THE SPACE BABY (from the Fortean Times)
19 November 1957 was just an ordinary winter’s day, with Cynthia Appleton going about her routine domestic routines. Then, shortly after lunchtime, her world-view was utterly transformed.
Less than two months later, in the Birmingham Evening Despatch, Cynthia Appleton gave the first public account of what had taken place: “It was early afternoon. My children were having a rest and I went into the lounge where the baby was asleep in her pram. There, just a few feet away, stood this slender white-skinned man. He had blond hair. He was the same as any human being, except that he wore a kind of dome over his head and a tight-fitting all-in-one suit of a grey metallic colour. I was rooted to the spot – and terrified – until he spoke. He said we were going about space flight the wrong way and that men of his world – which he did not name – would come to Earth before we reached theirs.”
This initial public statement was, however, just the barest outline of Appleton’s experiences, which developed over a three-year period. UFO researcher and clinical psychologist Dr John Dale interviewed Appleton many times over this period. Dale is missing in action, his notes lost, but ufologist Jenny Randles copied some of them, giving us a fuller picture of Cynthia Appleton’s claims. It seems that events had actually begun on 16 November, when Cynthia had suffered a blackout while doing the housework. This, her visitors later informed her, was a “failed attempt at contact”. According to her interviews with Dr Dale, the 19 November contact began when Appleton “became aware of an atmosphere. It seemed like a rosy coloured darkness materialised outside. The light did not seem to penetrate into the living room.” The entity then appeared in the room from nowhere, and the light returned to normal. Appleton described how the entity “spoke to me into my mind, saying, ‘Do not be afraid’.”
Through telepathic communication the entity told Appleton he was “from another world, but do not want to take you over because the world is so good with you… we wish to live in unison but cannot until you stop all wars.” The visitor went on to state that he knew space-flight experiments – “to get to us” – were taking place, but that the methods being used were fundamentally wrong: “Your scientists are pulling against the greatest force of gravity by going straight up – you should travel with a sideways attitude.” And with that Zen-like suggestion, the being slowly opened his arms and a ‘TV set’ appeared in the space between them. This appeared to be a holographic image – unknown in the 1950s – in three dimensions and full colour. For some reason, Cynthia was more stunned by the colour than anything else about the manifestation. The ‘living image’ as she called it, showed a classic flying saucer with flat rim and transparent dome. On its underside there were three half spheres. Appleton commented: “These spaceships were like nothing I have ever seen in my life before. They seemed to take off and hovered in space for two or three seconds, went off to the left, then they went very quickly to the right”.
Cynthia’s crash course in saucer technology included being shown the saucer’s power source – which she drew and later showed to Dr Dale. Her sketch depicted a central hub with a series of curved arms, like spokes. These, she was told, rotated and “collected power” from the atmosphere. She was then informed: “your greatest power is under the sea. It is there in great quantity just for the taking.” The entity also revealed that he was from “Gharnasvarn”, which Earth people called Venus, and that he would return. The holographic TV set then blinked out and, along with the entity, vanished. Appleton told Dr Dale that her visitor “did not seem like a vision, because there was a three-dimensional depth and you could not see through him. He did actually seem to be there.” After he had disappeared, Appleton noticed the entity had been standing on a sheet of discarded newspaper that now had a scorch mark on it. Dale later saw this and noted that it looked like the result of a “lightning strike or small electrical discharge”. Unfortunately, this potentially vital piece of physical evidence was removed by reporters from the Birmingham Evening Gazette and no more was heard of it.
Soon after this initial contact, Appleton was approached by a local clergyman, the Reverend GE Tiley, vicar of Powick, near Worcester. Tiley made several visits to the Appleton household in late 1957 and early 1958, and on 12 January 1958 made her experiences the focus of his Sunday sermon. Tiley’s congregation may have been somewhat surprised when he told them:“If you take the trouble, as I have, to study very deeply, you cannot possibly – if you have an honest, open, sincere mind – review the mass of evidence from all over the world that men other than ourselves exist, and refute that evidence. I believe they do exist, for what it’s worth, and their visits to this Earth are like the Star of Bethlehem.” The vicar continued: “I feel very grateful to have had the chance to sit with her in her kitchen and talk about it. A higher hand than mine led me there. These men told this woman that they have overcome war, poverty and disease and that they had passed through the same stages as we of this world. They came with a message of brotherhood and love. They want to help us.”Rev. Tiley may have believed Cynthia had been visited by spacemen, but the Birmingham Psychic Society had other ideas. BPS spokesman Bernard Payne conducted a lengthy interview with Mrs Appleton, and was convinced she “believed the truth of her story”. Payne planned an experiment in which Mrs Appleton would re-enact her first encounter, repeating exactly the same tasks, at the same time of day, in an effort to recall more details, a technique often used by police in the reconstruction of a crime. To be on the safe side, a medium would be present, as would a tape recorder and a ‘super ray’ machine. Payne commented: “We are not sure what will happen, but I think something is bound to occur. We have open minds on the subject at the moment, but I think the visitation will prove to be of a psychic nature.” Sadly, we are not informed of the results of this experiment, or indeed whether it ever took place.
