Back around 2000/2001 I was publishing an internet newsletter called UFO News-1. It was endorsed by Whitley Strieber as “the best and most comprehensive newsletter of its kind on the internet”. Below is one of the articles from the newsletter concerning my investigation into an alleged UFO-related manuscript. It’s of some interest to people who are into the historical aspects of ufology. Interestingly enough, the story involves George Adamski and his friend, Desmond Leslie.
THE GREAT AMPLEFORTH MANUSCRIPT HOAX:
A UFO News-1 Special Investigative Report
by Gary Val Tenuta
There is a record of the discovery of a very old manuscript in Ampleforth Abbey which gives a startling account of a flying saucer over Byland Abbey in Yorkshire. The event is reported to have been witnessed by monks in the year 1290 when "a large round silver thing like a disc flew slowly over them and excited the greatest terror".
Photo of Byland Abby ruins:
This manuscript would be quite a remarkable artifact, especially for researchers looking into the past for evidence that the UFO phenomenon has been with us for a very long time. In fact this manuscript has indeed been touted by many a ufologist as being just that: evidence of UFOs in our skies going back to at least the 13th century A.D.
There's just one problem. No one has ever seen the manuscript.
Why? Is it because the manuscript has been occulted away in some dark dusty corner of the old Ampleforth Abbey in England where it is purported to reside? Is it under heavy guard? Has it been destroyed by zealous Monks? Why have so many ufologists spoken of it over the past 40 years yet none of them have ever really revealed much information about its content? UFO News-1 was curious to find the truth about this mysterious manuscript so we decided to look for the original source of the story. Our initial search yielded no useful information. We couldn't even find information telling us why the manuscript was called the Ampleforth Manuscript in the first place.
What, exactly, was Ampleforth? Could it be the name of the person who discovered the manuscript? It seemed like a reasonable clue, so we followed up on it.
We soon discovered it was the name of a monastery called Ampleforth Abbey in England.
The Abbey was founded in the mid 1800s by Monks who were driven out of France during the Revolution. But we were puzzled. If the alleged disc-shaped UFO flew over the Byland Abbey, as the story goes, and was supposedly recorded by Monks of the Byland Abbey, why did that report become known as the Ampleforth Manuscript rather than the Byland Manuscript? Nevertheless, since it was indeed known as the Ampleforth Manuscript, we decided to write to the Ampleforth Abbey to see what we might learn.
We discovered the Abbey had it's own extensive library and through the modern miracle of the Internet we contacted the Ampleforth Abbey librarian, a Mr. Anselm Cramer, and we struck gold. Not only was Mr. Cramer familiar with the story of the famous manuscript and its proliferation throughout UFO lore over the years but he had a personal connection to it. While Mr. Cramer was quite willing to disclose what he knew about it, the news he gave us was not particulary what we were hoping for:
I doubt if you will appreciate my information, wrote Cramer. The MS is a spoof. It was invented by two friends of mine when we were at school here in 1953. They wrote a letter to the Times (London) under an assumed name (A. X. Chumley), and gave the information which has been misleading experts (I suppose that was their intention) ever since. Especially Desmond Leslie (another old boy of the school), who may well (in a lecture) have unwittingly put the idea into their heads.
Cramer went on to write:
One of them died not long after (in a road accident) but the other is now a retired professor of Philosophy. I shall see if he has any documentation and put it on our information site (www.monlib.org.uk) It may take a little while to gather: it seems to be needed.
Sorry to dash any hopes you may have had. We do have the high altar stone from Byland - it is only three miles away -and some bits and pieces from opened tombs, and some (printed) information about the pre-dissolution monks. But no men from Mars.
Anselm Cramer OSB
York YO62 4EN
We explained to Cramer that while, yes, perhaps our hopes had been dashed, we were really interested in the truth, whatever that might turn out to be. We asked if he could provide us with a copy of that London Times article. Cramer responded:
I thought you might say some of this, so I wrote to my friend yesterday. As he lives in the middle of a field in a remote rural area, the letter may take a day or two...
Your requests may need a little clearing, but I don't aniticipate [sic] much problem.
Anselm Cramer OSB
York YO62 4EN
Within a week or so we received a copy of the original London Times article along with the following letter:
Here is the origin of the spoof, from a copy sent me by Dr. Charlton, the spoofer. I do not know if he is willing to enter into correspondence – he was, after all, somewhat younger at the time - but if you wish to write a letter to him care of us I can forward it.
Anselm Cramer OSB
York YO62 4EN
We did draft a letter to Dr. Charlton which was forwarded to him by Anselm Cramer but we've received no reply from the good doctor. Apparently he was not willing to discuss the matter.
We found it very interesting to note that Cramer mentioned a Mr. Desmond Leslie as perhaps being the person who, knowingly or unknowingly, inspired the two young monks of Ampleforth Abbey to concoct this hoax. It just so happens that Mr. Leslie co-authored a book, Flying Saucers Have Landed, with George Adamski. Adamski, as some of our readers will recall, was one of the first people to claim face-to-face contact with beings from another world back in the early 1950s. He is also perhaps the first to have published remarkably clear photos of "flying saucers". The photos have been a point of controversy ever since. Was it just coincidence that the Leslie/Adamski book, Flying Saucers Have Landed, was published in 1953, the same year Dr. Charlton and his friend (both young students at the time) wrote the now famous letter to the editor of the Times? Perhaps not.
