Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Defining a Man-Beast

Although this blog is chiefly designed to alert you, the reader, to accounts, theories, ideas and more that are all relative to the so-called "British Bigfoot," there is another British man-beast that may play a role in some of these cases: the werewolf. I have in my files numerous reports of werewolf-like entities seen all across the British Isles, and for centuries - some of which have been seen in precisely the same locations as the giant, hairy men. And as with many of the Bigfoot reports, the British werewolf encounters also have more than an air of the paranormal about them. So, with that in mind, over the next few weeks and months I intend posting all of my werewolf-related data here too. It may just shed some light on the British Bigfoot reports - and vice versa, of course.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Crowlas Whistler

Well, having (just about!) survived the desert heat at the Retro UFO gig in California, I'm back to blogging on the British Bigfoot.

The details of the following story are very brief (and were provided to me in 2001); but if anyone can fill in the blanks, or add more details, let me know. According to the source, the legend dated from the late 1700s and was cited within the pages of an old document found in the belongings of a noted family of landowners in Cornwall.

So, the story went, it was 1789 and, on at least three occasions late at night, an immense monkey-like creature was seen prowling around in the vicinity of Crowlas, Cornwall. The beast was described as being around eight feet in height and would make a strange whistling noise that was interpreted as a call.

Most notable of all: when the creature was last seen, it literally vanished in an almighty flash of light during a thunderstorm - something which, in some ways at least, closely echoes the story of the so-called Beast of Bungay...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Going Off-Line

I'll be offline from now until next Tuesday, as I'm lecturing at the Retro UFO conference in California. But as soon as I get back, there will be much more on the British Man-Beast!

The Hairy Monster of Childs Ercall

Approximately eight years ago, I interviewed a woman named Eileen Gallagher, who related to me how a friend of hers – named Janice - had undergone some sort of very traumatic encounter late at night with a man-beast in the village of Childs Ercall – which can be found in the English county of Shropshire.

Gallagher had lost touch with Janice in the late 1970s; however, she still well-recalled the salient facts. So the story went, it was back in 1971 and Janice was fifteen at the time and living in a nearby village. After an evening spent with her then-boyfriend at the home of his parents in Childs Ercall, Janice was happily riding her pedal-bike back home when she was shocked to see a large, hairy animal dash across the road directly in front of her, while simultaneously glaring at her in a menacing fashion as it did so.

Eileen Gallagher recalled that Janice had told her that the animal was human-like in shape, was covered in long flowing dark hair, possessed a pair of bright yellow eyes that "twinkled," and had a black-skinned and "shiny" face.

Interestingly, the Bigfoot-style entity seen by Janice in Childs Ercall was not the only weird creature said to inhabit this otherwise utterly normal and pleasant little English village. Indeed, legend has it that centuries ago a deadly mermaid was said to lurk in a pool there. In 1893 (in his book The Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Including Rivers, Lakes, Fountains and Springs), the writer Robert Charles Hope described the story as follows:

"…there was a mermaid seen there once. It was a good while ago, before my time. I dare say it might be a hundred years ago. There were two men going to work early one morning, and they had got as far as the side of the pond in [a] field, and they saw something on the top of the water which scared them not a little.

"They thought it was going to take them straight off to the Old Lad himself! I can’t say exactly what it was like, I wasn’t there, you know; but it was a mermaid, the same as you read of in the papers. The fellows had almost run away at first, they were so frightened, but as soon as the mermaid had spoken to them, they thought no more of that. Her voice was so sweet and pleasant, that they fell in love with her there and then, both of them.

"Well, she told them there was a treasure hidden at the bottom of the pond - lumps of gold, and no one knows what. And she would give them as much as ever they liked if they would come to her in the water and take it out of her hands. So they went in, though it was almost up to their chins, and she dived into the water and brought up a lump of gold almost as big as a man s head.

"And the men were just going to take it, when one of them said: 'Eh!' (and swore, you know), 'if this isn't a bit of luck!' And, my word, if the mermaid didn’t take it away from them again, and gave a scream, and dived down into the pond, and they saw no more of her, and got none of her gold. And nobody has ever seen her since then. No doubt the story once ran that the oath which scared the uncanny creature involved the mention of the Holy Name."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Green-Faced Monkey of Churston Woods

Back in the summer of 1996 - and over the course of approximately six weeks - various reports surfaced from within Churston Woods, Devon, of sightings of a monkey-like animal with a green face. Whatever it was, it doesn't appear to have been merely an escaped little pet. Rather, it's height was said to be in the region of 5-feet, and it was seen swinging through the trees with tremendous agility.

It wasn't a local, in other words!

Here's a great link that reveals more, and which includes some excellent photographs demonstrating the general weirdness that envelopes the area.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The "Giant, Great, Growling Hairy Thing"

In a new article, Neil Arnold (pictured), author of the cryptozoological A-Z guide titled Monster!, reveals how, back in late December 1981, "a giant, great, growling hairy thing" was seen in London's Hackney marshes by four boys playing in the thick snow.

Precisely what the beast was still remains a mystery to this day. However, the police took the case very seriously: fifty personnel - including armed officers - descended on the scene as they sought to determine the nature of the creature.

Rumors that the beast was a bear gained weight when a number of bear-like tracks were found; there were stories of people running around in ape-suits; and much more of a distinctly weird nature flooded the area - including the revelation that in the previous year, two decapitated bear corpses had been found in the River Lee.