On 7 January, a few days prior to Tiley’s space sermon, Appleton had received her second visit from the stranger from Venus. Once again, he appeared suddenly, accompanied by a burst of rose-tinged light. But this time he had brought along another entity, whom he described as his ‘superior’. Neither wore helmets, and Appleton could now see her first visitor wore his blond hair at shoulder length whilst his superior had shorter, brown, curly hair. They explained that ‘special brainwaves’ were what enabled their contacts with her, and that their appearances weren’t physical but were a ‘projection’.
On subsequent visits, the visitors had discarded their archetypal space apparel, and instead sported black business suits and homburg hats! They also eschewed materialisation in favour of a more conventional means of transport, arriving by car – a large black one with tinted windows. Shades of the ‘Men in Black’ also permeated their surreal conversations, which veered between the mundane and the miraculous – on one occasion Cynthia was told that their saucer was waiting for them in the vicinity of Edinburgh.
On each of the six or so visits Appleton received during 1958, her Venusian confidants revealed further information about themselves and their beliefs. Jenny Randles, working from Dr Dale’s notes, writes: “She was advised time did not exist. It was a philosophical invention by mankind. We failed to understand that all life was connected at some deep inner level, not separate as we assumed. Detailed scientific facts about the nature of atoms were then conveyed to her. She was told this was the basis to understand how to cure cancer and a complex cure was explained to her which involved changing the vibrational rate of atoms at a sub-atomic level, but Cynthia struggled to remember the terms used when she tried to describe this to Dr Dale.”
Nuclear physics and the sub-atomic world clearly held a special fascination for the Venusians and many conversations revolved around the subject. To the Venusians, science and religion appeared to be synonymous, and they were keen to share their version of the secret of the Universe, telling Cynthia: “The deity itself dwells at the heart and core of the atom”. Heady stuff for an Aston housewife. Cynthia told them it was pointless revealing this type of detailed technical and philosophical knowledge to her, because she simply didn’t understand. The entities disregarded her pleas of ignorance and continued with the visits and the information. What else did they talk to Cynthia about? “Oh, religion, politics, conditions in outer space, racial differences.” Although the entities told Cynthia on many occasions that they were not appearing to her in physical form, on one visit the Venusian said he had burned his hand and, oddly, asked her to bathe it in boiling water, which she did. After he had left, she noticed a piece of skin at the bottom of the bowl. Portions of the skin were later distributed to various ufologists, with one piece apparently being tested ‘by scientists’ at Birmingham University. The tests were, as is the way of these things, inconclusive. The keen blade of science determined the skin wasn’t human – but couldn’t say it was extraterrestrial. The best guess was that it was animal in nature, possibly from a pig. Quite why a university science department couldn’t correctly determine what kind of animal the skin was from isn’t clear. But as with many artifacts alleged to be from space – or fairyland – what appeared to be one thing was, in fact, another entirely. Where does the truth lie? Patrick Kent, a reporter for the Sunday People, asked Cynthia’s four-year-old daughter Susan if she remembered any of the Venusian’s visits. “Yes,” she replied, “I remember Mummy bathing the hand of a man with funny long hair and a fur collar.” Curiouser and curiouser…
Cynthia may have had the support of the Church of England, the Birmingham Psychic Society and the ufologists who took an interest in her case, but contact with interplanetary visitors came at a price, and many of her friends deserted her following the newspaper articles. “Some people are saying I’m a crank, some that I am loose-headed and others that I have been working too hard,” she commented. But she stuck to her guns, insisting her contacts were genuine.
Brinsley le Poer Trench (Lord Clancarty), then editor of Flying Saucer Review, was certain Mrs Appleton’s claims were genuine: “The woman’s story ties up in many respects with what we have learned in the last 10 years from others who have had contact with men from other worlds.” Indeed, it did. Throughout the 1950s, US contactees had been telling their own tales of meeting, talking to, and even taking flights with spacemen from planets within our Solar System, often Venus and Mars. Like Cynthia’s visitors, they were tall, humanoid, communicated by telepathy and travelled in classic, dome-shaped flying saucers, and espoused a philosophy similar to that explained to Cynthia Appleton.
