Category Archives: Cryptozoology

Reintroducing wolves to England? Not a problem (6)

When people suggest that it would be impossible to introduce a wolf pack to the English countryside, they should be aware of the following story. The usual belief is that:

“The Gray Wolf canis lupus has been extinct in England since 1486, in Scotland since 1743 and in Ireland since about 1770.”

Something strange happened though, in Epping Forest in the late nineteenth century.  Mention of it comes from Beatrix Potter in her Journal from 1881 to 1897:

“Several years ago a gentleman let loose three prairie wolves in Epping Forest. These animals have increased in numbers, and are perfectly wild and shy”.

potter

Talking about what a potential problem the breeding of the American Mink in England might be, in New Scientist for January 18th 1962, Harry V Thompson, Ministry of Agriculture Field Research Station, Worplesdon wrote:

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“Tales of escaped coyotes canis latrans or prairie wolves in Epping Forest in the late nineteenth century may come to mind …”

In Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, George M. Eberhart stated:

“A few Coyote cubs canis latrans are said to have been introduced around 1881 in Epping Forest, Essex, England.”

crypto

A slightly longer version occurs in some documents from Regent’s Park Zoo dating from July 19th, 1884. Here, the animals are said to have been coyotes:

” Some short time since a gentleman called upon me at the gardens and offered to present to the Society an animal that he believed to be a prairie wolf. He mentioned some particulars concerning its history that caused me not at once to accept his offer, fearing that the animal might prove to be a useless mongrel. At the same time I asked his address, and promised to call and see the animal.

Accordingly, I went to Leytonstone and on my arrival I inquired for Mr. R. Payze, and found the gentleman who had so kindly offered the animal in question. He was very pleased to meet me, and introduced me to what I at once pronounced to be a veritable prairie wolf (Canis latrans). The history of this animal I give as near as possible in Mr. Payze’s words. In the month of May last year some men who were on their way to London with cartloads of hay told him, on their coming through some part of Epping Forest (” near Ongar,” is the locality given in some narratives), they had found or caught three fox cubs, and they had them in a sack tied to the tail of the cart:

Foret-cinglais1xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Believing them to be fox cubs, he bought one of them for a few shillings, and the men went on their way towards London. The animal was at that time so small that it could be put into a pint pot, and I have every reason to believe the following narrative will fully explain what otherwise would appear a mystery. Mr. Payze introduced me to Mr. Swan (who was formerly a servant to Colonel Howard), and he told me that some few years ago four cubs were brought to England in a ship belonging to Mr. J. R. Fletcher, of the Union Docks, and were turned loose (supposed to be fox cubs) in Ongar Wood, which adjoins Epping Forest. These cubs were brought home in a box and kept for a few days at Colonel Howard’s, Goldings, Loughton. They were then taken to Mr. Arkwright’s, formerly master of the Essex Hunt, and were turned out at Marl’s Farm, and the man Swan was present when they were turned out. I have also been informed that from time to time an animal, supposed to be a large gray fox, has been hunted, but never caught, always escaping into the forest.

single wolf

I think it highly probable that some of the same kind as the animal now in the gardens still exist in the forest, as this species of wolf is not much larger than a large male fox, and not having any scent like the fox, would not be likely to get killed by foxhounds or followed any great distance by them.”

The editor of  Land and Water magazine supplemented this account as follows :

” Subsequently, in company with Mr. Bartlett, we visited Epping Forest ; and from the inquiries made we have little doubt as to the fact of the animal in question having been born in the forest. Swan and other persons who have been acquainted with the forest for many years told us they well recollect the circumstance of the ‘strange animals from foreign parts’ being turned down, and we expect shortly to have further confirmatory evidence from others who were present on the occasion. When first born, the prairie wolf might readily be mistaken for a cub fox. Mr. Payze, who is a lover of animals, and has from time to time kept many tame foxes, was under the impression until quite
recently that ‘ Charlie,’ as the animal is called, was a fox.

foxes

As it developed, however, he noticed several points quite distinct from the common fox, and as, moreover, the animal (although quite quiet with his children) showed unmistakable snappish tendencies towards strangers, he decided to consult Mr. Bartlett, with the result that the superintendent declared that the creature was a Prairie Wolf canis latrans.
(This determination was not correct, see post.—Editor.”