Notably, a mysterious "upright bear" was reported on a number of occasions in 1993 and 1994 in Oxfordshire's ancient Wychwood Forest (for more details, see the article titled If You Go Down To The Woods Today, written by Jan Williams, and published in the July 1994 issue of the Center for Fortean Zoology's magazine, Animals & Men).

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Somerset Bigfoot

Once again, from that fountain of knowledge on the British Bigfoot, Jon Downes, come several stories of encounters with hairy man-beasts - this time in the picturesque county of Somerset.

As he says: "Somerset, has been the scene of several sightings. One occurred in a quarry and another on the barrows where what was described as a large, crouching manlike form, covered in dark, matted hair and with pale, flat eyes, was seen."

Jon continues:

"And the area around Smitham Hill in Somerset has also been the site of a number of such encounters. For example, many years ago the area around what is now an abandoned mine was linked to tales of strange beasts seen watching the miners. Sometimes, on returning to work in the morning, the men would find that carts and equipment had been pushed over and thrown around during the night.

"But these things, whatever they were, are still seen in that area today - or at least as late as November 1993. This is an exact quote from a witness whose case is in my files: 'I was on a walk through the woods, when I heard a twig snap. I thought nothing of it and continued on. Suddenly the dogs became very agitated and ran off home. At this point I became aware of a foul smell like a wet dog, and a soft breathing sound. I started to run, but after only a few feet, I tripped and fell. I decided to turn and meet my pursuer only to see a large, about seven feet tall, dark brown, hairy, apelike man. It just stood, about ten feet away, staring at me. It had intelligent-looking eyes and occasionally tilted its head as if to find out what I was. After about twenty seconds it moved off into the forest.'"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Beast of Brassknocker Hill

It was midway through 1979 when the woods of Brassknocker Hill, near the English city of Bath, became a beacon for high-strangeness. In July of that year, Ron and Betty Harper discovered that something powerful and unknown had torn the bark off their old oak tree; the local animal population - including squirrels and birds - seemed to have curiously fled the area; and sightings began to surface of something prowling the area by both day and night.

Whatever the creature was, it was variously described as resembling a large chimpanzee, a gibbon, a baboon, a large spider-monkey, a lemur and even a bear. Eighty-one-year-old Brassknocker Hill resident Frank Green took up a shotgun vigil and said: "I am very fond of some animals, but I reckon this creature could be dangerous and I am taking no chances."

By the following summer, the mystery seemed to have been solved: a policeman caught sight of what was said to be a "large chimpanzee" in the woods. "We were sure this mystery creature would turn out to be a monkey of some sort," said Inspector Mike Price. "After all, men from Mars aren't hairy, are they?"

But rumors of strange activities at Brassknocker Hill persisted.

And although five years later, another weird animal was seen in the area (it turned out to be a pet llama that had escaped from a local paddock) the mystery of the "large chimpanzee" seen back in 1979 was never resolved.

Sources: Bath Chronicle, September 9, 2002; and data supplied by Jon Downes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Castle Ring Creature

Located near the village of Cannock Wood in the county of Staffordshire, and constructed between 500 B.C. and A.D. 40, Castle Ring is an Iron Age structure commonly known as a Hill Fort. The highest point on the heavily-wooded Cannock Chase, it is 801 feet above sea level, and its main ditch and bank enclosure is fourteen feet high and, at its widest point, 853 feet across. Little is known about the mysterious and long-forgotten people who built Castle Ring, except to say they were already in residence at the time of the Roman invasion and remained there until approximately A.D. 50.

On May 1 2004, Alec Williams was driving passed the parking area that sits at the base of Castle Ring when he witnessed a hair-covered, man-like entity lumber across the road and into the trees. Williams stated that the sighting lasted barely a few seconds but that he was able to make out its form: It was about seven feet tall, with short, shiny, dark brown hair, a large head and had eyes that glowed bright red.

Interestingly, Williams stated that as he slowed his vehicle he witnessed something akin to a camera flash coming from the depths of the woods, and heard a cry that he described as "someone going 'Hooo.'"

Williams' account is just one of several involving sightings of Man-Beasts at Castle Ring, and in a future post I'll detail some of the additional stories.

Also in the near future, I'll be posting a piece that addresses the possible reasons why so many such encounters in Britain have occurred in the vicinity of ancient, historic sites like Castle Ring.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Devon Wild Men

And, no, I'm not talking about Jon Downes! However, it is Jon who supplies the text for today's post, and who says:

"From the Cannibals of Clovelly, Devon to the Brew Crew of Treworgey, Cornwall, the whole area has attracted people who wish to live outside of our recognized society; and these people have often degenerated into a wild and lawless existence, sometimes even reverting to a surprisingly primitive lifestyle.

"As well as these people who though undoubtedly wild men were not wild men, there are a number of reports of entities whose nature seems far more analogous to some of the stranger 'big hairy men' reports from around the world.

"The Devon folklorist Theo Brown collected a number of such stories, including one chilling recollection by a friend of hers who had been walking alone at dusk near the Neolithic earthworks at the top of Lustleigh Cleave on the extreme east side of Dartmoor.

"Lustleigh Cleave is an extraordinarily strange place, and it appears to be one of those 'window areas' where an inordinate number of unexplained incidents and anomalous phenomena seem to take place on an almost monotonous basis.

