The Beautiful and Eerie Todmorden, Britain’s Area 51

A new photobook investigates the unsolved case of an abduction of a police officer in UFO 'hotspot' Todmorden, West Yorkshire, in the 1980s.

rural road stretching into red hills

A starkly ominous new photobook investigates the unsolved case of an abduction of a police officer in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, in the 1980s.

When we think of UFOs, aliens and unsolved extraterrestrial mysteries, our instinct in Britain, and much of the rest of Europe, is to imagine vast plains in New Mexico and South Dakota, grainy images of utilitarian military bases in the baking heat, and comically cartoonish humanoids with enormous black eyes. All of it is steeped in Americana. Indeed, as a cultural export, aliens are almost uniquely an American one, as far as the West is concerned. But what about the green and pleasant land across the Atlantic? What’s so desirable about a barren nowhere-zone like Roswell compared to, say, the rolling Pennines?

But we have our own tales of E.T. contact here in Britain, and we have our Roswell: Todmorden. One such case in the otherwise quiet market town has been illuminated in a brilliant new project by photographer Rik Moran. Chance Encounters in the Valley of Lights tells the story of an unsolved extraterrestrial case from 1980s Todmorden, West Yorkshire. Moran combines original imagery with archive material to investigate the possible (we must emphasise that) abduction of Pc Alan Godfrey. In illuminating one of small-town England’s most unlikely protagonists, Chance Encounters enearths another other-worldly mystery along the way.

Todmorden’s ancient standing stones and intricate local folklore have long proclaimed the West Yorkshire market town a site of strange and sinister happenings. In more recent years, Todmorden has become famous for its abundant UFO sightings – but even among such singulr company, there’s one story that stands out.

It was on 11th June 1980. Found in a Todmorden yard, resting on a pile of coal ten feet high, miner Zygmunt Adamski’s body had no visible injuries. None, that is, except for a mark – perhaps a burn – on the back of his neck and head. Coroner James Turnbull’s report cited a heart attack as Adamski’s cause of death but recorded an open verdict.

Later, he would describe the case as “quite the most mysterious death I have investigated in 12 years as a coroner.” But six months after being assigned to this strangest of investigations, Todmorden Pc Alan Godfrey would recall an episode which, if true, made the Adamski mystery seem practically workaday by comparison.

In the early hours of 29th November 1980, while investigating reports of cattle roaming a nearby estate, Godfrey claimed to have seen a large dome-shaped object. Blinded by a flash of light, he came to his senses 100 yards away and with 25 ‘missing’ minutes to account for. On returning home, Godfrey realised his left boot was split and he had an itchy red mark – perhaps a burn – on his foot.

Photographer Rik Moran grew up just a few miles from Todmorden and first heard the curious tale of Alan Godfrey when his father brought home a newspaper. Chance Encounters in the Valley of Lights used Moran’s original photography – bolstered by archival material including transcripts and interviews and hypnosis sessions, newspaper articles and police reports – to reappraise his childhood’s strangest story.

Moran’s original work focuses on the landscape of Todmorden, immersing the reader into rural England and its unearthly atmosphere. The case is explored through transcripts, interviews, hypnosis sessions and police reports. A limited edition will be available online complete with a silver cover and a visual bibliography booklet inserted into the small run of 50 copies.

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