Whatever the animals were, they seem to have persisted until the beginning of the 20th century. The previous article from the Regent’s Park Zoo was criticised for its naivety, Henry Foster sarcastically stating that “his dog was recently killed and proclaimed to be a wolf”.

wolves 2

On October 23rd 1884, however, Henry Ffennell, however, contradicted Mr Foster. Ffennell  had some connection with Regent’s Park and stated that

“the animal was definitely a wolf, bred and captured in the forest. It could be viewed at the gardens.”

A print of the “English Wolf” is widely available to buy on the Internet. It has this caption alongside it:

“Concerning the animal depicted in our engraving which has aroused much interest among naturalists and others, Mr AD Bartlett, the Superintendent of the Zoological Society’s Gardens , Regent’s Park, writes thus:-

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“The prairie wolf now being exhibited in these gardens was presented by Mr K Payne, of Leytonstone, who says he bought the animal about a year ago. it was one of three that had been taken in Epping Forest by some farm labourers, Mr Payne believing at the time that it was a fox cub. Its subsequent growth, however, caused him to suspect that it was not a fox. As it became troublesome on account of its destructive habits, notwithstanding that it had been reared perfectly tame, he decided to get rid of it, and accordingly presented it to this Society. Inquiry is now being initiated with a view to ascertain, if possible, the manner in which the parents had been introduced into that part of the country. It is said that, some years ago, some foreign cubs, supposed to be foxes, were turned out in  the neighbourhood of Epping Forest.”

epping wolf print

No problem, then. Find a forest. Tell people your wolves are just Grey Foxes, and take it from there.

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Wolves (the animal not the football club)

When I wrote about the Beast of Gévaudan, I came to the conclusion that the ferocious creature was a previously unknown type of wolf:

bete-du-gevaudanzzzzzzz

For some unknown reason, it was being forced westwards from its normal habitat of the Polish or Russian primeval forests such as Białowieża. If ancient bison could live there, so could something even more prehistoric:

rejigged bison

At the time I did research the likelihood that the Beast was an ordinary wolf or wolves but I rejected that as a theory because I did not think that wolves would eat human beings.
It would be dishonest, however, not to make it patently clear that in the past, wolves certainly have eaten people but they don’t seem to now. Why should this be?
Firstly, extremes of weather centuries ago, more severe than what we have now, may have lead to a situation where wolves either ate any available prey items or just died. This would account for the Wolves of Paris which I have previously discussed:

wolf bounding

In actual fact they may also have acquired a taste for human flesh by eating corpses. Apparently, until as late as 1820, corpses in France were frequently thrown into open charnel pits. Presumably, these were paupers, drunks, stillborn babies, in short, anybody dead without the money for a funeral. And it is not outrageous to presume that this lovely way to dispose of the late dearly departed might have taken place in neighbouring countries too. An unfortunate situation that taught wolves to associate the scent of Man with a full belly.
If the hungry wolf wanted a better quality of prime human meat, young, and blood drippingly fresh, the best place was the battlefield straight after the battle. Once the local peasantry had stripped the bodies of everything valuable, they were not buried, but were gradually eaten by the ravens and other corvids, the eagles, both golden and especially white-tailed, and most of all, the local wolf pack.
This association of human flesh, its scent and taste, with a full stomach, was a recipe for disaster when wolves came across, say, lone travellers or children picking berries deep in the woods. And don’t forget. In France the peasantry were forbidden to own firearms to reduce the admittedly tiny risk of a blood spattering revolution.
Nowadays, the situation is completely different. Admittedly France had 7,600 fatal attacks by wolves between 1200–1900 but there has been nothing since. Italy has a population of wolves but without any fatal attacks on humans since 1945 and no attacks by wolves since the eradication of rabies in the 1960s.

wolf pack one

In the Baltic states, where rabies is still allowed to exist, just under a hundred people were bitten between 1992-2000 in Latvia and Lithuania, although the statistics are muddied somewhat in Estonia by the locals’ love for wolf-dog hybrids and keeping wolves captive on their properties.
And what about North America?

wolf baby

Well, in 2002, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game stated that there had been no human deaths in North America attributed to wild, healthy wolves since at least 1900. Concerns were caused though, when, on April 26th, 2000, a six year-old boy was attacked by a wolf in Icy Bay, Alaska. He was not killed, but then, on November 8th 2005 the body of Kenton Carnegie was found in northern Saskatchewan. He had died from “injuries consistent with a wolf attack.” The local wolves had apparently lost their fear of him because he fed them regularly.

