then that needed recording — not so much UFO sightings, but information on what happened to those who documented the mystery, and the mystery’s slow re-emergence from the half-light of forgotten memories.

The mystery is being discussed and celebrated at a conference in Warminster in August this year (2015). It was in August 1965, during the summer holidays, that the town was first invaded by hordes of curious skywatchers who camped on the hills surrounding the town to look for the mysterious lights and listen out for the strange sounds they had learned about through TV, radio and newspapers, caused by a phenomenon the locals called the Thing.

To provide an introduction to the Warminster mystery — for those who might be new to it or revisiting it after many years — Kevin Goodman and I have written a new book that describes the fifty years of the mystery. The book reviews what happened during the crazy, exciting years of the Warminster mystery, and also what has happened since the mystery faded away. It is not a long list of sighting reports; it is a short history of the events — the lights and sounds — and the media reports and characters that shaped the Thing.


For information on the Warminster mystery, see the UFO Warminster Website.

The Warminster mystery is described in the following currently in-print books:

History of a Mystery: Fifty Years of the Warminster Thing

In Alien Heat: The Warminster Mystery Revisited

UFO Warminster: Cradle of Contact

For information on out-of-print books that discuss the Warminster mystery, see the Books page of the UFO Warminster Website.


 

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The Lament of Handsome Stevie

[I was discussing poetry with a friend last night, and we mentioned in passing The Song of Hiawatha. Later, I went and looked at some stanzas. As often happens after reading Hiawatha, I can’t stop the rhythm banging away in my head. So I thought I’d just let it out in an homage ]

The Lament of Handsome Stevie

On the byways of the high Plain —
The plain that stretches across Wiltshire,
The high wide Plain that’s north of Salisbury –
Drives the handsome Stevie Dewey
In his jaunty silver Honda.
On his lap there sits a camera,
Such a big black Sony camera;
A camera with a mighty zoom lens
An almighty Sigma zoom lens:
To photograph the running roe deer!
He parks the Honda in the tall gorse,
Hides the Honda in the tall grass,
Waits in silence for the roe deer!
Sees instead a hawk a-hunting,
A handsome harrier on the quarter,
Swiftly raises heavy Sony
Goes to focus mighty Sigma
And finds the grasses foil his focus!
In a panic hunts the button
That will switch to manual focus,
But instead he starts to film
The out-of-focus waving grasses,
Curses Sony button layout,
Stops the filming, reverts to stills.
Now the bird is growing distant;
Cursing Stevie exits vehicle
Trips on seatbelt, presses record,
Begins a film of dusty byways.
Curses more, pokes random buttons.
Finds the proper camera function,
Scans the Plain for distant bird-sign:
Cannot see the hawkish V-wings,
Cannot see the big bird hunting.
Can only see the big sky empty!
Sends foul language to the heavens
Fills the Plain with many curses,
Scares away the timid roe deer,
That had been nibbling the tall grasses
Just the other side of silver Honda.
Handsome Stevie kicks the Honda,
Damns all fauna to extinction.
On the byways of the high Plain
Stephen mutters imprecations
Blind to falcons, hawks and red deer
That mock him from the trackside hedgerows
And the photogenic wide blue skies.
So our cursing handsome Stevie
Leaves the byways on the wide Plain,
The high wide Plain athwart the county.
Lists his cameras up on eBay
Takes up knitting, watches telly.