"I have got reports of sightings of a ghostly Tudor hunting party, mysterious lights in the sky, and even the apparitions of a pair of Roman centurions. But Theo Brown's friend saw, clearly, a family of 'cavemen,' either naked and covered in hair or wrapped in the shaggy pelts of some wild animal, shambling around the stone circle at the top of the cleave."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Glowing Eyes and the British Bigfoot

While there is no doubt that the most famous resident of Britain's Sherwood Forest was the legendary Robin Hood, according to some people the woods in question have been home to far stranger things, too - and of a distinctly large and hairy nature even.

Some Thing in the Woods was the headline that appeared in the November 28, 2002 issue of the Nottingham Evening Post newspaper. It transpired that Chris Mullins, a British-based mystery-animal researcher, had been given details of an "eight-foot, hairy man beast with red glowing eyes" seen within the legendary forest.

It was this story that prompted a man to contact Chris on December 4, 2002 with details of his own sighting of a seven-to-eight-foot-tall ape-like creature in the vicinity of Sherwood Forest late at night in 1982.

It's an intriguing fact that many of the Bigfoot-like entities seen in Britain reportedly have glowing eyes. The Sherwood Forest beast aside, the Man-Monkey of the Shropshire Union Canal is said to have a pair of "great white eyes;" while the Beast of Bolam was described by witnesses as having "sparkling eyes."

To learn more about such glowing eyed monsters, check out Kithra's excellent article on the subject.

And it should not be forgotten that although Robin Hood is generally portrayed (in Hollywood films, at least) as a dashing and heroic figure who - armed with bow and arrow and with his band of merry men - took from the rich and gave to the poor, it's an often overlooked fact that Robin Hood has also been linked with such issues as the legendary Green Man and Wild Men of the Woods of European folklore - as this article demonstrates amply.

In view of this, perhaps the hairy beast seen in Sherwood Forest in the 1980s was merely a modern day incarnation of a very old phenomenon that has been resident in the area for centuries...

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Wild Man of Yellowham Hill

In their excellent book, Dark Dorset: Tales of Mystery, Wonder and Terror, authors Robert J. Newland and Mark J. North (pictured left) say: "Woodwoses were once thought to inhabit the woods of Yellowham Hill near Dorchester. They had the habit of abducting young girls from the nearby villages, many of whom fell pregnant. one such incident befell a young girl, and when questioned by magistrates, she replied: 'Please your worshipfuls, 'twere the Wild Man of Yal'ham.' Woodwose (otherwise Wodewose, Wodewese, Woodwyse and Wudawasa) means Wild Man. These were savage, hairy, humanoid creatures similar to the American Bigfoot that were said to inhabit the woods of pre-Christian Europe."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Nursery Woods: Hoax or Reality?

The following letter was published in the Whitehaven News on the March 5th 1998. It has been suggested that the story was a hoax - and it may well be so. However, for what it's worth (or not!) here's the story:

"Sir - Following your story that you ran in the News on February 19th, 1998, I would like to recount the tale of a sighting made by myself some weeks ago. While walking my dog on the evening of Sunday, January 25th on the road out of Beckermet towards the A595, I passed Nursery Woods. The time was approximately 16.45hrs. I

"It was starting to get dark so my visibility was not that good, but as I walked past the woods I heard the snapping of branches. Thinking it was a dear or another animal, I stopped to try and see what it was. Looking through the tree’s I noticed a large creature covered in sort of ginger brown hair that seemed to be drinking from a pond about 150 metres into the woods.

"As the lighting was getting bad I was straining to make out what the animal was but as I stopped and stared it appeared to see me, at which point it reared up onto its hind legs and made off slowly further into the woods. I would estimate its height when upright to be approximately six feet and six inches and its weight to be about 14 stone.

"This was not a man as it was naked except for its covering of hair. Also it was not a dear as it made off on its hind legs. After the sighting I rushed to my home in Beckermet and told my wife what I had witnessed. Let me assure you that this is not a hoax. I was going to report the incident to the police but my wife persuaded me not to for fear of ridicule.

"I have lived in Beckermet for seven years and walk past these woods almost every day and have never witnessed anything like it before or since."

Jon Downes on "Man Beasts and Beast Men"

Jon Downes of the Center for Fortean Zoology provides some intriguing data on the British Bigfoot in his article Man Beasts and Beast Men (which originally appeared in issue 3 of the now-defunct magazine, Encounters, and which can now be found online here.

The British Bigfoot in Fate

Back in 2005, I wrote an article for Fate magazine on the British Bigfoot, which you can access by clicking right here.

The Big Gray Man...

Ben Macdhui, at 1,309 meters, is the second highest mountain in the British Isles and lies in the heart of the Scottish mountain range known as the Cairngorms. Atop the mountain is a high plateau with a sub-arctic climate, often covered in snow for months at a time. Weather conditions can be extreme and unpredictable.

Sadly, the Cairngorms have been defaced by ski lifts and restaurants but until recently remained remote, and still require considerable physical effort and mountain craft to navigate successfully. The wild nature and relative inaccessibility of the area has contributed to its popularity, and the Cairngorms have been a playground for climbers, walkers, skiers, naturalists, and those who love the high and lonely places for hundreds of years.

While on Ben Macdhui, various witnesses to a phenomenon known as the Big Gray Man have described encountering footsteps; a sensation of a “presence”; sightings of a large, hairy, man-like animal; and an overpowering sense of panic. Sightings span more than a century and the experience has been terrifying enough to compel witnesses to flee in blind terror, often for several miles.