Kenton_SKxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

To increase the risk, natural food was scarce in the area at the time and four wolves had been feeding on rubbish tips in the previous weeks. They were no longer scared by human activities. On November 4th, two of Kenton’s fellow campers clashed with two extremely aggressive wolves. Zoologists have now said that this was probably an “exploratory attack” just to see how difficult it was to kill a human being. Another perhaps more serious attack was imminent.
On the day of his demise, Kenton ignored warnings from his companions and went for a walk in the woods. It took the Coroners’ jury two years to rule out Black Bear, but their eventual verdict was “Death by Wolf”.

Iberian Wolf alpha male feeding on deer, its mouth tinted with f
On March 8th 2010, Candice Berner, a thirty two year old special education teacher who had only been in Alaska since the previous August was killed by two, perhaps three, wolves as she jogged along a road outside Chignik Lake. It was late afternoon.

Candice_Berner12

This was the first ever fatal wolf attack in Alaska. David Mech, a senior research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey has studied wolves for more than fifty years. He said:

“There have been about two dozen nonfatal attacks in North America in the past century or so. Most involve wolves that have become habituated to people who have been feeding them at campgrounds, dumps and other sites near wolf habitat.”

Ms Berner was only 4 feet 10 inches tall and weighed just over eight stones (c 112 pounds). David Mech said that her slight, almost childlike build, and the fact that she was running may have attracted the wolves, who, after all, are predators by nature:

“Wolves are very much like dogs in a lot of respects. Things that are running, they have tendency to want to chase them,”

 

DogChasing

Ms Berner was thought to have been listening to music on a headset, but Dr Mech discounted this, as in his experience wolves move so silently that the wind is enough to mask their presence completely.

Whatever you think about wolves, the truth is that the inhabitants of the tiny village of Chignik Lake have lived alongside wild animals since time immemorial:

chig

This one attack has spooked all of the 73 inhabitants of the area, so remote that it can only be reached by aeroplane. The school’s stuffed wolf mascot had been there a good while, but now it has been kicked well into touch. The wolf badge of the school will also have to go if Virginia Aleck, a local woman, gets her way.
She said that everyone felt trapped in the village. None of the surrounding hills were considered safe anymore.  Nobody walked on their own and everybody carried a rifle.
Is this an over-reaction? Or are wolves just a part of living outside the big city? I’ll try to answer that question in a future article.

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Filed under Canada, Cryptozoology, France, History, Personal, Science, Wildlife and Nature

Bigfoot? Where? Tunbridge Wells?

Of late, there has been an increasing number of claims by people who think that they have seen Bigfoot in Great Britain. If you think Bigfoot is a physical being, descended from gigantopithecus blacki, then for me, that particular idea of seeing such gigantic creatures in tiny England is almost beyond ludicrous.

blacki

If you think Bigfoot and all his pals come through vortices in time and space, wormholes in the structure of the dimension, then I suppose his existence here would perhaps be a definite maybe.

Rather reminiscent of the “Barmston Drain Dog Destroyer”, this is a tale from Tunbridge Wells. I have précised the account in the Daily Mail, although it did appear in a good few other newspapers in almost identical form.

Tunbridge Wells, incidentally, is located in west Kent, forty miles from London. The population is about 56,000:

“Terrified walker claims 8ft-tall creature roared at him…

Bigfoot, red-eyes, Bill Rebsamen

A man walking in the 200 acres of woodland beside the town’s common claims to have spotted an 8ft tall black beast with demonic red eyes and long arms.
The ape-like creature, which looked like America’s legendary Bigfoot, roared at the walker, who immediately ran off in fear.”

And of course, that is not the only report in Tunbridge Wells. All the people who have seen Bigfoot in the local library car park suddenly come out of the woodwork to tell the tale.

