Category Archives: Cryptozoology

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.

hqdefault

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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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:

5555555sssssss

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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Jean Grin, not a nice man


As well as the long list of “Beasts” who seem to have munched their way through the apparently very, very, tasty peasants of France from 1400-1850, or thereabouts, I have also discovered the existence of at least one “Ogre” who was, to put it mildly, not a very nice man (or ogre) at all. His story is told, in exactly the same words, on a couple of websites that I have found. The first is designed to promote tourism in the wonderfully picturesque and unspoilt region of Lozère, which is here:

lozere map xxxxxxxx
The other website shows the availability of holiday cottages in this particularly beautiful area of a particularly beautiful country.

The tale of the Ogre is told by André Arnal, an author with his own page on Amazon France.

The story is too long to translate in its entirety, but I have summarised it for any monster fans who do not read French:

Jean Grin was an Ogre and he lived in a ravine called Malbouche, in what is now a hovel of stones with a collapsed roof. It is surrounded by pine trees and dry scrubland. Inside is a dark room right up against the very rock:

GROTTE-DANS-LE-RAVIN-DE-MALBOUCHE

It contains an oven where Jean Grin used to roast children to eat. Outside are piles of stones covered with soil, reputed to be the burial places of his victims:

house
Jean Grin had retreated to this hovel because of his inability to get along with his neighbours. Soon afterwards, young shepherds and shepherdesses began to disappear in the surrounding area:

scream woman

He was regarded as being a half-man, half-beast, because he had lived for such a long time out in the wild. Everybody knew that he loved to kill and eat his victims. Terror soon spread throughout the region:

ogre

People said that he was a monster, or a man dressed in a skin. His eyes were red, very red and he could be seen approaching from a long way away. From one village to another people said that he was both a werewolf, a monster and a devil, all at the same time, with those awful, glittering, bright red eyes:

redeye

Jean Grin only attacked weak people or children. In just six months, from June to December, 1799, this monster killed three victims before running away at prodigious speed. The locals thought he was a second Beast of Gevaudan, because he always attacked children and ate them.

The important noblemen of the area though, did not blame Jean Grin the Ogre, but rather the so-called Beast of Veyreau, an unknown creature of some kind which was also running amok in the region around this time, slaughtering young shepherds and shepherdesses.  The noblemen said that this mysterious animal was either a very large wolf, a lynx or a hyena. The ordinary peasants of the countryside, though, already traumatized by a succession of similar horrors, thought that it was a werewolf:

werewolf attack

Of all these dramatic events, with ogres, very large wolves, lynxes, hyenas and werewolves (the popular choice) all loose in the area at once, the collective memory of the local people has retained only the most fantastic details, which are perforce the most terrifying ones.

For them the Beast of Veyreau could only be Jean Grin, the wild man. On his shoulders weighed all the problems of the community. He was an ambiguous creature, half way between animal and man. Jean Grin took on the attributes of a savage, brutal wild man which no social norms could restrain. The skin of the beast that covered him transformed him into a magical, demonic creature:

ogre malb

Jean Grin was, according to others, the misunderstood and innocent victim of wild rumours and stories with absolutely no basis in fact. The people of the area found this wild man, therefore, a scapegoat for their suffering during these times of misery and famine. He became a guilty person that nobody would protect.

Who was Jean Grin really? Nobody knows! Whatever the case, this mysterious character, whether man or monster, was finally trapped and surrounded in his lair by a mob of over-excited women who, armed with pitchforks and sticks, dragged him to a neighbouring hamlet where he was burned alive in a white hot oven:

bigfoot

And popular memory had it that :

” When John Grin died, his skin leapt around on the ground ; and therefore he was the Devil. ”

With the death of Jean Grin, the population of the entire region felt liberated, as if order and morality had finally been re-established.

Entering into legend, Jean Grin still haunts the country of his misdeeds, as the all-devouring monster, the ogre who seized and ate children.”

