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The Ilkley Moor encounter of the 3rd kind, 1987:

Regarded as one of Yorkshire's most attractive tourist attractions, Ilkley Moor U-K, known world wide because of it's links with the Bronte family, can be a remote and desolate place at the best of times, reminiscent of the setting of the moors of Baskerville Hall in Conan Doyle's "Hound of the Baskervilles." The rugged, hilly moors are just a few miles north of Haworth, and home to the Bronte sisters and the setting for Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.

Here is the story of a close encounter of the third kind that occurred there.

The encounter:

After four years of being a metropolitan policeman in London, Philip Spencer had left his job and moved with his wife and baby to the West Yorkshire area of Ilkley moor to be closer to her family.

In the 1st of December, 1987 at about a quarter past seven, it was dark and overcast when Spencer said goodbye to his wife. He had decided to walk across the moor heading for his father-in-law's house, in the village of East Morton on the other side of Ilkley moor, and on the way he was hoping to get some photographs of the strange light tricks of the moor. To be able to get the images he desired, he had a high ASA rated film in the camera, to compensate for the poor light in the area.

Along with his camera, Spencer also took a compass to navigate through the fog before sufficient daylight shone through the moor. Spencer had lived in the town on only a few months, and as an experienced walker he knew how quickly mist and rain could move in during winter.

As he climbed up the steep slopes of the moor he decided to not take his normal route he took a shorter route though much arduous. He walked past the White Wells building, a landmark that houses a natural spring on the edge of the moor, then picked up a path that led up a steep slope and past a stand of trees.

As he approached the trees he vaguely heard a humming sound, which he took to be an aircraft that he could not see because of the clouds layer. The crown of the hill had been scooped out at some time in the distant past, and the path dipped here, skirting the lip of a huge hollow. Suddenly something moving caught his eye. Turning, he saw a small green creature, no more than four feet tall, at a distance of about 30 feet or more. It moved quickly away into the hollow, when it was about 40 to 50 feet away, he though "what's that?" and shouted "Hey!" to the being. At this point, the being turned and waved an arm dismissively at him, Spencer remembered he had a camera and took one shot.

It then ran away out of sight behind an outcropping. Spencer gathered his wits and took off, jumped down the embankment in pursuit of the being. He explained later that he did not know why and acted on an impulse. He said the creature did not walk as much as shambled but nevertheless it moved much faster than a human. He turned a corner, and there was no sign of the entity, but he arrived just in time to get a glimpse of a large object like two silver saucers stuck edge to edge with a domed top rise up from the moor and disappear into a cloud the sky. On the top of the dome was a whitish square, a box like appendage with a pattern of holes cut into it. At this point he also realized that the humming sound that he had heard previously was quite loud now and came from the saucer. He had no time to get a photograph of the object.

There was silence now, and the rain had stopped. When he saw nothing else of the being or its craft, he began to walk to Menston, the nearest village. He was rather shaken and gave up his plan to visit his father-in-law. This walk to Menston took about 30 minutes, and during this time, a couple of things became apparent to him. First of all, his compass now pointed south instead of north, and secondly, he was surprised to find to town bustling with shoppers. He glanced up at the church clock and saw it was 10:00am, whereas by his reckoning it should have been around 08:15am.

Spencer was confused now. Did he see what he thought he saw? To answer this burning question, he headed by bus to the town of Keighley, the nearest town with an instant film development and printing store. Some two hours later, he had his picture of the creature, and then knew that he had not been hallucinating. It looked to be about 4 foot tall, and had a blue-green tint to its skin. Spencer knew he had something of importance, or at least, he thought he did.

The picture:

Below, a cropped black and white scan of the picture.

For a larger sized color scanned version of the entire picture, see here.

Please note that this page is slow to load, due to the large size of the pictures it contains.

The investigations:

Puzzled, Spencer decided to contact a UFO researcher. In the local library, he found the address of Jenny Randles, a rather well know UFO specialist in U-K, and wrote her a letter narrating what happened to him. Jenny Randles then put him in touch with Peter Hough, a fellow UFO researcher and Spencer agrees that an in depth investigation should be started.

Hough knew what he was hearing was a "too good to be true" case, and it worried him, but after meeting Spencer, he was convinced that he was a man of integrity and was not seeking fame or fortune for his picture. There was no reason to not believe what Spencer had told him, if it wasn't for the high strangeness of the encounter. Hough began a thorough investigation.