“Over the past six months there have been a number of sightings. Locals in Tunbridge Wells have mixed opinions, with some believing it could be a joker wearing a fancy dress costume.
Scientists say rumours of its existence have come from folklore and hoax.”

db_Bigfoot43_1_

Interestingly enough, though, there is a tale of a strange creature being seen in Tunbridge Wells well over seventy years ago in 1942. Every monster has to have a name, preferably slightly comic, and presumably in an effort to make it a little less monsterish. He has, therefore, been christened “The Kentish Apeman” or “The Apeman of Kent”. The tale was told best in the Kentish News:

“He was first spotted on the town’s common seventy years ago.
An elderly couple saw it in 1942.’They were sitting on a bench when they became aware of a shuffling noise behind them.
Turning around they saw a tall, ape-like creature with eyes that were burning red moving slowly towards them at a slow pace.. They observed this creature for some time until they became afraid and both fled – terrified.”

big red

“The old lady went on to say that they told the police and members of their family, thinking that a gorilla had escaped from a zoo, but they were laughed at and were not believed.”

pinterestzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

This account also mentions other reports of the creature in more detail. One extraordinary tale, even in the context of gigantic unknown apemen, came in Dartford when a student saw a creature with long arms and knees which came up under its chin as it walked. If it’s nice weather tonight, or perhaps tomorrow morning, then go out on your lawn, and give that a go. And don’t forget: “knees which came up under its chin as it walked”.
Five members of the Territorial Army in 1991 spotted this beast on Blue Bell Hill, near Maidstone. They threw stones and shouted at it before running away. A young girl in Chatham saw the apeman appear then run off into the bushes.

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Well, there we are. No real, concrete explanation. Not like the famous Man-Monkey of Ranton. (The what?):

“On January 21st 1879, a labourer was employed to take a cart of luggage from Ranton in Staffordshire to Woodcock in Shropshire.
“He was late coming back. His horse was tired, and could only crawl along, so that it was late at night when he arrived at the place where the road crosses the Birmingham and Liverpool canal.
“Just before he reached the bridge, a strange black creature with great white eyes sprang out of the plantation by the roadside and alighted on his horse’s back.”

A bit like this?

planet

“He tried to push it off with his whip, but to his horror the whip went right through the thing, and he dropped it on the ground in fright.”

When the man recovered from the fright, he returned home and excitedly spread the story.
A few days later, a policeman came round to his house and told the frightened man: “That was the Man-Monkey sir.”

Not much gets past our police, does it?

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A Werewolf in Yorkshire: Eeh bah gum (again) !

I told you in previous articles that there were more werewolves about than you might think. News came in recently, on Sunday May 15th, of werewolf sightings near Hull in East Yorkshire. The national newspaper, the Daily Express, took up the story. Here is a highly abridged version:

“Seven separate eye witnesses claim to have spotted the 8ft tall creature lurking in an abandoned industrial area outside the centre of Hull.

Residents and folklore experts believe the beast is Old Stinker who, according to legend, is a foul-breathed creature in the Yorkshire Wolds.
The lonely banks of Barmston Drain are where the creature was first reported before Christmas.
One woman claims to have seen it turn from man to beast as she stood on the bridge”:

barmaston drasin

She said: “It was stood upright one moment. The next it was down running like a dog. I was terrified.
It bounded along, then stopped and reared up on its back legs, before running down the embankment towards the water.
It vaulted thirty feet over to the other side and vanished into some allotments. It both ran on all two legs and on all fours, as if with the qualities of both human and wolf.”

A couple saw “something tall and hairy” eating a German Shepherd dog next to the Drain.
They saw it jump an 8ft high fence before vanishing into the night, its prey still in its jaws.

I have a link to that. Something tall and hairy, eating a German Shepherd dog?

A woman walking her dog spotted something “half-man, half-dog” in the distance.
She was terrified, and her pet began shaking and refused to go any further:

werewolf xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Well, this monster could well have become a minor source of tourist revenue, particularly with the right people in the right costumes. Unfortunately, though, the locals chose to shoot themselves in the foot.

Leave well alone?? Rake in the cash??  No. No. NO!

Let’s take the high risk strategy of going to look for “Old Stinker”, the moment the next full moon raises her beautiful head. Notice how the local councillor just can’t keep away, and his almost childlike faith in Hull Council:

“Now locals plan a werewolf hunt with cameras and recording equipment. Councillor Steve Wilson has offered to keep an incident log: “I am happy to keep a diary of sightings by people around here and report them to Hull Council.”

Just one step from the Stasi.

Local author Charles Christian said: “Old Stinker was actually said to be operating on the other side of the Yorkshire Wolds but it would be no distance at all for a large animal to get to Hull.”