Whatever the nature of the beast, it seems content to remain hidden deep within the safety of the Cairngorms and far away from civilization ...

For more information - as well as several useful links to in-depth articles on the controversy - click here.

An Encounter at the Reservoir

An intriguing encounter with a huge, lumbering Bigfoot-style entity reportedly occurred at the Ladybower Reservoir in England's Peak District in the summer of 1991. The creature was said to be "eight feet tall...covered in long brown hair and with eyes just like a man's." For more details, see Martin Jeffrey's article on the incident - The Big Hairy Man Encounter - at

The Lair of the Monkey

It is intriguing to note that several stretches of canal and certain waterways within the British Isles have curious folk-tales attached to them that are inextricably linked with both monkeys and bridges.

For example, the village of Defford, Worcestershire, is home to a pub called the Cider House. One of the very few still-existing traditional cider houses in England, it has been in the same family for a century and a half, and visitors to the Cider House will find their drinks served to them in quaint pottery mugs, and amid a welcome atmosphere that harks back to a time long gone. More notable is the fact that for the locals that frequent the Cider House, it has a distinctly different moniker: namely, the Monkey House.

So the legend goes, many years ago, a regular customer charged breathlessly into the pub late one night, claiming to have fallen into dense bramble bushes, after being attacked by…a group of monkeys. Notably, the village of Defford is situated close to Eckington, whose historic Eckington Bridge spans the River Avon.

Then there is the intriguingly named Monkey Marsh Lock. Situated on the Kennet and Avon Canal, it weaves its way through the Thames and the River Avon, and links the city of London with the British Channel. It is scheduled to be designated as an ancient monument and it is one of the only-two-remaining turf-sided locks in England of the type that were chiefly used in the early 1700s. Needless to say, the origins of the lock’s admittedly eye-opening name remain shrouded in mystery.

And what of the so-called Monkey Island-Isleworth Canal Project of 1793? An ambitious plan first proposed in 1770 (but ultimately never brought to successful fruition) it was designed to link Maidenhead and Isleworth via a planned stretch of canal that would by-pass the River Thames. Monkey Island is a story in itself. The island is a small piece of land on the Thames that can be found near to the Berkshire village of Bray. Its name is actually derived from the Old English term: Monks Eyot – meaning Monks’ Island, and was specifically named after a group of monks that resided at Amerden Bank, which is situated near to Bray Lock on the Buckinghamshire banks of the river.

In the early 1720s, the island came into the possession of the third Duke of Marlborough, Charles Spencer, and who duly oversaw the construction of a fishing lodge and temple. Monkey Island Lodge (which today still stands – but as a pavilion) was built completely out of wood. Notably, the artist Andieu de Clermont was asked to provide the Lodge with his own unique brand of paintwork – and he most certainly did so: "grotesque gentleman monkeys," engaged in scenes of fishing, boating and shooting adorned a small room in the Lodge, and can still be seen there to this day.

In 1738, Lady Hertford described Monkey Island Lodge thus: "[It] has a small house upon it, whose outside represents a farm – the inside what you please: for the parlour, which is the only room in it except the kitchen, is painted upon the ceiling in grotesque, with monkeys fishing, shooting, etc., and its sides are hung with paper. When a person sits in this room he cannot see the water though the island is not above a stone’s cast over; nor is he prevented from this by shade; for, except for six or eight walnut trees and a few orange trees in tubs there is not a leaf upon the island; it arises entirely from the river running very much below its banks."

Roughly a century later, the Lodge had become a river-side inn, accessible only by ferry; that is until 1956, when a foot-bridge was finally built. And although the island’s curious name seems to have wholly down-to-earth origins, it is intriguing to note that, once again, here is yet a locale in the British Isles linked with canals, bridges and "grotesque monkeys."


The Strangest Pubs in Britain: Seeing is Believing, written and published by Strangest Books, 2002;

For more data on Monkey Island, see:

For more data on Monkey Marsh Lock, see:

The Kelpie Connection

If the British Bigfoot is not a purely physical animal in the sense that we strictly understand the term, but is perhaps far more spectral in nature – as some of the facts, at least, seem to strongly suggest – then how do we even begin to try and explain and reconcile this?

There is one particular avenue that is most definitely worth exploring, and it is an avenue that has its origins buried deep within the history of ancient Scottish folklore. The beast may be what is surely that most dastardly of all creatures: a Kelpie (see the accompanying picture: "Boy on a White Horse" by Theodor Kittelsen).

According to Scottish legend, the Kelpie – or the water-horse – is a wholly supernatural creature that haunts the rivers and the lochs of ancient Scotland and that has the uncanny ability to shape-shift. The most common form that the Kelpie takes is that of a horse – hence the name.

It stands by the water’s edge, tempting any passing and weary traveller that might consider continuing on his or her journey to mount it. That, however, is always the fatal downfall of the traveller, as invariably the beast is then said to rear violently and charge head-long into the depths of the river or loch, and thus drowning its terrified rider in the process.

Very notably, according to the old legends, the Kelpie was also said to be able to transform itself into the form of...a large, hairy man...