Ufologist Jenny Randles also studied the rest of his shots and found out that the other images on the film are consistent with his story. There are no other shots of the alien as might occur if he had been setting up a model and had tried out different lighting conditions or poses to see which one produced a convincing image before submitting the best one to Ufologists. There were only 5 exposures left on the roll of film that Spencer intended to use in landscape photographs during his walk in the moor.

Because Philip Spencer did not want any publicity and had not intended to get any sort of financial benefit from his experience, he asked to the investigators that they do not reveal his real name. This is why many accounts and documents regarding this case name the witness "Philip Spencer," as suggested in the first place by Peter Hough.

The unidentified investigators:

About six weeks into the investigation, Spencer received an unexpected visit from two men, who presented themselves as Royal Air Force Intelligence officers. Flashing there ID cards at him, they gave there names as Jefferson and Davis. There mission, they explained, was to recover the photograph he had taken on Ilkley moor. Unfortunately for them, Spencer had given the print to Hough. Aggrieved, the strangers left empty-handed.

What puzzled Spencer was how these strangers knew of the photograph's existence. Only his wife, Jenny Randles, Peter Hough and Arthur Tomlinson, another researcher working with Hough, had any knowledge they existed. Hough contacted the RAF Intelligence to confirm the visitors identities. He was told that no such men existed and that none of their staff had visited Spencer.

Animal expert looks at the picture:

The film with the alien picture would be the first thing to undergo professional scrutiny, first looked at by a wildlife photography expert. The object in the image was not an animal of any known kind. It could not be determined either way if the figure was animate or static. A reconstruction of the original site did establish the alien's height at or near 4 and one half feet.

Kodak comments:

The photograph was next sent to Kodak laboratories in Hemel, Hempstead. An analysis performed by Peter Sutherst who communicated after two weeks that as far as he could see the negative was a first exposure negative and had not been interfered with in any way. The object was indeed part of the original photo, and not superimposed in his opinion. This conclusion did not, of course, determine what the creature was, or even if it was a creature or a dummy of a creature.

Sutherst explained that the picture was too grainy for any enhancement to reveal more details, but nevertheless, Geoffrey Crawly of the British Journal of Photography tried to find details in enhanced printings, and failed.

Dr. Bruce Maccabee consulted:

Next, the picture was sent to the United States for computer enhancement and analysis. Dr. Bruce Maccabee, optical physicist with the United States Navy rendered his expert opinion.

He stated that the slow film speed used for the low light conditions made the film too grainy for proper testing. "I had great hopes that this case would prove definitive. Sadly circumstances prevent it from being so," Maccabee stated.

In search of the UFO:

Later, some of the numerous researchers who studied the picture found that some whitish blob in the background may be a visible part of the flying saucer (the presence of a flying saucer here will be explained later in this summary), but ufologists Philip Mantle and Andy Roberts were able to find out by studying the location and lighting conditions that the bloc was a trivial thing.

All in all, despite these efforts, there is no way to prove a hoax and no way to prove that the strange creature on the moor is really an alien creature. Opinion of the validity of the picture is pretty much split among interested parties. Some UFO enthusiasts are hopeful that more evidence will emerge to substantiate the claims of Philip Spencer; and there are those who do not believe that the figure is alien, but there is not definitive proof either way.

The compass:

On February 10, 1988, Spencer contacted Peter Hough to tell him about his compass. It was pointing South instead of North, as if its polarity had somehow been reversed. Hough took the compass at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology where he spoke to a Dr Spooner, head of the university's department of electrical engineering.

There was no doubt that it would have had to be subjected to a strong magnetic field to alter its direction from north to south. Hough discovered that a magnetic resonance scanner would duplicate the effect. There was also the fact that there was no way to prove that the reversed polarity of the compass was accomplished at the alleged scene of the event. To perpetuate a hoax, Spencer may have affected the magnetic change before going into the moor. In his report, he wrote:

"Well the man who we took it to is Dr Spooner at Manchester university umist dept of electrical engineering. So how did the compass become reversed? Dr Spooner did not have a ready answer, he began very simply by exposing the compass to strong magnets but although they deflected the needle the effect ceased as soon as the magnets were moved away. A steady magnetic field had no permanent effect. Dr Spooner and his assistant had experimented with a rapidly applied, or "pulsed", magnetic field. Eventually it was found that this indeed would reverse the needle and back again under laboratory conditions."

