|SIMON DENISON IMAGE & TEXT|
CHANCE ENCOUNTERS IN THE VALLEY
ISBN 978-1-9164121-6-3 Hb
This book revives a story that received much tabloid attention in 1980–81 in which a policeman from Todmorden, Yorkshire, claimed to have come across a UFO spinning over a road – and later, under hypnosis, to have been taken aboard the ship. The story is linked here to various strange happenings in and around Todmorden at the time, including other reported sightings (several on the same night as the PC’s experience) and a mysterious death in the town five months earlier. For context, the book weaves in the delivery of a UFO-shaped house to Todmorden ten years previously, a short film about alien encounters made in and around Todmorden in 1969, and a number of landscape features around the town associated in folklore with witchcraft and paranormal activity. The book contains a mix of press cuttings, transcripts and video stills from hypnosis sessions, various official documents, reconstruction images and drawings, archive pictures of characters in the story and Moran’s own images made around present-day Todmorden, some colourised, presumably to give them a ‘weird’ look in keeping with the theme.
The story has curiosity value, and the book stokes up its various mysteries. By referring to MoD and Soviet involvement, including an empty MoD dossier and heavily redacted documents, Moran hints at an official cover-up, but otherwise treats the story in an open-ended way. The book doesn’t attempt any kind of explanation. Hollywood’s contributions to UFO-mania in the late 1970s/early 80s are not mentioned. The pictures of contemporary Todmorden give the book its raison d’être: their depictions of the unglamorous, sheer ordinariness of the built environments in which the reported events took place, and their then-and-now rhetoric, add a little to the story’s uncanny quality but also evoke its greater strangeness: the way that rootless madnesses can pass through a culture, fizz for a while and disappear.