Scottish Man-Beasts

From the files of Mark Fraser, one of the leading researchers of mysterious animals in the British Isles, come several fascinating stories of encounters with hairy beasts in Scotland. And what are we to make of the spectral ape of Dundonald Castle, Scotland? Situated atop a large hill that overlooks northern Kilmarnock, Dundonald Castle's origins can be traced back to the twelfth century, when one Walter, the High Steward of King David I, constructed a wooden fort high on the hill.

Then, a century later, a far more formidable and sturdy structure was built, and Dundonald Castle steadily began to take shape. However, during the Wars of Independence with England in the fourteenth century, much of the castle was decimated and raised to the ground. It was, however, rebuilt according to the wishes of King Robert II and still remains standing centuries later. But that is not all…

According to Mark Fraser, a remarkable and terrifying encounter with a spectral ape took place near the castle in 1994: "Josephine Aldridge…says she will never go up the hill again as long as she lives…While walking on the hill her two Labradors suddenly went berserk, running around in circles…Then Josephine saw 'this huge creature' that appeared some distance to the side of her...It did not seem to be solid, as Josephine could see the grass of the hill through its body, but it was covered in 'longish, charcoal-coloured hair.'"

Mark adds that: "…it was nor dissimilar to a gorilla in shape, although it stood well over ten feet tall on two legs. When confronted by the strange sight Josephine began to pray; the creature after a few moments slowly faded out of sight…"

Mark was also told of a 1994 encounter at Torphins, near the Scottish city of Aberdeen. Mark says: "…Pete and George…were driving along the road into Torphins, approximately two miles from their first meeting. In the witnesses’ own words: 'Suddenly from the side of the road there came this great muscular, hairy figure bounding out, which started to run behind the car. At one point it caught up and ran alongside the vehicle...'"

Mark reveals further that: “Pete describes the creature as ‘strong and muscular…red, glowing eyes…body covered in hair…about six feet five inches…jet black.'"


For more data on the history of Dundonald Castle, see:
For more data on Mark Fraser’s cryptozoological investigations, see:

The Strange Saga of Devon's "Hairy Hands"

From darkest Devonshire comes a strange tale of distinctly bizarre proportions: namely that of the Hairy-Hands. My good friend, Jon Downes of the CFZ, tells the story of his first exposure to the saga (as a young child) in his excellent book, Monster Hunter: In Search of Unknown Beasts at Home and Abroad.

It was around 1910 that the weird saga supposedly began – on what is today the B3212 road, in the vicinity of the Dartmoor locales of Postbridge and Two Bridges. Somewhat disturbingly, something hairy and unknown would time and again violently lash out at unwary passing drivers, and which, in one case, reportedly even resulted in a tragic death for one unfortunate road-user.

In most cases, victims of the diabolical phenomenon reported large, hairy and ‘disembodied hands’ firmly grabbing the steering wheel of their vehicle – or the handle-bars of their bike - unsurprisingly striking complete terror into their hearts, and which invariably resulted in them being violently forced off the country road. For a decade or so, the events were considered nothing more than a mild – albeit certainly sinister - curiosity for the superstitious locals of Dartmoor. That situation would drastically change in 1921, however.

In June of that year, Dr. E.H. Helby, who was at the time serving as the Medical Officer at the nearby Dartmoor Prison, was tragically killed when he lost control of his motor-cycle and sidecar, in the latter of which were seated his two children. Helby had just about enough time to warn his children to jump to safety – which they did – before he was thrown from his motorcycle and instantly killed.

Then, on the dull, foggy day of August 26 of the same year, a young British Army captain – described as being "a very experienced rider" – was also thrown into the verge of the road, after he too lost control of his motor-cycle. The captain stated at the time: "It was not my fault. Believe it or not, something drove me off the road. A pair of hairy hands closed over mine. I felt them as plainly as ever I felt anything in my life – large, muscular, hairy hands. I fought them for all I was worth, but they were too strong for me. They forced the machine into the turf at the edge of the road, and I knew no more till I came to myself, lying a few feet away on my face on the turf."
And there was much more to come.

In the summer of 1924, the well-known and widely-respected Devonshire folklorist Theo Brown was camping in a caravan, approximately half a mile from the road in question; and, in later life, would detail a particularly nightmarish, and nighttime, encounter that occurred years before.

Brown wrote: "I knew there was some power very seriously menacing us near, and I must act very swiftly. As I looked up to the little window at the end of the caravan, I saw something moving, and as I stared, I saw it was the fingers and palm of a very large hand with many hairs on the joints and back of it, clawing up and up to the top of the window, which was a little open. I knew it wished to do harm to my husband sleeping below. I knew that the owner of the hand hated us and wished harm, and I knew it was no ordinary hand, and that no blow or shot would have any power over it. Almost unconsciously I made the Sign of the Cross and I prayed very much that we might be kept safe. At once the hand slowly sank down out of sight and I knew the danger was gone. I did say a thankful prayer and fell at once into a peaceful sleep. We stayed in that spot for several weeks but I never felt the evil influence again near the caravan. But, I did not feel happy in some places not far off [sic] and would not for anything have walked alone on the moor at night or on the Tor above our caravan."


Devon Ghosts, Theo Brown, Jarrold, 1982

Monster Hunter, Jonathan Downes, CFZ Press, 2004

A 1997 Encounter at Ranton

In the winter of 1997, Peggy Baker had been driving through the village of Ranton, Staffordshire (very close to Bridge 39 on the Shropshire Union Canal: the rumored home of the infamous Man-Monkey) with her daughter, Kathleen, when at around 11.30 p.m., the pair was shocked and scared witless by the surreal sight of a shambling, hairy man-beast that loomed out of the darkened fringes of the roadside, "threw its arms around in the air," and proceeded to "shout at us, like a big roar." Not surprisingly, the terrified mother and daughter did not once slow down to get a closer look at the creature; but instead fled the scene with the utmost haste.