"This was fine but could the reversal brought about with out recourse to such expensive and complex equipment? Dr Spooner showed it could albeit with a certain risk to life and property. A piece of wire was coiled round one hand, the compass was placed within it the ends were then connected to the main electricity supply and a switch was thrown. There was a bang, but yes, the polarity was changed North to South. This of course could be done in the house although at the very least fuses would be blown and there was also the more serious prospect of creating an electrical fire. Also would Jon have known how to carry out this dangerous process when Dr Spooner, an expert in his field - did not? In a report done by Dr Spooner, which in part said "It appears to be a relatively simple matter to bring about the reversal without the need for any special equipment and may be accomplished in the average house or garage. The intensity required is not great by some standards; in fact we could not produce a field sufficiently low as not to reverse the polarity of the needle. The minimum field we applied had a flux density of about 0.1 Tesla; this is still 2000 times greater than the earth's field (therefore) the required intensity is very large by other standards to leave detectable magnetisation in samples of rock around the area where the craft had been."

Hough was not done yet. He utilized a University to do radiation tests at the scene. No radiation was found.


Peter Hough also had Spencer tested by a clinical psychologist at a hospital at Preston, Dr Jim Singleton, who gave his opinion that Spencer was telling the truth after running a series of tests:

"Spencer was telling the truth as he knew it."

Hypnotic regression:

Spencer had begun to have strange dreams of starry skies, and was still puzzled by the missing time he experienced, so the final test would be subjecting Spencer to regressive hypnosis. The session was conducted by Dr. Jim Singleton, at Arthur Tomlinson's home, on March 16, 1988. Also there were Peter Hough, and Mathew Hill, a journalist friend of Hough who was to operate the three tape recorders.

As Philip Spencer regained his missing memories, he told a fascinating tale of alien abduction. He was taken aboard the craft that he had seen lifting up from the Ilkley Moor. He was given medical-type examinations before being released. Spencer could now remember that it was after his release from the UFO that he took the picture. This one fact would be extremely important:

In the back of Hough's mind, he had dealt with a lingering problem with the picture. Climatic information gathered about the conditions of December 1, 1987, made it almost impossible for Spencer to have taken his picture at the time he had stated. However, and this is extremely important, if the regressive memories are accurate, the conditions would be right to duplicate the lighting conditions of the photograph, which was taken at least an hour after Spencer thought.

Here is a transcript of the session:

JS I want you to cast your mind back to the 1st December last year when you set off across the moor. I want you to clear your mind back to that and I want you to re-experience that. I want you to tell me what you experienced.

PS I'm walking along the moor, oh! its quite windy. There is a lot of clouds. Walking up towards some trees. I see this little something, can't tell, but he's green it's moving up towards me. (We later found out that Jon had took the photo after his abduction and the creature was waving goodbye) Oh! I'm stuck I can't move and the creature still coming towards me. I'm stuck and everything gone fuzzy. I'm, I'm floating along in the air I want to get down! (He later told us he was levitated 2 feet off the ground and the creature was in front of him like a child pulling a balloon on a string). I still can't get down and I don't like it. I'm going round this corner and this green thing is in front of me. Oh God! I want to get down! (long pause) (breathing faster) There's a there is a big silver saucer thing there's a door in it. And I don't want to go in there. (worried sound in his voice) (sigh) Everything gone black now. (pause).

JS you say everything gone black?

PS Mmm! I can't see anything like I'm asleep, can't hear anything. (short pause) There's a bright light now. Can't see where it's coming from? I'm in a funny sort of room I can hear this voice saying don't be afraid. I don't feel afraid anymore. I can still see this green thing but I'm not afraid anymore of it. I'm being put on a table. I can move now if I want to, but I don't feel frightened any more and there's a beam like a pole it's above me it's moving up toward me. It's got a light in it like a fluorescent tube. It's coming up from my feet I can hear that voice again saying "we don't mean to harm you and don't be afraid." Makes me feel warm as it moves up me it's coming up over my stomach towards my head. Close my eyes I don't want to look at it in case it hurts my eyes. It's gone! (pause) there is something my nose feels funny (shows movement of nose) that's gone as well, I'm standing up now I don't know how I got stood up? I can see a door there is one of these green creatures motioning for me to come with him. Don't really want to go with him. I'd rather stay here I don't feel afraid in here (pause).

JS Can you tell me what's happening now?

PS I'm walking towards a door there is still a bright light there is light all around want to know where its coming from its just bright all around. Walking down a corridor there is a window. Oh! God!(sounds shocked)is that real? (deep sigh) (pause) (sounds afraid) don't want to be up here want to be down there? I can hear that voice again saying you've got nothing to fear. Its pretty though didn't realize it looked so pretty. (What Jon was looking at through the window was the earth seen from high in space just like the Apollo astronauts saw. Iv gone past the window now I'm walking down a corridor. (long pause)

JS What's happening now?

