Case Histories : Photo Hoaxes> [1 ¦ 2 ¦ 3 ¦ 4 ¦ 5 ¦ 6 ¦ 7 ¦ 8 ¦ 9 ¦ next]


UFO photographic hoaxes and the story of Alex Birch and Stephen Darbishire

David Clarke & Andy Roberts

“There can be no possible doubt that this is a genuine story. Children do not as a rule go round faking photographs.”
Leonard Cramp, quoted by Desmond Leslie
Space, Gravity and the Flying saucer (1).

“ could a young boy of 13 tell a lie? Well I was a tremendous liar, I was brought up in a middle class family who were highly religious and I learnt to lie from the age of one! In retrospect, I think was merely a pawn for other people's needs, and I just fitted the bill.”
Stephen Darbishire, February 2001 (2)

Whenever ufologists turn their attention to the subject of hoaxing within their subject the fundamental gulf between sceptics and believers is brought sharply into focus. Those who choose to invest belief in the ETH and other exotic explanations for the UFO phenomenon tend towards the simplistic party line that, yes, hoaxes exist, but they are few and far between and have little effect on ‘serious ufology’. Sceptics and more open-minded students of flying saucery are a little more realistic.

It’s perfectly true that as a percentage of investigated UFO cases, known hoaxes represent a tiny fraction. But simple bean counting misses the point entirely. UFO hoaxes may be small in number but those which exist have had a massive impact upon the subject, and have been far reaching in their influence.

Hoaxes are rarely just standard UFO reports. They are invariably photographic or document based. This makes them an easily displayable, marketable media commodity. Whereas a single witness sighting of a brightly lit UFO may only get, at best, a few column inches in a newspaper, a UFO hoax photograph, such as that created by Gordon Faulkner during the 1965 Warminster flap, will receive national media coverage. In turn this sort of exposure can add a stamp of validity (however specious) on to a hitherto disparate collection of UFO reports, turning local a flap into a national phenomenon. And so the cycle continues.

Listing and discussing known hoaxes would be tedious. The information is available in the literature for those who wish to seek it out. Most of you will already be familiar with it and how hoaxes like Gulf Breeze, MJ-12 etc have affected the subject. One small part of our research in recent years has focussed upon those suspected hoaxes that had a huge impact upon the media and UFOlogy but, more importantly, have continued to influence the witness/perpetrator. We all too often forget that people lie at the centre of the UFO mystery and what happens to individuals who are thrust into the public eye, and how their views about their alleged experience/s change and mutate over the years, is often forgotten or overlooked.
The cases under discussion here exemplify the problem in that they are in the borderlands, being neither 100% proven hoaxes or unequivocally from ‘out there’ but continue to exert a deep influence upon the public perception of UFO mythology. The Alex Birch and Stephen Darbishire photographs are classic UFO photographs, much written about and much speculated upon. Both these cases impacted hard on British ufology. As we will see they impacted even harder on those involved with them. They also give an important insight into the nature of hoaxing and into the heart of early British UFOlogy.

UFO cases come and go, witness names and case details used like happy family cards to justify one theory or to trump another. Classic cases are repeated by rote, the humanity ripped out of them to satisfy UFOlogical obsessions and facts. It’s the frequent cry in internet forums such as UFOupdates that sceptics don't take witness testimony seriously, but how many of these smug internet key-clickers take the trouble to track down witnesses to classic cases and or try to make sense of their stories? We did. Whether there is any sense, whether their stories are true or false only you can decide. »

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