What faith in the public transport system. Why, it’s probably run by Hull Council:

werewolf attack

Mike Covell, an expert in the supernatural, said: “No one really knows what to do. You can hardly pop down the local council office or police station and say you’d like to report a werewolf.”

Well, Mike, have I got news for you. That is exactly what everybody has been doing. On a discussion forum, watertight evidence was provided of previous werewolves in Yorkshire by “wmysteries90″:

“I had one witness claim they saw a huge dog which stood up, jumped over a fence and then run off with a cattle animal.(sic) Then his friend came forward to his fried stating he had seen a huge dog in the same area. (sic) A woman claimed she heard a strange howl. While a former military guy with an undisclosed area on the moors stated that few years back with a routine team in the middle of the night they had the sense of being watched by something.

Also there have been claims made by people around the moors stating that they have either seen or heard strange howls, growls.”

Indeed, the Daily Mail were to concentrate more fully on placing the “Barmston Drain Dog Destroyer” in its proper context, once they had established that the Werewolf Councillor was from the Labour Party.

Old Stinker, therefore, was supposed to haunt the “Wold Newton Triangle” (the what??), an area known for mysterious activity (really?):

wold newton triangle

“For centuries, tales have circulated of zombies, ghosts, and Old Stinker – a great hairy beast with red eyes, who was so called because he had bad breath…people would glimpse the rear lights of a car in front, but it would reveal itself to be the red eyes of a wolf.”

red eyes

How often that has happened to me. Although driving a 1994 Volvo I don’t catch up too many cars, or werewolves, for it to be a real problem. Well, it’s not as bad as ice or sudden banks of fog.

If you want to investigate further the question of “How gullible can people get?”, then this is a similar story, set in the same area, but harking back in the “Golden Age of Satanic Panic”.

werewol
My previous story about the “Barmston Drain Dog Destroyer” and the “Golden Age of Satanic Panic” was soon followed in the national press by the story of two people who saw what they thought was a puma type creature as they returned home along country lanes around Pershore in Worcestershire in the early hours of the morning:

puma

They suddenly saw a “muscular black animal” in the middle of the road. It was around one metre long and they were forced into an emergency stop. The creature circled the car and appeared to be about as tall as the car window. Its eye reflection was green. Frightened, the couple drove off, but not before they had noticed what they took to be the eyes of the creature’s mate hiding in the darkness of the hedgerow:

big cat

There have apparently been other sightings of puma type animals elsewhere in the county, at Evesham, Malvern and in the Malvern Hills.

Indeed, there are continuing reports of pumas or ABCs as they are called (Alien Big Cats) all over the country. In Leicestershire, for example, experts have said that there are two territories which overlap around the East Midlands Airport at Castle Donington. Rutland Water is included in one of them:

_38789095_bigcat300

Even I have seen one, while I was trying out my new “see in the dark” binoculars. I thought it was a fox at the time, but I now realise that foxes don’t have long curved tails, wide faces or big round ears. There are even videos of these killer cats. This one comes from AnimalInfoTV, who produce a great number of really interesting looking videos on a number of different subjects. I would commend them to you:

Going back to the “Puma of Pershore” though, what makes this news story quite extraordinary, however, is the fact that when the couple did a drawing of what they had seen, because a werewolf had been spotted near Hull around the same time, the consensus of opinion suddenly became that they had actually seen the “Worcestershire Werewolf” rather than the “Puma of Pershore”.

werewolf

Well, here is their drawing. Make your own mind up. “Worcestershire Werewolf”?? or the  “Puma of Pershore”??

sketch

I went to Pershore twitching once. It’s a really lovely place. It was to see a Black-throated Thrush, which was at the time, a mega-rarity:

HBW10-TUR-06

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A Twitch in 1817

A twitch doesn’t have to involve a bird. It is becoming increasingly fashionable to twitch animals. I have twitched a Steller’s Sea Lion on the Brisons, a pair of sea stacks just off Cape Cornwall, which is in Cornwall, funnily enough. And I succeeded in my quest. I saw this amazingly lost creature, who, by rights, should have been sunning herself in Vladivostock Harbour. I saw her, on and off, for several years, in actual fact:

Steller Sea Lion
I have twitched a Bottle-nose Dolphin in Gainsborough in Lincolnshire. It frequented the River Trent at the back of of a supermarket car park in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, Netto, if I remember correctly. It was there from January 25th-30th 1999, although I turned up on January 31st. And guess what? Well, this is all that I saw:

beaten

The following account is of a twitch for a sea-creature. It took place in the summer of 1817 in Massachusetts, and this is just one of a huge number of accounts. It came from Colonel TH Perkins on August 15th 1817. I have made one or two changes to make it easier for a modern reader to understand but other than that, there are no differences:

“The first appearance was in the summer of 1817, in the harbour of Cape Ann:

a Cape-Ann

And here is the more modern, less charming version:

a goolge YES easrthzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

And conceivably, this map is the best one for all the English people who think Boston is a market town in Lincolnshire:

map ann (2)

Back to the story:

“I visited Gloucester with Mr Lee. On our way down we met several persons returning, who had already visited the place, and they reported to us that he had not been seen for two or three days past. We, however, continued our route to Gloucester, though with fears that we should not be rewarded with a sight of the monster which we sought.

I had already satisfied myself, from conversation with several persons who had already seen him, that the reports in circulation were not mere fables. All the townspeople were, as you may suppose, on the alert, and almost every individual, both great and small, had had sight of him, at a greater or less distance:

etching

“The weather was fine, the sea perfectly smooth, and Mr Lee and myself were seated on a point of land which projects into the harbour, about twenty feet above the level of the water, from which we were distant by about fifty or sixty feet. Seated in this way, I observed an agitation in the water at the entrance of the harbour, like that which follows a small vessel going five or six miles an hour through the water. As we knew there were no rocks where the water was this broken. I immediately said to Mr Lee that I had no doubt that what I had seen was the sea serpent in pursuit of fish. Mr Lee was not looking at the spot which I was talking about, and had not seen the foam of the water, the animal having immediately disappeared.
In a few moments after my exclamation, I saw on the opposite side of the harbour, at about two miles distance from where I had first seen, or thought I saw, the snake, the same object, moving with the rapid motion up the harbour, on the western shore”:

drawing (2)

“As he approached us, it was easy to see that his motion was not that of the common snake, either on the land or in the water, but evidently the vertical movement of the caterpillar. As nearly as I could judge, there was visible at a time about forty feet of his body. It was not, to be sure, a continuous body, as from head to tail he was seen only three or four feet at a time. It was very evident, however, that his length must be much greater than what appeared, as, in his movement, he left a considerable wake in his rear. I had a fine telescope, and was within less than half a mile of him. The head was flat in the water, and the animal was, as far as I could distinguish, of a chocolate colour. I was struck with an appearance in the front part of the head like a single horn, about nine inches to a foot in length, and of the form of a spike. There were a great many people collected by this time, many of whom had already seen the serpent. From the time I first saw him until he passed by the place where I stood, and soon after disappeared, was not more than fifteen or twenty minutes”:

erp banded (2)

“I left the place fully satisfied that the verbal reports in circulation, although differing in detail, were essentially correct. I returned to Boston, and having made my report, I found Mrs Perkins and my daughters disposed to make a visit to Gloucester with me when the return of the animal should again be announced. A few days after my return I went again to Cape Ann with the ladies; we had a pleasant ride, but returned unsatisfied in the quest which drew us there.”

BRM2493-Sea-Serpent_lowres-2000x1616

This particular sea serpent was seen regularly around Cape Ann until 1819 at least. Indeed, the east coast of the United States seems to have been a good place for would-be sea serpent twitchers, with records dating back to 1638:

new_england_sea_serpentxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Don’t think I don’t have my own story to tell:

On October 25th 1988, I went to the Isles of Scilly to birdwatch. I crossed over on the ferry, the Scillonian. For two or three hours during the crossing, I remained on deck with my binoculars, eagerly scanning the storm tossed waves for seabirds.

Scillonian_III-01 xxxxxx

“At one point, I noticed what I took to be the head of a Grey Seal, which broke the surface perhaps a hundred metres away. It was dark in colour, and I could see a forehead, two eye sockets, and an obvious snout. I didn’t really think twice about it, and it remained there for perhaps two or three minutes. Then, suddenly, a Gannet flew directly above it, and I realised from a comparison of sizes that the head must be at least a metre and a half, if not two metres, across. And that means it cannot have been a seal !”

