Skip to main content
Golden forest pathway, lights in a dark forest

The Todmorden UFO mystery: Close encounters in West Yorkshire

Image: Shutterstock

On the 6th of June 1980, 56-year-old coal miner Zigmund Adamski left his home in Tingley, West Yorkshire to do some shopping. He never returned. On the 9th of June, his body was found on top of a ten-foot high pile of coal in the town of Todmorden, twenty miles away from his house.

Sent to investigate, local bobby Alan Godfrey discovered that while Adamski was wearing a suit, his shirt, wallet and watch were all missing. Adamski’s hair had been cropped in what PC Godfrey described as a ‘roughly cut’ manner, and he only had one day’s growth of beard despite being missing for several days. The young policeman also reported that Adamski had mysterious burns on his neck, head and shoulders.

The coroner, James Turnbull, confirmed that some of the burns had been treated with a ‘strange ointment’ that could not be identified by forensic scientists. Godfrey later said that Adamski looked like he’d been frightened to death.

Speaking to reporters, PC Godfrey said there was a possibility Adamski had been abducted by aliens. ‘I am open-minded,’ he said. ‘I can't rule it out.’

The true cause of the Lofthouse Colliery worker’s death remains a mystery to this day. One wild theory that did the rounds at the time was that Adamski had been killed by the KGB. Another suggested he had been struck by ball lighting which caused him to wander off confused and eventually die at the top of the coal heap. To many people though, there was only one explanation - Adamski encountered alien beings on his way to the shops and it had cost him his life.

Five months after the grisly discovery of Adamski’s body, Todmorden once again found itself at the centre of media attention. This time it was none other than PC Godfrey who was in the eye of the storm.

Sent out at five in the morning to deal with a call about escaped cattle on a housing estate, Godfrey was, according to his own account, stopped dead in his tracks by what he claimed was an unidentified flying object. Godfrey said the object was a bright light in the sky - a rotating, diamond-shaped vessel, twenty feet high and fourteen feet wide.

Godfrey made a quick sketch of the object in his notebook and then grabbed his police radio to call the incident in. The line was dead. Suddenly, it disappeared in a bright flash and Godfrey found himself sitting in his car thirty yards further down the road. Looking at his watch, the policeman was surprised to see it was twenty-five minutes later than it had been just moments before. Weirder still, his boot was split open and an itchy mark had appeared on one of his feet.

Baffled, Godfrey returned to where he had seen the light and discovered the road where his car had been was completely dry, despite the fact it had recently been raining. Getting out to investigate the area, he found the cows he’d been looking for in a park next to the road. They had not been there before he saw the strange object in the sky. What on earth was going on?

When he finally managed to report his strange encounter, Godfrey was met with scepticism and even ridicule. On the advice of a solicitor friend, he decided to see a hypnotist to get to the bottom of what he’d witnessed.

Under hypnosis, Godfrey recalled that he had been blinded by the light and passed out. He told the hypnotist that when he awoke, he was in a strange room being examined by several little creatures and a tall, humanoid figure with a beard. Again, his claims were met with raised eyebrows and derision.

Several weeks after Godfrey’s account had leaked to the newspapers and became an international news story, he was called into his inspector's office. There sat a man in a dark suit and tie who introduced himself as ‘the Man from the Ministry’.

He had with him a file containing Godfrey’s drawing of the strange craft. Godfrey wasn’t allowed to see the rest of the file but assumed it also contained his account of the evening’s events, plus his report on the mysterious death of Zigmund Adamski. The man told Godfrey that he was to swear on the Official Secrets Act that he would not talk to anyone about what he had seen. Godfrey reluctantly agreed.

The young policeman then encountered the man on several occasions over the next few days. It was clear he was being followed. Eventually, Godfrey confronted the man in his local pub, telling him to clear off. The man disappeared and was never seen again..

Who was this mysterious man? Was he an MI5 agent, sent to warn him off? That's what Godfrey believes, though another theory is that the stranger was actually from West Yorkshire Police, sent to warn Godfrey off from speaking to the press in an attempt to not draw any more attention to the force. They were already getting a considerable amount of bad publicity over the Yorkshire Ripper case.

Despite that it later transpiring that several other police officers and a bus driver had seen strange lights on the same morning, Godfrey’s claims were seen as an embarrassment to the force. He was eventually transferred to Wakefield and an attempt was even made to have him sectioned.

Godfrey later claimed that he was hounded out of the police for refusing to give up on his story. He also talked of the negative impact the incident had had on his family. ’I wish I'd never seen the UFO, particularly because of the effects on my children,’ he was later to reflect. ’It's not easy having a policeman as a father but when he's a policeman who saw a UFO it's even worse.’

Since the two incidents in 1980, Todmorden and other areas of West Yorkshire have become UFO hotspots. Mysterious objects have been reported for forty years across the Pennines in the skies above Holmfirth, Rothwell and, in 2016, over the world famous Ribblehead Viaduct, where strange lights could be seen hovering in the sky for several hours.

A mere year after Godfrey’s experience, Todmorden local Vicky Dinsdale was out walking her dog with her grandfather when they saw a long, thin, diamond-shaped object that kept changing colour. Vicky’s grandfather, a former sergeant in the army, told the young girl to keep what they saw to themselves, mindful of the ridicule visited on Godfrey.

So, is there an explanation for what happened to Zigmund Adamski and PC Godfrey, or indeed for the numerous incidents that have happened in the four decades since? Despite many people attempting to get to the bottom of this intriguing mystery, no one has ever managed to come up with a definitive answer.

In the case of Adamski, the state of his clothes, his cropped hair, one day of beard growth and the strange burns still baffle people to this day.

As for Godfrey’s account, we have just his word to go on. But if he’s simply making it up, it’s been to his own personal detriment, as he lost both his job and a lot of credibility, becoming a figure of ridicule to many. He also lost his family and his home and slid into alcoholism. Despite all this, he still swears that something out of the ordinary happened to him that night. Plus, there’s the small matter that he wasn’t the only one who reported strange goings-on that morning.

’This was a nuts and bolts craft, not a trick of the mind,’ Godfrey told an audience in Halifax back in 2014. ‘I have never seen anything like it. I would swear on the Bible it was from somewhere else. These things have been seen so many times above Todmorden, they call the area UFO alley.’

Did aliens have something to do with the death of a 56-year-old miner and ruin the life of a young police officer in a small Yorkshire market town in 1980? The answer is we’ll probably never know for sure. For sceptics, the idea of alien abduction is a load of nonsense. For those like the group who meet at the Golden Lion pub in Todmorden once a month to discuss these incidents as well as their own brushes with UFOs, things aren’t quite so black and white.

As part of Sky HISTORY’s ‘Mystery Season’, Craig Charles is joined by renowned astrophysicist Sarah Cruddas to investigate unsolved UFO mysteries, and abductions with episode 8 (1st March at 9pm), focussing on Godfrey’s compelling claims. They scrutinise all available evidence, reveal never before heard testimonies as they attempt to separate fact from fiction.

Also, speculation was recently fueled when, after decades of denial, the Pentagon admitted that UFOs did in fact exist and could not simply be dismissed as weather balloons or natural phenomena. To many believers, there is indeed something strange going on in West Yorkshire, and cases like those of the Todmorden UFO Mystery cannot be simply dismissed.