Local legend proposes that Cley Hill was formed by the Devil when he dropped a sack of earth which he was taking to Devizes to dump on the town. It is said the Devil was angry with the citizens of Devizes for converting to Christianity so he set off to bury the town by way of revenge. On his way to Devizes the Devil stopped to ask an old man the distance to the town. The old man, realising he was talking to the Devil, replied that he had been walking for years to reach Devizes. Disheartened, or feeling lazy, the Devil abandoned his plan and dropped the earth where he was, forming Cley Hill. A similar local legend surrounds Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, where this time the Devil was forced to drop earth he was carrying to bury the town of Marlborough. Clearly these legends are how folk tales try to explain these seemingly out of place stand-alone mounds.
In more recent times Cley Hill along with nearby Cradle Hill (to the North East of Warminster) have become places of pilgrimage for UFO Spotters hoping to have an experience with the Warminster Thing.
The story of the Warminster Thing starts on Christmas morning 1964 when a number of people in Warminster were awoken by a series of strange noises. The sounds in question were described by some of the witnesses as branches being pulled over gravel, giant hailstones, a chimney crashing to the ground, or the roof tiles of their houses being rattled around. One woman walking to Christ Church in Warminster encountered sounds which she found so disturbing that they apparently made her feel weak and unable to move!
The strange noises associated with the Warminster Thing continued until around June 1966, when they eventually petered out. The Warminster Thing was not just a series of aural phenomena; in May 1965 visual aspects of the phenomena commenced, with people seeing unusual objects in the sky. The first reported object in the sky was a silent cigar-shaped object covered in winking lights. A similar object was also seen in June of the same year, with this object seen hovering over Warminster for around half an hour.
Following these happenings and coverage in the national news, Warminster become known as a UFO hot spot and sky-watchers flocked Cley Hill and Cradle Hill to try to catch a glimpse of the Thing. Popular interest in the Warminster Thing continued until the late 1970’s when UFO reports in the area had essentially dried up, and the sensationalism had died away. Although it seems that even to this day people still visit the area every year to conduct sky-watches in the hope of having an experience.
The mystery of what caused the strange noises around Warminster in the 1960’s has never been satisfactorily solved, and the strange objects that were seen in the sky have never been suitably identified. Some people propose that Warminster’s proximity to the military training area on Salisbury Plain may hint towards the military being the source of some of the phenomena. Also in the area is the Ministry of Defence's airfield at Boscombe Down where military aircraft have been tested and evaluated since 1939.
Memory of the Warminster Thing still persists in the area and 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the start of the phenomena. To mark this occasion a mural has been unveiled in the town opposite the Tourist Information Centre. The mural, which is partially painted in glow-in-the-dark paint, depicts strange creatures and triangular UFOs hovering over the very distinctively shaped Cley Hill.
|Cley Hill near Warminster.|
|Cley Hill from a distance.|
|View over Warminster from Cley Hill.|
|View from the main peak of Cley Hill looking towards Little Cley Hill.|
|Features on Cley Hill.|
|Cley Hill information board.|
|View from Cradle Hill.|
|The Warminster Thing mural.|
Pictures: Wiltshire (May & July 2015).
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