The mystery of the Silpho flying saucer

A UFO near Scarborough?

The story starts one evening in either late November or early December 1957 as Fred Taylor, a tailor from Hanover Road in Scarborough, his friend Frank Dickenson and either Charles Thomas or Frank Hutton (one of these names, for reasons which will be explained later, being fictitious) left the mill in Harewood Dale to return to their homes in Scarborough. As they drove up Reasty Bank they were somewhat startled to see a strange red glow apparently descending to earth just out of sight over the top of the adjacent moor. This so distracted the driver that he promptly stalled the car!

[A 'flying saucer'] The Silpho saucer?
Picture from the Mars Earth Connection.

The exact chain of events from this point now fades into the mists of obscurity being clouded by conflicting claims of bias, counterclaims of dishonesty, threats of libel and accusations of huge sums of money changing hands.

These variations would appear to have originated as a result of the intense media interest that the affair generated. Those involved in the initial discovery were so besieged by requests for newspaper interviews that they had to restrict themselves to just a few selected journalists-a fact which clearly annoyed those that they excluded. Rumours ran rife that these interviews were only granted to journalists who offered substantial payments for the privilege. The favoured papers responded by printing what they believed to be factual reports which gave the participants either anonymity or pseudonyms.

The other papers however, sought their revenge by lampooning the whole affair, deriding these 'factual' stories as nothing more than the inaccurate and fictitious dictation of financially motivated parties and concluded by fully identifying each individual, hence the knowledge that one of the earlier names was fictitious.

The following account is culled from a variety of contemporary sources and, like all such tales, is probably as accurate as any other version.

The search for the saucer

As the driver struggled to restart the car Mr. Taylor climbed out and scrambled up the hillside where he discovered a strange object recumbent in the heather. This, he said, looked like everyone's conception of a typical flying saucer. As he claimed that the object weight some three or four stones, he was unable to take it back with him.

He therefore returned to the car to seek the assistance of his two friends. After driving to the top of Reasty they parked and picked up a little used moorland path towards the alleged landing site. As they walked they were somewhat surprised to see a man and a woman approaching, eventually passing them without comment, although some versions later claim that a conversation about the object took place. Despite their impromptu searches they were unable to locate any spurious object in the heather.

Not being equipped for a winters night on the moors the three men decided to return home to collect their wellies and torches. Having done this they returned to Silpho for what eventually proved to be a fruitless search.

Puzzled over the whole incident, they decided to seek the advice of Anthony Parker, a local solicitor whom they believed had a particular penchant for the paranormal. They also believed he had written a book about UFO's under his pen name of Antony Avenel. Although this turned out to be incorrect (Mr. Parker claimed that his book was on metaphysics) he suggested that they placed an advert in the Scarborough Evening News offering the finder a reward.

The advert of course brought the whole affair into the public domain, and the following days and nights saw Silpho Moor alive with search parties combing the heather. It is claimed that some of these groups were armed with shotguns, others carried huge wads of rolled up money whilst others yet roamed around in heavy military type disguises. Locals claim that all throughout the following night the moor was illuminated by the continuos shining of hundreds of flashlights.

Eventually an offer to sell the object was recieved, and after an amount of long distance bargaining a price was agreed. The purchasers claimed that this was a nominal ten pound, although some contemporary reports place this figure as high as two hundred pounds.

A meeting was fixed, but the vendors, unprepared for such a large reception committee, chickened out at the last minute. Not however, before, in true James Bond style, scribbling a message on the back of a cigarette packet and throwing it out of their car window at the assembled throng. This suggested a further meeting on an isolated moorland road with the proviso that only two purchasers attended.

The exchange successfully took place, the object being passed over in a lentil sack once one of the buyers confirmed that it was indeed the object that he had seen that night on the moor. He also remarked that the seller was apparently the same man that he had passed as the three were making their way up to the landing site.

What is it?

As the cash was provided by Mr. Parker/Avenel the object was immediately taken to him at his Scalby Cottage. It was about 45 cm (18 inches) in diameter and shaped like a flattened spinning top. The upper dome was white whilst the base was copper with some unusual hieroglyphics etched into it. These looked like some form of shorthand appended by what appeared to be a numerical key.

A small electric drill was used to cut through the thick axis which held the two hemispheres firmly together. Inside was what looked like a roll of copper with a coil of hollow tubing wrapped tightly around it. Ashes and a white powder covered the inside. When the roll was carefully removed from the coils it was found to open out in a small book.

This had a total of seventeen pages, each made of copper foil and covered with inscriptions similar to those seen on the outer casing. The scroll measured approximately 15 cm x 12 cm (6 by 5 inches) and had a thick piece of copper as a back cover. This appeared to have some time have been subjected to intense heat. The copper backing was slightly larger then the individual pages. Each piece of copper foil was stamped with about fourteen lines of writing, made up of almost entirely of T's and V's at different angles.

A less-than-serious feature about the incident appeared in the Scarborough Evening News on the 9th December 1957. This was followed the next day by an irate and lengthy letter from the obviously annoyed Mr. Parker/Avenel heavily criticising the whole tone of the article. He disputed much of the content to the point of claiming that many parts of it to be libelous and demanded both a retraction and an apology. The editor responded by highlighting several discrepancies in the version which the solicitor claimed to be an accurate representation of the events, especially his surreptitious use of fictitious names.

What was it? Mr. Parker stated that he had examined it for possible military markings but could find no evidence to suggest that it belonged to any of the armed forces. Professor Bernard Lovell of Jodrell Bank suggested that it may have fallen from a passing aircraft. However, the most likely suggestion came after the subsequent deciphering of the hieroglyphics by an interested space enthusiast, who claimed that part of the message suggested that the disc had originated on mercury and was launched from a scout ship en-route to Yeovil (possibly Silpho is the little green men's equivalent of a motorway service station!).

A photograph of the object appeared in the Yorkshire Post on 9th December 1957 - but don't try looking. Mysteriously pages 2 and 3 of every library copy have been removed!

And where is the object now? We just don't know...

An update!

There has been an interesting sequel to this saga. I have received an e-mail from a totally reliable source who told me that he knew of the whole incident.

The saucer was in fact one of a batch of secret surveillance objects code named PF228. Three of those launched went astray, two falling into the Atlantic, the other being lost somewhere over northern Britain. He recognised my description of the object as he was working at the base at the time of their launch. They were (he claimed) deliberately disguised as UFOs for the very reason that we discovered. If one were to be found, no-one would believe anyone about it.

It was secretly purchased back from the finders for an undisclosed amount of 'hush-money'.

© Paul Grantham. This article has appeared in the 1 February 1997 issue of Haunted Scotland.