PS Come to the end of the corridor. There's a hole opened in it so I can walk through. I'm in a big room-a big round room, I'm on a raised platform against the wall. My camera and compass are trying to get away from me. Going towards the ball. It's difficult to pull them back down again, and this balls moved round with strange its got some blocks on it he says we cant stay in here to long he wants us to go out again the holes closed in the wall its gone strange he says I've got nothing to fear but Id still like to go home (pause) its got such big hands.

JS What's happening now?

PS Going down a corridor again. its very bright still I wish I knew where the light was coming from. And there is another door, going through a door it's an empty room two of those green creatures have come with me. there's a picture ,it's starting to move on the wall wonder how they get the pictures?

JS Can you tell me what's happening at this point?

PS I'm looking at the pictures on the wall. (long pause)

JS Pictures on the wall?

PS Mmmm. Creatures seem concerned at the damage that its doing. Picture changing now there's another picture, another film he's asking me a question he says do you understand? I said yes. It's time to go. Everything gone black. I'm walking up the moor again, I'm walking near some trees. Some movement - I can see something. A green creature. I've shouted to it. It's turned round. I don't know what it is. I'll photograph it it's turned around now. It's moving quick want to know what it is. I'm running after it, it's gone round a corner, I can't see it now. There's ... There is a saucer (laughingly), big silver saucer! It's disappeared? I'm walking on down gone past the trees.

JS What's happening now?

PS I'm going home. It's ten o'clock on the town hall clock. Can't really understand it was only eight o'clock.

JS You mentioned some green creatures. Would you try to describe them to me?

PS It's quite small. He's got big pointed ears, it's got big eyes. They're quite dark, he hasn't got a nose he's only got a little mouth. And his hands are enormous. And his arms are long. He's got funny feet.

JS Funny feet?

PS They're like a V shape like two big toes. Must be difficult to walk like that. He shuffles rather than walks. I don't feel afraid of him although he looks odd.

JS You mentioned big hands? Can you say anymore about the hands?

PS It's got three big fingers, like sausages. Big sausages. They're just very big. Bigger than my hands.

JS About how tall would you say these creatures are?

PS It's about four foot. Comes to the lump on my stomach. He's about as high as - just a bit bigger than my stomach is.

JS Okay. Now I wonder if I can ask you another question? you mentioned a film?

PS There were two films.

JS Two films?

PS One was lots of scenes of destruction like on the news. Can see lots of waste going into the river, and people like Ethiopians who are starving. It's not very good, it's not very nice.

JS Want to say anything more about that film?

PS It's much of the same thing, only different.

JS What about the other film then? Do you want to tell me about it?

PS I'm not supposed to.

JS I'll leave that up to you entirely, do you want to say anything about that?

PS I'm not supposed to tell anyone about the other film, it's not for them to know.

JS Is there any thing more?

PS No.

Through the years, Spencer and Hough became good friends, and still see each other from time to time. There has been no change in Spencer's account of what he saw that day. He has sought no money from the case, and signed over all copyright privileges to Hough in early 1988. Spencer desires no fame from his account.

Jenny Randles on the UFOupdates UFO research discussion list:

"The investigation of this case has been long and complex and one or two elements that have emerged may well suggest caution. But on the whole it has not fallen apart and the witness 13 years on stands by his story - despite never having gone public and not having made any money out of the photo."

"But I can see why Ufologists would be (properly) wary of this case. Its extraordinary evidence associated with even more amazing claims (aside from the abduction there is alleged physical evidence - a compass needle that reversed polarity for instance - and a subsequent MIB story). So it needs more than just the average degree of support to take it seriously."

"Indeed my paper on this case to the MIT symposium was excluded from the proceedings that were published subsequently. I was told because they could not reproduce the photo adequately, which was no doubt true, but I would not be surprised if they really thought it was too hot for such a publication."

"Maybe I am doing them a disservice here - but its not a criticism in any case. Peter and I have fought against this case in our own minds for many years owing to its intrinsic "impossibility." So I would expect the MIT symposium to be rightly wary."

"But the bottom line - as I have often said - is that you can only present the facts as you find them. And in this case the photo was studied by several photographic labs (including Kodak), the physical evidence by two university labs, and the witness studied by a clinical psychologist. Not one of these sources found evidence to seriously challenge the case."


The UK media who were provided with a copy of the photo by a Ufologist against the knowledge of Peter Hough and Jenny Randles and without the consent or cooperation of the witness "identified" it: newspaper wrote that the picture shows an insurance salesman riding his bicycle, whilst wearing a blue anorak and carrying a briefcase.

