The picture above was taken on 8th September 1979, and was captured by my Father during a family holiday in Wales. I remember the date because it was the day after my seventh birthday. It was taken with a Polaroid camera during an afternoon of typical Welsh weather - bad light and heavy mist - as we were walking back across the sand dunes to our coastal holiday cottage. The picture has sat fading in a box for many years, and I have scanned it into a digital format, which explains much of the grain and wear. Despite this, you can still clearly see the three tall, thin and oddly shaped people who were watching us as we walked. Our progress was slow as my Mother was heavily pregnant with my Brother at the time, and I was watching my feet kick patterns in the sand when I heard her cry out in surprise. I looked up to see my Dad throwing a protective arm around her, and then I was grabbed and pulled tightly to him. Dad told us to be quiet and then took the camera from a pocket inside his jacket, and took three photographs as quickly as the Polaroid would allow. The first didn’t develop, the second is the one you see, and by the time the last one was snapped they had completely disappeared. We walked across the dunes, my Father someway in front of us, to the spot the figures had been, but there was no-one. I watched the waves kiss the beach as my parents spoke quietly and looked at the picture, before we returned to the cottage. It was raining hard by the time we reached it.
For the previous three nights there had been strange lights over the bay, a collection of red and white points that moved in patterns and blinked on and off. I hadn’t seen them the first night, but on the second my Dad had woken me, and we stood on the porch in our pyjamas and watched the show for a good fifteen minutes, shivering together as the coastal wind whipped around. On the third night we had been driving back from a meal at a pub when my Mother pointed out the lights once more, and when a pull-in area appeared on the road we stopped. I stayed in the car but my parents joined another couple who had pulled their own vehicle over to watch the strange lights. A police car stopped and two officers stepped out, and one of the clearest, most vivid images from my childhood is of these six people watching those unidentified flying objects. The next morning, the day of the photograph, a report appeared in the local newspaper. I know we had a copy, but for the life of me I can’t find it. When I do, I’ll scan and upload the article. The headline was ‘Strange Lights Buzz Coastal Towns - Dozens Report Sightings’, and it appeared in the Cardigan Herald. I’m sure it’s online in some archive if you want to look it up.
Following the encounter and the photograph my parents decided to cut our holiday short by a day; within an hour of getting back to the cottage they had packed everything into the back of our Ford Cortina, and we were back in England before dark. I wasn’t sorry to leave; I loved the beach holidays in Wales but this time had been different, and while I hadn’t been frightened by the lights or the strange people in the dunes, I was frightened because my parents appeared to be. At home life changed; my brother was born nine days later, and a new term at school meant that I was back with friends and lessons, and didn’t have much time to think about the holiday. We returned to Wales the following year without incident, and had a fine time. In the few years that followed my grandmother passed, my parents divorced, and I grew into my teens. All experiences of Wales, mysterious or not, were left behind as my childhood faded.
So what did we see? The lights in the sky were odd, unnatural, and over the years I’ve read many explanations for unidentified flying objects; weather balloons, experimental aircraft, atmospheric phenomena. All I know is a lot of people saw them, including the police, so something was there. As for the people in the photograph, I can still recall the jerky, jittery way in which they moved, long limbs pushing them around, dark shapes with angular heads, looking at us before they floated away behind the mounds of sand. Recently I talked about it with my Father, and we both agreed that it was an odd experience, that the photograph has captured an image of something that neither of us have ever been able to really explain. Dad remembers looking at them and being overcome with a sense of dread that he’d never felt before, or since, and if he hadn’t had a family to protect he’d have run. All I remember is sitting in the back of the car as we drove away from the cottage, turning around to look out the back window, and seeing a black figure standing in the garden. It looked at me and I turned back quickly, stared down at my hands, and stayed that way for a long time. I’ve never told my Dad about that. I keep that particular slice of dread for myself.
(C) Rich Wilson - 20th April 2014