Flying Saucers Have Landed was on the book stands just seven months after the article about the mysterious manuscript appeared in the Times. Knowing it takes some time for a book to get published and out on the shelves after it has been written, we can safely assume Leslie (who wrote the majority of the book's content) had been working on the book for at least a few months prior to it's publication date of September, 1953. The Times article was published in February of 1953. It's not unreasonable to assume Leslie's book was still in progress at that time. The reason we bring up this matter of timing between the two events is because of what is written in chapter 2 of his book. This chapter is devoted to a long list of supposedly documented incidents which can be interpreted as UFO sightings going back several centuries. Leslie begins, right off the bat, with this opening statement:
We shall not go back too far at first. A.D. 1290 is as good a place to begin as any. We have on our right, Ladies and Gentlemen, an old manuscript discovered at Ampleforth Abbey in January 1953, which gives a very clear account of a flying saucer passing over the startled community of Byland Abbey in Yorkshire.
Leslie then presents the text of this alleged manuscript in Latin. Following the Latin text he writes:
A.X. Chumley who supplied this information, gives the following translation:
'Took the sheep from Wilfred and roasted them on the feast of S.S. Simon and Jude. But when Henry the Abbott was about to say grace, John, one of the bretheren, came in and said there was a great portent outside. Then they all ran out, and Lo! a large round silver thing like a disk flew slowly over them and excited the greatest terror. Whereat Henry the Abbott immediately cried that Wilfred was an adulterer, wherefore it was impious to...'
Supposedly the rest of the alleged manuscript was missing and this was the only portion our mysterious A. X. Chumley discovered. But Leslie then goes on to describe yet another rather coincidental incident:
There is a remarkable similarity in this report to that sent to the Editor of the London Observer on 23 March 1953 by Bruce Angrave, M.S.I.A., who also saw a "large round silver thing like a disk pass slowly over the Milan Cathedral on 2 November 1952.
But the coincidental events don't stop there. The whole point of the book, Flying Saucers Have Landed, was to showcase George Adamski's alleged meeting with a man from Venus in the Arizona desert; an event which supposedly took place on 22 November 1952, just a couple weeks after the Milan Cathedral sighting reported in the Observer. Who was Bruce Angrave? Was his Milan Cathedral sighting genuine? Or was that, too, a hoax? Could Angrave have been an assumed name like A. X. Chumley? Could he have, in fact, been A. X. Chumley whom we now know as Dr. Charlton? Is it possible this was all one elaborate hoax, set up by Leslie and Adamski for the sole purpose of selling Adamski's story in a book? Certainly one might make that conclusion, given much of what has been discovered recently concerning the Adamski photos which sheds some degree of suspicion on all of Adamski's claims. Yet still we are left wondering.
Yes, it appears the Ampleforth Manuscript was a hoax. However, the entire picture is not as cut and dried as one might be led to believe. For one thing, UFO News-1 is not ready to close the door on the Adamski story quite yet. There are other photos which appear to show the same or very similar types of UFOs, photos which were taken by other people at other times and at other locations. These still need to be explained especially since this particular UFO is so unique in design compared to all other types of UFOs which have been reported and photographed over the years. Also, it is well documented that there was a huge flap of UFO sightings, nation wide, during the early to mid 1950s. Given this, it's just possible Adamski did have some sort of an alien encounter and was perhaps cajoled by Leslie and others to elaborate, shall we say, on the reality of the story for the sake of drama. This may also have been the motivation for publishing a few well timed, albeit false, UFO reports in major newspapers, to help bolster Adamski's story. This is all speculation, of course, but we can't help wondering.
As a final word, we'd like to mention something we discovered just as we were at the end of our research into this story of the Ampleforth Manuscript. We found someone else had already busted this hoax back in the 1960s. The investigator was one Samuel Rosenberg, a member of the infamous Condon Committee (also known as THE COLORADO PROJECT). This committee was a government sponsored attempt, instigated by then Senator Gerald Ford (later to become U.S. President) to study the UFO phenomenon. The results of the committee's investigation of the UFO phenomenon, published in the Condon Report (1969) were highly criticized by ufologists because of the apparently poor manner in which the investigations were conducted and especially because of Dr. Condon's own negatively prejudiced attitude toward the whole UFO question in general. Nevertheless, in Section V, Chapter 1 of the Report, Rosenberg presents an exposé of the Ampleforth Manuscript quite similar to what we have presented here in our investigative report.
Rosenberg's information came from different sources but the conclusions were the same. The fact that the Ampleforth Manuscript was revealed as a hoax some 30 years ago and was published in a major Report which is well known to any good ufologist, and the fact that UFO News-1 was able to make the same discoveries, independently, with relatively little trouble, and the fact that, despite this, the Ampleforth story has remained virtually unquestioned and accepted as true by so many researchers for over 40 years, says something about the state of ufology.
We realize the Ampleforth hoax is not a major item in the bigger picture of UFO research but perhaps it serves as a lesson by way of example. The UFO phenomenon is complex, complicated, and even what might be described as just plain messy in some respects. If we are ever to get to the truth behind this phenomenon, researchers need to be ever watchful, discerning, and, yes, even skeptical. Skepticism is too often considered a dirty word in the UFO community. It's mistakenly confused with debunking. They're not the same. Debunkers do what Stanton Friedman calls research by proclamation. In other words, they dismiss everything out of hand without really looking into the facts. A good skeptic simply questions everything but makes no judgement without first engaging in some reasonably comprehensive research to find what he/she believes to be the truth. But then, that's just our opinion and God knows there are plenty of those to go around.
Copyright 2001, Gary Val Tenuta
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