Right now, that's all I have on the story; however, I hope to be able to provide a more detailed update in the near future.

The Creature of the Glacial Boulder

Gavin, who I was able to meet personally, claimed a truly sensational encounter with a Bigfoot-like entity at one of the Cannock Chase woods' most famous attractions: namely, the Glacial Boulder.

Made out of granite, the boulder is both large and impressive. It is also made highly curious by virtue of the illuminating fact that there are no natural granite out-crops anywhere in the area – at all. Indeed, the nearest rock of this specific type can be found within the picturesque confines of the Lake District, which is more than 120 miles to the north, and on Dartmoor, Devonshire, no less than 165 miles to the south-west.

The boulder itself, however, has been matched conclusively to a rocky outcrop at Cniffel in Dumfries & Galloway, which is over 170 miles from the Chase in the Southern Uplands of Scotland. At some point during the last Ice Age, it is now generally accepted, the boulder was apparently carried by the great glaciers down the length of the British Isles and to its present location – and what would prove to be its final resting place - on the Cannock Chase.

As Gavin explained his sensational story to me, it was on a winter’s night in 1997, when he and his girlfriend were parked in his car near the boulder, doing what courting couples have always done since the invention of the automobile, when his girlfriend suddenly let out a loud and hysterical scream: standing atop the boulder was a large hairy man, waving his arms in a wild, crazed fashion at the star-lit sky. Gavin quickly jumped into the front seat of the car and floored the accelerator.

Tires spun, dirt flew into the air, and the car shot away at high speed; but not before the creature supposedly succeeded in jumping onto the bonnet of his car. For five minutes, it valiantly hung on, before finally being thrown to the ground. Gavin looked in his rear-view mirror and was horrified to see that the creature was already back on its feet and running at high-speed into the depths of the surrounding countryside.

In fairness to the more skeptical-minded, it must be said at this point that several other people who have also met Gavin are convinced that his tale is simply that: merely a tale (of the very tallest variety) and nothing more.

For his part, Gavin has been careful – time and again - to point out in response that he has nothing to gain – and absolutely everything to lose – by fabricating such a strange and unbelievable story.

And in that respect he is most certainly not wrong: claiming to all and sundry that you have seen a Bigfoot-type entity roaming around the woods of Staffordshire's Cannock Chase at night is, unfortunately, unlikely to result in anything other than the rolling of eyes, a distinct shaking of the head, and overwhelming hoots of both derision and laughter.

Nevertheless, and despite of such criticism, Gavin continues to stand by his story.

The Slittingmill Monster

Back in 1995, Jackie Houghton was a waitress then living in a bed-sit in the Staffordshre town of Cannock, and working at a restaurant in the nearby town of Stafford. On February 18 of that year, and at around 1.00 a.m., she had been driving across the sprawling Cannock Chase woods, and along the main road that links the towns of Rugeley and Cannock, after her shift at the restaurant was finally over.

As she approached the turning for the village of Slittingmill, however, Jackie was suddenly forced to quickly and violently swerve the car and only narrowly avoided collision with a large, shambling creature that had chosen to step out into the road at a distance of about two hundred yards from her.

Considering that she was travelling at a high speed, said Jackie, it was nothing less than a marvel that she didn’t hit the hairy thing. The encounter had lasted just a few scant seconds, but she had caught sight of the animal in the headlights of her vehicle, and was absolutely one-hundred-per-cent certain that it was both man-like and tall, very hairy, and weirdest of all: possessed a pair of self-illuminating, glowing red eyes.

In an instant, said Jackie, the huge beast had vanished into the darkness, leaving her distinctly shaken and highly stirred. One of Britain's mysterious man-beasts had struck again.

The Man-Monkey of Bridge 39

The so-called Man-Monkey of Bridge 39 on Britain's Shropshire Union Canal is a beast that has fascinated me for 20 years. And finally, last year, I was able to put all my findings together on the creature in my book of the same name: Man-Monkey.

Described as looking somewhat like a large, aggressive chimpanzee, the beast has beast seen on numerous occasion since the late 1800s, in and around the woods that surround the infamous bridge.

But, it was in the pages of Shropshire Folklore - written in 1891 by Charlotte S. Burne and Georgina F. Jackson - that the story was first brought to people's attention. As Burne's wrote:

"A very weird story of an encounter with an animal ghost arose of late years within my knowledge. On the 21st of January 1879, a labouring man was employed to take a cart of luggage from Ranton in Staffordshire to Woodcock, beyond Newport in Shropshire, for the ease of a party of visitors who were going from one house to another. He was late in coming back; his horse was tired, and could only crawl along at a foot’s pace, so that it was ten o’clock at night when he arrived at the place where the highroad crosses the Birmingham and Liverpool canal.

"Just before he reached the canal bridge, a strange black creature with great white eyes sprang out of the plantation by the roadside and alighted on his horse’s back. He tried to push it off with his whip, but to his horror the whip went through the thing, and he dropped it on the ground in fright.
"The poor, tired horse broke into a canter, and rushed onwards at full speed with the ghost still clinging to its back. How the creature at length vanished, the man hardly knew. He told his tale in the village of Woodseaves, a mile further on, and so effectively frightened the hearers that one man actually stayed with friends there all night, rather than cross the terrible bridge which lay between him and his home."
And thus the Man-Monkey's reign of terror began...

