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


Creighton’s obsession with the British Monarchy and his belief that they hold ‘secret knowledge’ of Extraterrestrials denied to the public was woven into this latest twist in the tale. “Although I have no proof of this,” he wrote. “It seems pretty likely that Birch senior and his son were also invited to visit Buckingham Palace to discuss their case either with the Duke of Edinburgh himself or with his equerry.” (44)

Alex’s 1972 confession, Creighton added, had “little if any effect” upon what he called “the serious UFO research fraternity” but it clearly impressed FSR’s then editor, Charles Bowen. The implication was that it was not as easy to ‘pull the wool over’ the eyes of the current editor. Large amounts of energy and money had been put into campaign to ridicule and denigrate witnesses such as Alex who had produced “dangerous photographs” and as a result were coerced or forced to put out “confessions.”

FSR’s editor could not resist the opportunity to pull out the ace from his sleeve, a case which supported his claims about the Birch photos in every respect. “Much has been done to try to destroy the authenticity of the other famous schoolboy photo, the Darbyshire [sic] one of 1954,” wrote Creighton. “But so far as we know, never without any success, and Stephen Darbyshire [sic] never issued a ‘confession’ and still asserts that his photo was totally authentic.” (45)

Like the saucers themselves the stories never stop spinning. For every person who ‘believes’ that Birch and Darbishire captured ‘structured objects of unknown origin’ on film you can easily find an equal and opposite sceptical view that both photographs were simple hoaxes. In between there is every shade of belief and tortuous justification such as this example from the LUFORO Bulletin of July 1962. Using the logic of the believer the writer suggests that:

“on a cloudy day in February 1954, one of these objects sought out Stephen Darbishire who had a camera with him, and that in February 1962, on a cloudy day (giving cover) a group sought out Alex Birch who had a camera with him. This is a relationship of a group of relationships and is evidence for the following possibility: after the disbelief that greeted Adamski, how logical of these space visitors to give evidence of their actuality to boys of an age not to be considered quite knowledgeable enough to have fabricated evidence, yet old enough to be recipients of it. Both Stephen Darbishire, at the time, and Alex Birch had the intelligent presence of mind to point the camera, click the shutter, and move on the film. How many adults would have done so well; were these boys selected?” (46)

Join the dots time. From Adamski to Darbishire to Birch, the saucer neatly squared in just a few words. ‘Objects’ without objectivity, unexplained photographs as evidence of ‘space visitors’, schoolchildren promoted as unconscious harbingers of the invaders. Neither Birch nor Darbishire are teenagers any longer and they can't escape from the monsters they helped create. Birch chose to follow his calling throughout his adult life whilst Darbishire retreated as quickly as possible from his creation. Like many others in the UFO cottage industry Alex Birch launched his own website, Yet in the same mercurial fashion as Birch's sighting, the web site was there one day gone the next. However, its’ existence and content gave further clues as to just how deeply Birch’s ‘UFO’ photograph had affected his life and maybe some clues towards his original motivation. On his “fantastic site for UFO buffs and everyone else,” the web surfer could read about the Birch sighting, see and order copies of the photograph and purchase copies of the Air Ministry report. The experiences of the father have now been passed down to his son, Adrian, who advertises quality hand-crafted wooden models of classic UFOs, based upon those reported by 1950s contactees George Adamski and Howard Menger. It was an uncritical site, designed to market the case and to inform people about the sightings and how Alex saw mankind in the cosmic scheme of things. Echoing the apocalyptic fears expressed by many UFO witnesses and contactees, Birch wrote: “Perhaps we are in the infancy of our species. We peer into the Dark, fearing it, yet seeking within it a reassurance that we are not alone. Perhaps in the black void are beings not unlike us, but maybe wiser, better, who will tell us secrets that will save Us from Ourselves.”

Perhaps. But whether Birch’s ‘dark’, his ‘black void’, refers to deep space or the deeper spaces of the human mind is open to conjecture. As Diane Purkiss writes in her history of fairies and fairy stories, “The human mind cannot bear very much blankness…..where we do not know, we invent and what we invent reflects our fears of what we do not know.” (47) Birch’s evocations from the dark have remained with him since that day in 1962 and now form a mainstay of his world view. Like his UFOs, over the past 39 years he has flickered in and out of the public eye trying to make sense of nonsense, trying to get us to see it his way. »

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