Sep 29, 2015 I Nick Redfern

The Curious Caper of the Charlton Crater, Pt. 2

Part-1 of this article began as follows: "It's an odd and near-surreal affair that occurred more than 50 years ago. And it's something that most of Ufology has forgotten about. It is, as the title of this article demonstrates, the curious caper of the Charlton Crater. It was the very early morning of July 16, 1963 when things began and that went on to attract significant attention for a couple of months. The location: Manor Farm, Charlton, Wiltshire, England. Leonard Joliffe was the man who kicked off the controversy: he claimed to have heard a loud explosion somewhere nearby, something which had him puzzled and worried. He was not the only person to suggest something weird was afoot."

As I also noted in part-1, the saga of the Charlton Crater revolved around the discovery of a flattened, circular area in a farmer's field in Wiltshire, England. It attracted the attention of the media, the police, and the British Army. The latter quickly dispatching a bomb-disposal unit to the location, Manor Farm, to see what all the fuss was about. It was, as a certain famous figure once wrote, "Much Ado About Nothing." The only thing within the crater was a perfectly normal piece of ironstone - which can be found across much of Wiltshire.

There was no sign of wreckage, of debris, or, indeed, of anything. Aside from the slightly wheel-like crater itself. And although the military exited the area as soon as the crater was determined not to have been caused by a bomb, questions continued to be asked about who or what was responsible for the crater. An answer came when, in late August 1963, a TV repairman named John Southern claimed he and a couple of buddies made the crater. The UK's ufologists went into a collective sulk. For a while.

Virtual reality space scene

According to Southern, the whole thing was a big joke, one which involved "two others," who "I have promised not to tell their names." Southern did state, however, that the hoax was undertaken to create the impression that "something from outer space had landed." He added that there wasn't just one crater, but three of them: one in Scotland, and another one in Wiltshire - in addition to the one at Manor Farm, Wiltshire. The plan was quite elaborate. They planned to park Southern's car close to one of the craters - with the driver's door open. The trio hoped, by doing so, it would provoke speculation that Southern had been kidnapped by ETs. Then, after a few days, Southern would "return," and he would tell his sensational story to the press of how we was whisked away by aliens.

Southern claimed he got cold feet, however, and doubted he could successfully pull off the prank. So, after the three had made the craters, they decided that enough was enough, and the next stage of the operation was abandoned. In addition, Southern said he was worried about a backlash from the police and the bomb-disposal people. So, as a result, he confessed. "I have been a fool," said Southern. The police were slightly annoyed, but took no action. Not even the bomb-squad was particularly bothered. While they admitted they had better things to occupy their time than checking out an odd crater in a farmer's field, they said of the hoax: "We just accept it in good grace."

Roy Blanchard, on whose farm the crater was found, took an intriguing approach to all this: he believed that Southern's story of a hoax was itself a hoax! That's when the saga turned seriously odd.


In September 1963, John Southern sheepishly admitted that his story of how he and two friends made the the craters was indeed a lie. There were no two friends. There was never a plan to park his car next to the crater. And, he, Southern, had no role in the creation of the Charlton Crater, at all. Southern said that by telling the press he was responsible for the crater, he hoped it would actually prompt the real hoaxers to come forward and claim the work as theirs. Southern's last word on the matter was this: that no hoaxers ever came forward now made him suspect that aliens really did land at Manor Farm!

It was an appropriately weird ending to a bizarre case that, rather than being conclusively explained to everyone's satisfaction, simply faded away into obscurity. Some might say that's the best place for it. Others might suggest a renewed look at the case is in order.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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