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Orford Wild-Man

The 800-year-old account of Ralph of Coggershall, which concerns a wild man captured on the east coast of England at Orford, is a famous one. In Chronicon Anglicanum, he wrote:

“In the time of King Henry II, when Bartholomew de Glanville was in charge of the castle at Orford, it happened that some fishermen fishing in the sea there caught in their nets a wild man. He was naked and was like a man in all his members, covered with hair and with a long shaggy beard. He eagerly ate whatever was brought to him, but if it was raw he pressed it between his hands until all the juice was expelled. He would not talk, even when tortured and hung up by his feet. Brought into church, he showed no signs of reverence or belief. He sought his bed at sunset and always remained there until sunrise. He was allowed to go into the sea, strongly guarded with three lines of nets, but he dived under the nets and came up again and again. Eventually he came back of his own free will. But later on he escaped and was never seen again.”

For more details on this intriguing story, here's a great little website.

Jon Downes and the CFZ: Trailing the Beast of Bolam

In January 2003, an expedition to the wooded Bolam Lake in the north of England was undertaken by the Centre for Fortean Zoology, following bizarre sightings of a hairy, Bigfoot-like animal that were then being reported with unsettling regularity. CFZ Director Jon Downes (left) recorded the following, highly intriguing report after the quest was completed:

"In the latter part of 2002 and early 2003, there occurred a huge ‘flap’ of Big Hairy Men (BHM) sightings throughout the British Isles that we could not afford to ignore and that required our immediate attention. Indeed, such was the scale of this extraordinary wave of encounters that, even as we made firm plans for an expedition in March, a handful of new sightings of large, man-beasts from the Bolam Lake area of Northumberland, England, arrived in our e-mail In-Box in January that prompted us to undertake an immediate study of the evidence.

"We liaised very closely with Geoff Lincoln, an absolutely invaluable researcher based in the area. We gave him our planned arrival time, and asked if any of the eye-witnesses would be prepared to speak to us. Much to our ever-lasting delight, five out of the six were. We think it should be noted here that the sixth is a soldier; and with the burgeoning situation in the Middle East spiraling rapidly out of control, it would be completely unreasonable to expect a serving military man to be at the beck-and-call of the CFZ.

"Serendipitously, we were able to stay at a house owned by our County Durham representative, David Curtis. He and his wife, Joanne, were absolutely fantastic all the way through our sojourn in the North. The only sad thing about our stay with them was that Davy had to work most of the time; and so, therefore, was not able to join us during most of our activities.
"After a series of fairly dull misadventures, we met Geoff Lincoln and Dr. Gail Nina-Anderson (a member of the CFZ Board of Consultants), and we made our way in convoy to Bolam Lake itself. It would be nice to be able to say that we were overwhelmed with a spooky feeling, or that the genus-loci of the location were in some way redolent of Fortean freakiness. But it wasn’t at all. It was just what one would expect from a heavily wooded country-park in the North of England in the middle of January – cold, wet and grey.

"Geoff showed us three of the locations where these things had been reported. We carried out a thorough series of photographic mapping exercises, and did our best to fend off the incessant inquiries from the press. Just after lunchtime, a TV crew from a local television company arrived and filmed interviews with our investigation team. It was only after they had gone that we realised something very strange was happening.

"Although we had tested all of our electronic equipment the night before, had charged up batteries where necessary, and had even put new batteries in all of our equipment that needed them, practically without exception all of our new equipment failed. The laptop, for example, has a battery, which usually lasts between 20 and 35 minutes. It lasted just three minutes before failing.

"Admittedly, we received an enormous number of telephone calls during our stay at the lake, but not anywhere near enough to justify the fact that we had to change handsets four times in as many hours. The batteries in both Geoff’s and our tape-recorders also failed. It seems certain that there was some strange electromagnetic phenomenon at work here.

"Later that afternoon, we drove to a local pub where we met our first witnesses. Like all of the other people we were to meet over the next few days, they requested anonymity, and therefore in accordance with our strict confidentiality policy, we have respected this. Naomi and her son had been visiting Bolam Lake only a few days before. Not believing any of the reports that had appeared in the local media, they were both appalled and frightened when – while walking across the car-park itself – they had seen a huge creature standing motionless in the woods. They described an intense feeling of fear and trepidation, and rapidly left the area. They were incredibly co-operative, and agreed to come back to the lake with us the next day to stage a reconstruction.

"We had a wake-up call at 5.30 a.m. the next morning, followed by a taxi-ride to a rest area five-hundred yards along the road from the Bolam Lake car-park, where we did a two-and-a-half minute interview for the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. One thing of great importance happened during the half-hour or so spent shivering by the side of the road waiting to speak to the BBC. Just before dawn, the crows, which live in a huge colony in the woods, started an appalling noise.

"Suddenly, the noise stopped; but was then followed by a brief succession of booming noises – like a heavily-amplified heartbeat from a Pink Floyd record – before the crows started up again. It is unclear whether these noises came from the vicinity of the lake itself or were made by the set-up of satellite dishes, and recording equipment that was loaded in the back of, and on top of, the BBC man’s car. During the taxi journey back to Seaham, the driver remarked on the peculiar behaviour of the crows, and said that although he was a country-man himself and had spent his whole life living in this area, he had never heard anything quite like it.