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Filed under Cornwall, Cryptozoology, History, Science, Twitching, Wildlife and Nature

The School Leprechaun

After reading all about gnomes, elves, pixies, fairies and such like, it should come as no surprise to hear that Wollaton is not the only place around Nottingham to have played host to fairies in recent times. Marjorie Johnson, the lady who saw fairies in her garden in Carlton was to become very famous in fairy circles. She wrote this best selling book:

fairy book

Here is a link to an account of fairies she saw in Nottingham, in Carlton to be more precise.

Belief in fairies persists still, even in our own time. When we went once to an isolated farm at Constantine in Cornwall, the farmer clearly believed that the huge ruined megalith in his bottom field was the home to fairy folk. He had seen their fairy lights on more than one occasion.

It is in Iceland that gnomes and fairies are taken most seriously. Over a half of Icelanders believe that these tiny entities are, at the very least, “possible”. They are thought to be from another dimension, usually making their homes inside huge boulders and outcrops of rock.

Known as huldufólk these beings are not regarded as trivial. Roads can be redirected on their behalf.

This report by Journeyman starts off in almost comic fashion, but does make some quite serious points:

This film by Torsten Scholl, aka “hatcast” has even more serious points to make:

This account by Richard Williams aka “rockuvages” is of the moment when the huldufólk seem to pop out of their own dimension:

Nowadays, we tend to see fairies and their like as something lovely and wonderful. This attitude has only come about since Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. Before that, fairies were considered by those who had regular contact with them to be malevolent beings who, if they were in any way annoyed, would readily kidnap adults, willingly do harm to them and, most of all, steal their babies, replacing them with changelings. This is why nowadays a lot of modern folklorists tend to equate ancient beliefs in fairies, with our current fondness for space aliens and little green men, who have continued in modern times to carry out all of these evil deeds:

green alien

Tales of fairies invariably involve abduction and poor innocent people forced to remain in Fairy Land, sometimes for ever. What difference is there between malevolent fairies holding people hostage in their realm and our modern tales of extra-terrestrial kidnap?

Other parallels are there. Some types of fairies, such as leprechauns and goblins, have green as their favourite colour, just as some aliens are literally “little green men”. Only medical experiments seem to be absent from the connections between the two groups, perhaps because in sixteenth and seventeenth century Ireland or Cornwall, there was no health care available and advanced medicine was not a subject on anybody’s mind. Only ointments and magic potions were on offer back then, and these simple remedies do figure from time to time in the more ancient tales of fairies.

Here is something more modern, a tractor beam, although some would argue that those fairy lights, leading innocent people out onto the marsh to drown or be abducted, did pretty much the same job:

uftgyu
This modern cartoon by “grackle” sums up best our ancient knowledge of fairies, who were by no means the magnanimous and well intentioned Peter Pan heroes of Walt Disney’s world.

Certainly, the Cornish and the Irish, for example, seem to view “piskies” or “the little people” as, at best, potentially tricky and at worst possibly, evil, and similar figures are met with in every human culture across the globe.

In North America, there are Ishigaq (Inuits), Jogahoh (Iroquois), Nimerigar (Shoshone) and the Yunwi Tsundi (Cherokee). In Hawaii, there are the Menehune, and for the Maoris, the Patupaiarehe. In Europe, there is a host of names such as the Brownies, the Kobolds in Germany, GoblinsGremlins, Pixies, Leprechauns and the Swedish “Di sma undar jordi”, who are clearly almost identical with the huldufólk of Iceland:

307228-mythical-creatures-troll

Let’s finish with a quite extraordinary piece of film.

All over the world, of course, as well as “the little people”  there are the enormously large people. In Nepal, the “yeti”, in North America, “Bigfoot”, in Western Europe “the Wildman” or “Wodewose”. In Iraq, he was represented by “Enkidu” the companion of Gilgamesh. In Israel, he was “Goliath” whom David slew:

golithyuj

In Australia, the enormously large person is called the “Yowie” and he is very fierce indeed.