But luckily Peter Hough and Jenny Randles were able to track down the source of this rather silly interpretation: someone told the "explanation" as a joke to his colleagues in the newspaper, and the paper had simply printed the joke out as "the explanation."


There is no evidence that the story told by "Spencer" is untrue: he always refused his real name to be published, he always refused money offered for his story. If the story is a hoax, it could only have been set up under the improbable yet not impossible motive that he planned a hoax for the inner satisfaction of fooling the ufology community. This appears quite improbable, since he never expressed too much concern about being believed or not.

Some UFO researcher offer a theory that such type of encounters are similar to stories of fairy tales and goblins of past time, and happen in locations prone to fantastic apparitions caused by the witness' own imagination. The Ilkley moor area certainly qualifies as a location of folklore richness: many ancient monuments with Celtic symbols are a tourists attraction. Strange, swirling lights filtered through the fog may have created many legends. Some of the mysterious observations reported from Ilkley moor may be attributed to activities at the famous Menwith Hill military base, not very far away, or to the nearby Leeds Bradford Airport. However, eerie lights and the activities of these two facilities cannot explain the story told by Philip Spencer: he does not tell of some blurry lights but of a neat and clear encounter of a strange being and a flying saucer. Of course, tenants of the imaginative nature of witnesses explain that extra-terrestrial beings and flying saucers are simply the modern expression of what was reported as fairies and goblins in the past; however they fail to indicate that the argument goes both ways and that goblins reported and the past may have been extra-terrestrial beings that could not have been reported as such in the past due to the absence of widespread concepts such as extra-terrestrial beings.

The part of the story obtained through hypnotic regression should be taken with great caution. Although the transcript of the session indicates that Dr. Jim Singleton did not try to generate any extra-terrestrial related images in the witnesses mind, elements of the story may have been in his mind simply because in 1987, these elements - the alien abduction, the body scanning device, the ecological themes - are widely known since they appeared in many other similar cases. However, if Spencer had staged the entire episode, one may have expected that the hypnotic regression session would have resulted in the story of how he staged the encounter.

In a letter to Peter Hough and Moyshe Kalman, Spencer wrote:

"One thing has changed which I feel might be due to the experience. I now question everything, and every aspect of everything. It has made me a much more skeptical person. I fell I have been dropped into a sea of uncertainty, unable now to have a believe in anything. What happened to me on the moor was 2impossible." It throws everything which you think is normal, certain and secure into question. I now exist in a vacuum of disbelief, occasionally reaching out to hold onto something solid, only to discover it is a hologram."

Although I am conscious that this quote is not to be considered as evidence, I cannot help but note that only a few days ago, a witness of a UFO in my own region years ago - which has become a friend - has told me given me a statement which is almost the same. In the subsequent discussion, we realized that we have read of heard similar statements from numerous other UFO witnesses, and we even convened that true witnesses of true close encounters with the UFO phenomenon probably and inevitably experience the same after effects of doubting everything certain to the non-UFO-witnesses, challenging everything - including that they have encountered an intelligence from another planet, and we agreed that the lack of these after effects may almost cast doubts on false witnesses.

As for the picture, there is no way to say what it shows. Whereas it does not look at all like "an insurance salesman on a bicycle or some animal, it could be an extra-terrestrial being as well as some type of mannequin or doll staged for the photograph. However, it can be suggested that for the witness himself, the picture proved very valuable when he had let it printed out: in his own mind, there are no doubts that the picture made clear to him that he has not been hallucinating.


The case cannot stand as proof of extra-terrestrial visitation, it offers many clues that the story is true, but each of these clues can be rejected individually: the picture is blurry, the compass could have been magnetized by the witness himself, part of the testimony has been obtained under hypnotic regression. On the other end, it is a rather consistent story, and there are no evidence of a set up.

There is in the ufological casebook a large number of aerial UFO observation backed up by physical evidence such as radar records, where obviously UFO occupants are generally not seen and certainly not in close contact with the witnesses. These cases are of course dismissed as extra-terrestrial evidence by certain researchers who agree that, although no explanation in terms of conventional phenomena can be found, these cases do not have a relation with extra-terrestrial visitation. There are certainly arguments against this view, and one of them may be that there are stories of encounters with landed UFOs that, if true, clearly indicate that there are UFO occupants and that they are not human beings.


The photo appears in "UFOs and How to See Them" (2/93 paperback), by Jenny Randles.

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