These Venusian values were essentially socialist in nature, tinged with elements now familiar from many New Age philosophies – beliefs quite at odds with the ‘you’ve never had it so good’ capitalism of the 1950s. Contactees were repeatedly told by their mentors that to save Earth from certain disaster, mankind should stop tampering with nuclear forces and live in peace and harmony. Only then would we be included in the Intergalactic Parliament, taking our rightful place among the stars with other highly evolved civilisations. The ‘space brothers’ often illustrated their concerns by showing contactees visions of nuclear and ecological disasters. Cynthia Appleton was shown a vision of two asteroids colliding and causing widespread panic and devastation on Earth. This, she was told, was going to happen soon.
By contactee standards, Cynthia Appleton’s story was just another “girl meets spaceman” account – but when worlds collide, there’s always the chance sparks might fly… and Cynthia’s tale eventually took a turn for the truly bizarre. Once again, the newspapers quickly got hold of the story. This time, it made the national news. On 10 May 1959, a Sunday People headline screamed: “‘I’m going to have a baby from Venus’, says Mrs Cynthia Appleton, of 87 Fentham Road, Aston, Birmingham”. The sub-heading opined: “This is the biggest crackpot statement a woman has ever made”. The People reporter cut straight to the chase and suggested that Cynthia might have been imagining things, to which Mrs Appleton retorted, “but it’s true, and my husband believes it too”. She explained how the man from Venus had given her other predictions and instructions about her as yet undiagnosed pregnancy.
It transpired that the Venusian had called again in September 1958, informing Cynthia that she was “in the state of being with child”. It was news to her, but he was adamant, telling her she would give birth in late May 1959. The child would be a boy and would weigh exactly 7lb 3oz (3.3kg). He would be a leader of men at the age of 14 and he must be called Matthew. Shortly after the Venusian’s visit, Cynthia was pronounced pregnant and, with the spaceman’s predictions ringing in her ears, settled down to enjoy her pregnancy, apprehensive as to what might lie ahead.
The Venusians weren’t far off the mark with their prophecies. On 1 June 1959, Cynthia Appleton entered her cosmic confinement, and at two minutes after midnight on 2 June, gave birth. As foretold, the child was a boy with blond hair, weighing in at just a little over 7lb 3oz, almost exactly as the Venusians had predicted. The Appletons called him – what else? – Matthew, and were delighted with their gift from an alien world.Not long after the birth, Cynthia received a telepathic message giving her advance warning that her Venusian friend was going to call again soon, this time with a friend from the planet Uranus. Ron Appleton once again stood by his wife, but issued a stern warning to the visitor from Venus: “I believe everything Cynthia has told me, but I would love to have a yarn with him… If he shows up I’m going to tell him I’m Matthew’s father. If he doesn’t give me the right answers I’ll crack his ‘delicate features’ with a crowbar. His mate from Uranus will get the same.”
Nothing more was heard from the Appletons for over a year. Shortly after Matthew’s first birthday, in 1960, the Empire News ran the headline, “The ‘Venus’ baby is so normal”, reporting that 13-month-old Matthew was doing well, although Mrs Appleton was still at a loss to know what to make of it all. As yet there was no sign of Matthew becoming a leader of men, but Mrs Appleton was keeping a close eye on him. “I don’t know what I expected but I haven’t noticed the slightest thing that could be taken as a sign”, she said. She was also concerned that, since Matthew’s birth, contact with the Venusians had been somewhat sparse. “He used to pop in quite regularly every seven or eight weeks,” she said. “When he left, after forecasting Matthew’s birth, he said he would be looking in again soon. But he never returned. I just can’t make it out.”
And there, in July 1960, the trail goes cold. Newspapers never again mentioned Mrs Appleton or her ‘Venus baby’ and there was no major collision between two asteroids, which the spacemen had predicted. Matthew would have turned 14 on 1 June 1973, the year when he was prophesied to become a ‘leader of men’. History shows that, as yet, he appears not to have taken up this challenge.
Since the early 1960s, UFO publications have often repeated the ‘Venus Baby’ story, but added nothing of relevance to the narrative. I have made every attempt to trace Cynthia and Ron Appleton and their offspring, both terrestrial and extraterrestrial, but to no avail. Despite strong local newspaper interest in the story during 2002 and appeals for information, nothing was forthcoming. A search of the electoral register for the year 2000 showed there was just one Matthew Appleton in the Birmingham area, but he chose not to answer letters or telephone calls. Could it be that this is the correct Matthew Appleton, and that far from being a ‘leader of men’ he is merely embarrassed by his mother’s claims? Or is the real space baby living somewhere else, blissfully ignorant of his cosmic heritage?