Nov 22, 2016 I Nick Redfern

The Strange Story of the UFO on the Moors

Within the British UFO research field persistent rumors suggest that on a cold night in late 1957 a flying saucer-shaped unidentified flying object crash-landed in the wilds of the north of England: Silpho Moor. The precise date of the mysterious affair has been keenly debated by researchers, with some suggesting the event occurred in November 1957, while others suggest the incident took place one month later, in December of that year. It’s worth noting, however, that in 1958, Flying Saucer Review magazine investigated the case, and came up with a specific date. Namely, November 21, 1957. Given that this investigation occurred less than a year after the crash, it seems fairly safe to assume that the date is accurate. In the November-December 1958 (Vol. 4, No. 6) issue of Flying Saucer Review there appears an article titled "The Silpho Moor Mystery," which was written by a UFO investigator named Philip Longbottom. It's an article that details the curious and intriguing series of events.

According to data collected over the last near-60 years, on the night in question three men – Frank Dickenson, Frank Hutton and Fred Taylor – were driving from a Harewood Dale mill with Dickenson behind the wheel of the car. He planned to drop his friends off at their homes in no time at all. Fate, however, stepped in and decided otherwise. As they closed in on an area of moorland called Reasty Bank, all three noticed a red light falling from the skies and seemingly crash-landing on nearby hilly ground. It was moorland very close to Royal Air Force Fylingdales, a military installation that has been implicated in numerous UFO incidents since the mid-1960s. Dickenson brought his car to a screeching halt.

The car stalled and Dickenson was unable to restart it. This may, of course, have been due to the severity with which the car came to such a shuddering halt. On the other hand, the field of Ufology is filled with accounts of UFO causing what has become known as "vehicle interference." It's unlikely that six decades later we’ll ever know for sure if the stalling of the car and the presence of the mysterious object were somehow connected. But, we should not dismiss such a possibility.


While Dickenson tried – but failed - to restart the car, Taylor opened one of the back-doors, leaped out, and headed up the hills to the area where it appeared the UFO had come down. Taylor was fortunate enough to stumble on the object, after about five or ten minutes spent searching the area. It was saucer-shaped, roughly 18 inches in diameter, and weighed around 50 to 60 pounds – which was a surprisingly heavy weight for its relatively small size. Due to the weight of the object, Taylor headed back down the hill to inform his friends what he had found. By the time Taylor got back to his friends, Dickenson had finally managed to restart the car and, as a result, they drove as close as was conceivably possible to the crash site. Having done so, the trio then headed across the dark moors to the site of the crash.

As they got closer they could see a man and a woman walking towards them on the same path; however, there was apparently no kind of conversation between the two parties. Whatever the three men saw falling from the sky was not seen by the couple – or so the trio thought. Despite the fact that Taylor was sure they were in the right area, they UFO could no longer be located – to the consternation of all three. It had vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared, and in a period of no longer than 15 minutes. Given the fact that the temperature was freezing and the entire area was by now enveloped in darkness, they elected to come back the following day. No luck: the object still could not be found.

The next step on the part of Taylor, Hutton and Dickenson was to contact a friend of theirs, a Mr. Avenell, who had a deep interest in matters relative to UFOs and supernatural phenomena. Avenell suggested to the three that they place an advert in a local newspaper, in an effort to try and determine if someone else had found and retrieved the Silpho Moor saucer – and also to try and determine if such a person might be willing to part with it. It’s hardly surprising that when the newspaper published the story two days later, dozens of people excitedly headed out to the moors, spending hours scouring the landscape in search of the crashed object. It’s said that some of those searching for the UFO were armed with loaded shotguns and others were dressed in full military garb – something which strongly suggested to the staff of Flying Saucer Review that it was not just the locals who were looking for the UFO, but elements of the British Army, too.

It turns out that the object had indeed been retrieved by someone, and clearly not at all long after Mr. Taylor stumbled on it a couple of nights earlier. Recognizing the potential importance of the find, the person in question – whose name is still unknown - demanded a large sum of money for the return of the mini-saucer. It was decided that the exchange should be handled by Mr. Avenell. As a result, a plan was formulated for Avenell – and Taylor - to meet with the person in question late at night, on the wild, dark moors where the object came down – a distinctly cloak-and-dagger situation, to be sure.

