On Seeing Things…

Many are familiar with former Todmorden police constable Alan Godfrey’s 1980 UFO adventure. It’s a thrilling tale involving a mysterious death, conspiracy, UFOs, teleporting cows, hypnotists (not all of them reputable), an alien and his robots. And a big dog. Of course, all is not as it seems, and I invite the reader to see the full story in my book Weird Calderdale.

Alan Godfrey’s sketches of the UFO, Joseph and one of his robots

For anyone unfamiliar with the story here’s a quick summary. On the 29 November 1980 PC Alan Godfrey was near the end of his nightshift and driving through Todmorden. There in front of his panda car on Burnley Road was a huge glowing diamond shaped object with what appeared to be panels or windows round it. It was 20 feet wide and 14 feet high and hovering over the ground. Alan says that at this point he made his famous sketch of the object, which he claims was definitely ‘nuts and bolts’ (a term UFO buffs often use to refer to a physical craft). Suddenly, Alan was aware of being further down the road and the UFO had gone.

Several months later, under hypnosis with two different hypnotists, Alan recounted a tale of being abducted by the occupants of the UFO: a Biblical humanoid with beard and skull cap called Joseph, some horrible insect like robots and a large black dog. It’s widely regarded as the first case of alien abduction in the UK and cemented Tod’s reputation as a UFO hotspot.

Unsurprisingly, it was reported recently that Alan’s story may be snapped up by Hollywood.[i] Screenwriter Michael Grais, who co-wrote the classic 1982 horror Poltergeist, is planning to write it this year.

In the Mail article (linked below), Godfrey dismisses the suggestion that the UFO he saw hovering over Burnley Road on that November morning was a hallucination. After all, he told the paper, he hasn’t had any other hallucinatory experiences before or since that fateful night. And it’s the subject of hallucinations that I’d like to touch upon. Because as a matter of fact Alan Godfrey does have a history of hallucinations. And oddly enough, like the hypnosis induced memories of his abduction, Alan’s hallucinatory experiences often involve dogs….

We know about Alan’s visionary experiences because he told them to UFO researcher Jenny Randles and she included them in her 1983 book The Pennine UFO Mystery. However, these earlier experiences are never mentioned in Alan’s talks, interviews or even in his autobiography, Who or What Were They? When I asked him directly about these at a talk many years ago, he was clearly reluctant to discuss them. Why would this be? Let’s take a brief look at some of Alan’s other strange encounters…

In one childhood episode he encountered a mysterious ball of light in his bedroom. In another, as a young man while driving one night he became convinced he’d run over a woman and her dog who’d stepped out in front of his vehicle. When he stopped and got out, there was no sign of woman or dog. Another strange encounter took place when he took his brother’s dog to the park and the dog returned without Alan. His brother eventually found Alan in the park confused and saying he’d been talking to a friend. However, the friend he said he’d been with had died some months earlier…[ii]

So what could explain these strange experiences and how do they relate to his famous UFO adventure?

Well, one possible answer came with my serendipitous discovery of a fascinating lost chapter in Alan Godfrey’s story: The Third Hypnotist. I discovered that Godfrey was also hypnotised by a third hypnotist named Tony Gibson, one of the most eminent in his field. Gibson’s conclusion: Godfrey was faking his hypnotic trance. In fact Dr Gibson thought Godfrey was suffering from a sleep disorder called narcolepsy, which can lead to falling asleep at inappropriate times and the experiencing of hallucinatory visions.[iii]

Given the history Alan has with strange hallucinatory experiences, this explanation seems plausible. It would suggest that on that night in November 1980, Godfrey fell asleep at the wheel at the end of his nightshift and had a vivid hallucinatory experience, perhaps suffering from narcolepsy or exhaustion from working nights. Indeed, Godfrey tells us that when he came to himself the car was still moving. My suggestion is that he made his sketch of the object from memory after he had come back to consciousness rather than with the UFO there in front of him.

In fact, sleep related hallucinations similar to this are not rare. It’s estimated that around 5% of the population will experience something similar at some point in their life.[iv]

If you’ve ever suffered from sleep paralysis, you’ll know just how real these hallucinations feel. In my case I was visited by an evil grinning monkey faced demon that sat on my chest and leered in my face as he crushed the breath out of me.

It’s also worth mentioning Kary Mullis, the Nobel prize winning scientist who invented the now ubiquitous PCR test. He describes how one night he was walking to his house when he encountered a glowing green racoon who wished him a good evening in English. The next thing he remembered was he was walking in the woods the following day with dry clothes even though it had been raining…[v]

The point of these hallucinatory diversions is that sometimes people see things that aren’t there. And that, in my opinion, is what happened in Todmorden’s most famous UFO encounter.

But, I hear you ask, what about the other witnesses, mysterious death, scandalous hypnotic malpractice and the teleporting cows? I’ll save those for another day!

Happy New Year!

[i] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10354033/When-PC-Alan-Godfrey-close-encounter-branded-crazy-fallout-cost-job.html

[ii] Jenny Randles, The Pennine UFO Mystery (St Albans: Granada, 1983)

[iii] Hamilton Bertie Gibson, ‘Hypnosis and Flying Saucers’, The Skeptical Intelligencer, 4, (2001)

[iv] Brian A. Sharpless, ‘A clinician’s guide to recurrent isolated sleep paralysis’, Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 12, (2016) pp.1761-1767

[v] Kary Mullis, Dancing Naked in the Mind Field (London: Bloomsbury, (2000)

Published by Paul Weatherhead

Author of Weird Calderdale, musician and songwriter

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