"On arriving back at base, it was time for the entire CFZ expeditionary force to drive to the outskirts of the city of Newcastle where we met Geoff and a second witness in a café attached to a garden center. The witness, Neil, had been fishing at Bolam Lake one night four or five years previously. Together with two companions he had been making his way back to the car-park when they encountered a huge, dark, man-shaped object about 7-8 ft in height with what he described as sparkling eyes. The three fishermen did not stop to investigate but ran back to the car.

"However, this was by no means the only encounter that Neil had reported to us. Together with one of his companions from the first adventure, he had again been night fishing at Bolam Lake during the summer of 2002. They had been camped out on this occasion, and had heard noises, which they assumed were from an enormous animal moving around in the bushes outside of their camp. Deciding that discretion was most definitely the better part of valour, they decided not to investigate any further; but when they broke camp the next morning they found that the fish they had stored in a bait-tin had been taken, and there were distinct signs that something very large had been lumbering around in the immediate vicinity.

"Possibly the most astounding story that he had to recount had taken place a couple of summers before our visit. He had been in the woods at the opposite side of the lake with his girlfriend. They had been making love, when his girlfriend told him she that she could see what she thought was a man in a monkey suit watching their sexual adventures from behind a bush. Neil, unsurprisingly, looked around the area but could find nothing.

"We then continued to the lake. Neil had been amazingly co-operative, and had, like Naomi, agreed to stage a reconstruction with us. At the lake we liaised with the team from a local investigative group called Twilight Worlds and began a series of exercises, which would take up the rest of the day. Geoff had noted, the previous week, a series of apparently artificial tree formations similar to those 'Bigfoot Teepee's' noted by researchers in the United States.

"Together with Twilight Worlds, Geoff and CFZ stalwart Graham Inglis, went off to map these formations and to make a photographic record. They also took with them a Twilight Worlds member trained in using their EMF meter, together with a dowser. After our electrical mishaps of the previous day, we wanted to find out whether there were, indeed, any abnormal EMF fields in the area. Neither investigator found any unusual readings.

"Our next task was to stage a reconstruction of Naomi’s sighting. Again a full photographic and video record was made, and EMF readings were also taken. Again no unusual readings were recorded either by the EMF meter or the dowser. We then repeated the exercise with Neil and reconstructed his first sighting.

"At about half-past-four, one of the members of Twilight Worlds reported seeing something large, human-shaped and amorphous in the woods directly in front of the car-park. As the dusk gathered at about 5 o’clock, we again heard the raucous noise of the crows that he had reported just before dawn. Suddenly, once again, they fell silent and one of the Twilight Worlds members shouted that she could hear something large moving around among the undergrowth. All of the car-drivers present were ordered to switch on their headlights and to put them on full-beam. We did not hear any noise in the undergrowth; although other people present did. Eight people were watching the woods and five of us saw an enormous man-shaped object run from right to left, disappear, and then a few moments later run back again.

"When the expedition returned on Monday, we conducted experiments to find out exactly how far away the creature – if it was a creature – was from the excited onlookers. We were able to make a fairly accurate estimate that the creature had been one-hundred-and-thirty-four-feet away at the time of our sighting. We also estimated that the creature had run along a distance of between twelve and eighteen feet. About five minutes after the encounter, we wandered across the car-park to the location when Naomi had reported seeing the creature. There, too, a sensation was felt of intense fear.

"After an incident like that, anything else would have been an anti-climax. However, Geoff Lincoln took the CFZ team to interview two further witnesses. The first was a young man living in the suburbs of Newcastle, who told us of his encounter with an enormous man-shaped being next to a hollow tree in the woods, some months previously. The incident had taken place while he had been walking his dog. He had been so frightened by his experience that he refused to ever go near the lake again. Finally, we went to another pub where we met another man called Neil. He had been with the first Neil at the time of his initial sighting.

"We were all impressed by his sincerity and by the way that he corroborated his friends’ testimony in what seemed to us, at least, to be a very natural and wholly un-contrived manner. One day later, we all returned to the lake. We proceeded to carry out a thorough photographic survey of the final two sighting locations to ascertain – as far as was possible, at least – the size of the thing that had been seen on Saturday night, and its approximate distance from the eye-witnesses.

"As the EMF scans had been remarkably unsuccessful, we tried to scan the area for magnetic anomalies using a pocket compass. Mike Hallowell, a friend and excellent researcher, registered a strange magnetic anomaly at the location of the fisherman’s first sighting. However, it must be reported that when the team tried to replicate this later in the day, they were unsuccessful.

"That evening, we interviewed a final witness: a woman in her late fifties who had been visiting the lake about five years before with her son who was then eleven years old. Like Naomi, she reported intense feelings of not exactly hostility; but what she interpreted as a message not to investigate a peculiar tree formation any further. She discussed these tree formations with us at some length. She had been surprised to find them at several locations throughout the woodlands. Our work was then finished and we returned home."

It seems pretty evident from the report of Jon Downes that whatever the Beast of Bolam was (and still may be), it inhabits a realm of existence that is far removed from that of straightforward flesh and blood entities. In future posts, I'll expand on my (and Jon's) views on how we might best explain the presence of these mystifying beasts.