When the pair reached the prearranged spot, Taylor could instantly see that the man in question was the same one he had seen on the night of the crash, as the man strode across the moors with an unidentified woman. It transpired that everything turned out good: the man got his money and Taylor and Avenell got the flying saucer. They quickly raced to Avenell's cottage where they intended to examine it carefully.

At this point, it's worth noting why, exactly, Avenell was brought into the picture. Back to Philip Longbottom: "Of the people in the car when the object was found, Mr. Hutton is a property dealer, Mr. Thomas a butcher, and Mr. Taylor a tailor. The man to whom the object was taken is Mr. Avenell, a local solicitor, and I am myself a restaurant owner. All local businessmen, and, in a small town like Scarborough, all known casually to each other. Mr. Avenell came into the picture because he is Mr. Hutton’s solicitor, and also was thought to write on the subject of flying saucers under a pen name. In actual fact, he writes on metaphysics. I came into the thing purely out of curiosity! Having heard rumors about the object, I offered my services as an ex-electrical and mechanical engineer. There you have the cast."


In a July 1958 statement sent to David Wightman, the editor of a 1950s U.K.-based magazine on UFOs called Uranus, Longbottom wrote the following: "It was decided that the object should be opened at Mr. Avenell's home on Sunday by three people. A reporter from the local paper was present with Mr. Avenell and myself. Mr. Avenell, who had some experience during the war with mines, had already drilled a piece out of the top of the ‘saucer’ with a tank cutter. With the aid of a torch, he had got some idea of what the inside was like and, armed with this knowledge, and the fact (which he purposely did not tell us until later) that he had sufficiently broken down the code on the outside to be reasonably sure that the object contained a message inside, we started proceedings."

Longbottom continued to Wightman: "It was obvious that the two halves of the thing were not soldered or brazed together as one would have expected, but appeared to be stuck with a substance resembling celluloid filler, greyish in color. We tried several ways of removing this, but with little success, until finally we hit upon the idea of placing the thing on its edge, and then trying to split it open by placing an old kitchen knife on the joint and hammering away for all we were worth. This was effective and we split the joint all round. The two halves did not come away even then, being held together by an iron rod, the thickness of a pencil, which ran through a sort of white metal bearing in the top half. This we drilled out, and the two halves then came apart."

Longbottom had even more to say in his letter: "Resting inside, we found quite a heap of ash, various bits and pieces, what appeared to be fused glass, and most important of all, a coil of copper tubing, about ¼ inch diameter, which had apparently been joined at each end to holes in the top of the object, presumably as a cooling unit. Through the coils of the tubing was inserted a tightly-rolled cylinder of copper which, upon gently unrolling, proved to be seventeen thin sheets of copper, fastened at one edge, like a book. This was badly charred with the debris, but on cleaning it off it was found to have hieroglyphics on each page. Around these pages, forming an 'outer cover' for the book, was a sheet of thicker copper which bore no writing and was obviously used to protect the rest of the pages during 'transit.'"

Longbottom then set about trying to translate the text, a process which he shared with Wightman: "Probably this is the point where I should explain the symbols a little more fully. It was soon found that each symbol had several alternative meanings and sounds depending upon its position under, over or across the line or, in some cases, its proximity to the line. Some of the symbols are abbreviations, and several of them are phonetic spellings of familiar words. The whole thing is not just a simple substitution code, but is a very complicated effort. To make up a complete ‘language’ like this would seem to be out of all proportion to a hoax, however elaborate. Like any other translator, one tends to get 'inside' the thoughts and feelings of the person who wrote the original, and I firmly believe that this is not a 'made up’ language, but one in constant use. The whole thing flows so easily, and yet contains the natural mistakes that one would expect, considering the difference between our written and spoken word.'"

Given the sheer extent of the pages of material that Longbottom was able to decipher, it would take another dozen or so pages to tell the full story of the message. Suffice it to say, however, the essence of the message was near-identical to that of the human-looking, so-called "Space Brothers" of the 1950s that the likes of George Van Tassel, Frank Stranges, and George Hunt Williamson claimed to be in contact with. The message was concerned with humankind’s violent ways, the perils of atomic weapons, and the need for the people of Earth to become unified under a "world council."

At some unclear point in time, the Silpho Moor flying saucer vanished from Avenell's home, amid claims that for a short while it was on display in a local fish and chip shop in the north of England! The strange saga remains unresolved to this very day. Hoax? A real UFO? Some gadget of the military? I suspect a hoax, but I'm willing to be proved wrong.

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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