Odd this day

Coates
4 min readMar 17, 2023

Celebrate Pádraig’s Day if you like, but MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY at about 11.30 tonight, it will be exactly 45 years since engineer Ken Edwards drove past the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) site at Risley in Cheshire and saw… The Silver Man.

A frankly risible b/w line drawing of a supposed alien, labelled “The entity, based on Ken Edwards’ sketch”. It is not the work of a professional artist, and the arms appear to protrude from out of the front of the creature’s chest. Beams shoot out of its eyes, which are situated very far apart on a perfectly circular head

He screeched to a halt, as well one might on seeing a 7-foot-tall Actual Alien, walking in a stiff, unearthly manner down an embankment near one of the country’s nuclear facilities. Then the creature stopped… and TURNED TOWARDS HIM.

Two beams of light came out of its eyes, and shone directly into Ken’s. He later said “it felt as though two heavy hands were pushing him down into his car seat”. Then it shambled off, apparently through the 10ft security fence around the UKAEA site.

Another somewhat amateurish illustration, this time in colour, showing the darkness of the night, an inexplicably green creature with a grey face, bulbous white eyes and red laser beams coming out of its eyes

Ken got home, had a large scotch and told his wife what had happened. She drove him to the police, who took him to the nuclear constabulary. At Risley, Ken met 25 UKAEA officers, and together they checked the uncannily undamaged fence.

Ken went home again, just as confused as before. Then the local paper got hold of the story, the headlines and embellishments began, and the UFO community came out in force. The facts were raked over, added to, and indeed ridden roughshod over, but all to no avail.

The police suspected a student prank, but there was no rag week at the time — and what group of students, however intoxicated, would wait by the side of a road until a lone driver came past, lumber out in front of him, and — crucially — have a 7ft spacesuit ready?

Also: can students, or indeed anyone else, pass through solid matter? One possibility was a suited up UKAEA fire officer, but one was paraded in front of Ken, who could see no resemblance. And there was still that issue of walking through a metal security fence.

But in 2020, Glen Vaudrey looked into the matter for the Fortean Times. Handily, he worked on the site of the old UKAEA installation, and came across a map produced for staff in 1974 to help them find their way around.

Front cover, Fortean Times, September 2020. Lead story: The Silver Man Mystery — investigating one of the strangest close encounters of the 1970s, accompanied by a mocked-up image of a large silver humanoid figure shimmering through a wire fence

This proved rather handy in pinpointing exact locations on a highly secret site of which, understandably, very few photographs had ever been taken. He also managed to meet a former fire officer who’d worked there.

There are a number of elements to the explanation, chief among them the fact that it was late, and Ken had been at a 1970s union meeting on St Patrick’s Night — and that era’s idea of a cautionary drink driving campaign was Mungo Jerry’s In The Summertime.

The fire officers might have been sober (history does not relate), but they were certainly bored. The only students in the area were in isolation in a university facility over the road, researching circadian rhythms. So the fire officers decided to liven all those stiffs up a bit.

One of them, 6ft 5in tall, put on — aha! — a special silver suit designed to protect him against fires in nuclear cooling systems and went for a walk to scare the shit out of some young people. But then a driver saw him…

Naturally, the fire officers at a very serious nuclear facility did not fancy getting into Major Big Trubs, and denied all knowledge of the event — and thought it wise, when asked to parade in a fire suit for someone who’d seen an alien, only to wear their basic uniform, not the special liquid-metallic-sodium-proof number.

The ‘alien’ had, in fact, walked through a gate, rather than a fence, and Ken’s memory hadn’t been up to identifying the exact spot in the cold light of hungover day, which was why no gate was found at the time.

And finally, and most prosaically of all, the beams that shot out of the creature’s eyes were Ken’s headlights reflected in the suit’s visor. Ah, well.

Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine looking downcast. A caption reads: [visible disappointment]

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Coates

Purveyor of niche drivel; marker of odd anniversaries