The huge Yowie, though, has a tiny equivalent. To the white man he is “Brown Jack” but to the blackfella he is the “Junjudee”. He is tiny and here is a purported film of one:

Any film by TheRusty222 is well worth watching. He tries to film Yowies but most of all, he ventures deep into the realm of the thickest parts of the Australian bush, an environment of staggering beauty if you ever watch one of his films.
Talking of “Little People”, a few weeks ago, I bought a postcard of the High School taken in 1927. I was intrigued to see what is obviously the “School Leprechaun” busy guarding the front of the school:

lep[rechaun 1

You can see his right hand, his jacket of Irish Green, his little fawn breeches and his lovely top hat. Here he is, slightly enlarged:

lep[rechaun 2

Do you see his mutton chop whiskers? And what about little Pumpkin Head, next to him, with his tiny hat and his little legs and boots?

Both photographs, courtesy of the Pareidolia Brothers.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Cryptozoology, History, Literature, Nottingham, Personal, The High School

Drawing the Beast of Gévaudan

When the Beast of Gévaudan first appeared in 1764, people were unable to identify it. That is why it was immediately christened, in Occitan, the local language of the area, “La Bèstia”.  They did not see it as a wolf, but as some unknown monster that devoured little children. The newspapers of the time wanted accurate drawings of it, and it is now known that these two were the first images to appear:

1764 preface

They are not mirror images of each other (but it’s close. Look at the tongue.):

1764 page 2

It is believed that no direct witness of the creature has left us a drawing. No artist ever saw the Beast. What did happen, though, it is believed, is that the artists did, on some occasions, draw the creature under the direct instructions of a witness. The problem, though, is that, if this ever did occur, we do not know which of the drawings was done in this way, or, if there was more than one, which is the most accurate.

And don’t forget. There was a language barrier between the shepherds and the shepherdesses and the artists. The latter spoke French but the locals spoke Occitan, an age old language which sounds  like a mixture of French, Italian and Spanish. I myself have heard it spoken at a  local market, but I could not understand it at all.

Every single illustration of “La Bèstia” has some accuracy in it. These first two both have some of the features of a big cat which is a detail present, on and off, through many of the descriptions given by frightened witnesses. The thrashing tail, the attacks on the head and neck, the lowering of the body, and the rapid movements from side to side before it lunged for the victim are all very feline.

Here we can see that frequently mentioned black stripe between head and tail:

666666 (2)

It may have had a long tail which could be thrashed around, and even, possibly, used to strike people:

Gevaudanwolf xxxxxx

It may have had a white chest, which means that it was, categorically, not a wolf:

bete-du-gevaudanzzzzzzz

It possibly walked short distances on two legs, again, showing its white chest:

11111xxxxxxx

It might have been extremely large. Witnesses all agree that it was as large as a year old calf, or a “cob”  horse:

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Both claws and hooves have been mentioned by witnesses. Hooves, possibly because it was a creature of the Devil:

unknoiwn 3

Here is another cat-like individual:

unknoiwn 8

Perhaps it may have had a rather prehistoric look to it, but it still went straight for the head:

la-fantastique-bete-du-gevaudan_4099155-L

It may have been extremely strange looking, even if it were a new unknown species:

untitled 1

It may, again, have been a strange canid, but one which invariably went for the head, rather than the more usual canid attacks on the rear legs and lower back:

page 72

The creature is sometimes depicted alongside the children which were its normal prey items. There may have been two monsters, or possibly even a small, scattered breeding population:

unknoiwn 7

Perhaps it was a peculiar breed of dog. A super killer greyhound:

Bête_du_Gévaudan_(1764)

It may have been, as Abbé Pourcher thought, a scourge sent by God, un fléau de Dieu. As we have already seen, though, many people believed the monster had been sent by Satan himself. For this reason, they often mentioned hooves. On occasion the head had the look of a satanic goat about it:

yes 11 (2)

Perhaps the illustration was one of the very first ever to be drawn, and the artist had little or nothing to go on, except, perhaps, some peculiar connection with Scottish tartan:

yes weird (2)

Simplistic, but still with a bushy tail and a stripe along the crest of its back. Perhaps the monster appeared faintly human in its movements. This is certainly an extremely lascivious expression on its face:

yes q

The church and stone buildings of the region have not changed in 350 years:

yes statue 7 yes (2)

And the brave young girl, Marianne, the spirit of France, fights on and on, against any creatures that may come along:

yes statue 2 (2)

She will never surrender:

yes statue with spear yes (2)

Not to any kind of monster that may threaten her country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Cryptozoology, France, History, Science, Wildlife and Nature