As background information, you should not forget though, that at this time, namely in 1799, this particular area of France, as was mentioned above, was already experiencing the ravages of the Beast of Veyreau. I wrote a more detailed article about this animal which was published on January 16th 2018
Basically, it was a creature which was generally considered to be either a wolf or some other unknown canid. It was a beast which filled all the local inhabitants with great fear:

warg_by_irkis-d5oehlo xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

And certainly, the Beast’s behaviour was not good. He must have spent many an unhappy hour sitting on the naughty step, thinking very carefully about what he had done, and indeed, who he had devoured.
Any child that might meet the Beast, for example, stood a very good chance indeed of being carried off and eaten, first the liver and then the limbs. In the space of just six months, three victims were killed by this beast, including a boy of six.
This is the background, which might well lead us to interpret the story of Jean Grin in a number of different ways. It may well have been a story invented to attract tourists, like the Loch Ness Monster is thought by many to be:

-loch_ness_monster

There was, therefore, no such individual as Jean Grin. The whole thing was just an invented tourist trap.
Another slightly different approach would be to say that when the limbs of a six year old victim of the Beast of Veyreau were found hidden in the earth in the Malbouche Ravine, it was only too easy to look across at the nearby “hovel of stones with a collapsed roof” and attribute these ghastly unsolved murders to the person who had lived in the ruins shortly before. Harmless old weirdo, Jean Grin, who could then become transformed into an ogre, a supernatural figure.
Perhaps the tale of Jean Grin the Ogre was used to make up for the incompetency of whoever was in power now, ten years after the French Revolution. Perhaps serious questions were beginning to be asked about the value of this unbelievably massive political upheaval. The revolutionaries were palpably no more capable of capturing the Beast of Veyreau than the noblemen had been ten years before, in the bad old pre-revolutionary days of a Royal France. But if you blame all the gory deaths on Jean Grin the Ogre, though, and you know where he lives, then you can kill him and all your problems are solved.

Your inability to kill the real Beast of Veyreau very soon becomes a matter of minor importance. And if the Beast goes on to slaughter any more victims, just deny the events any publicity. If people continue to make an issue of it, put them in prison, or worse. Here is a lovely Ogre, drawn lovingly by Gustav Doré :

gusta v dore engraving

Another solution, a slight variation on the previous scenario, is that when nobody whatsoever seemed capable of catching the Beast of Veyreau, that apparent incompetence must have caused enormous frustration to everyone in the area. Perhaps a group of local mothers looked around the Malbouche Ravine on one particular occasion and were unable to locate any fierce animal. Acting as “a mob of over-excited women”, they then decided to take out their frustrations on the nearest passing weirdo. The ghastly fate of Jean Grin then just becomes a simple case of “strange eccentric in the wrong white hot oven at the wrong time”.

The situation is a little like the recent case of Christopher Jefferies, a retired teacher and the landlord of an unfortunate murder victim. He was perceived by the press to be a “dark, macabre, sinister villain” but a more accurate description might well have been “an innocent man wrongly accused of murder by the police”. Clearly, the eight newspapers he successfully sued were playing the part of the women of Veyreau.
There is just one more solution to the legend of Jean Grin. It may be a deeply seated racial memory, but that idea will have to wait for the future.

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

The Wolves of Paris

I have always thought that France was fairly unlucky as a country to have been ravaged over the centuries by various Beasts, the majority of which nobody has been able to identify with 100% certainty.  They have all been dismissed as merely oversized wolves, perhaps with attitude problems, but, somehow, I just cannot agree with that. Too many people who saw wolves perhaps three or four times a week were completely puzzled when they saw the Beast of Gévaudan, for example:

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Or when they saw the Beast of Benais or the Beast of Sarlat or the Beast of Auxerrois/ Trucy or the others whose individual blogposts I have not yet launched out into “Le Monde du Blogging”. Creatures such as the Beast of Lyonnais or the Beast of Cévennes/Gard/Vivarais or the Beast of Caen and Chaigny or the Beast of Orléans or the Beast of Veyreau. The Beast of Cinglais or the Beast of Gâtinais. The blood splattered list goes on.
What I did not realise, though, is that there are completely documented and wholly accepted  historical accounts which detail attacks on Paris by wolves. And not just one wolf or even one pack of wolves. These were a whole series of large scale attacks by animals which broke all of our present day rules of how to be a politically correct wolf. They gleefully attacked and ate people. French people. Parisians:

Iberian Wolf alpha male feeding on deer, its mouth tinted with f

The first wolf invasion came during the winter of 1419-1420. Over Europe as a whole, the weather that winter was unbelievably cold. In the east, in what is now Turkey, the Bosphorus was completely frozen over and it was possible to walk over the ice from Üsküdar to Istanbul, which was then called Constantinople.

In Western Europe, virtually all of France had already been made wretched by the debilitating effects of the Hundred Years War which was to last, rather inaccurately, 116 years, from 1337–1453:

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The winter of 1419-1420 was equally severe over the whole country with very low temperatures and copious amounts of snow falling for prolonged periods. Paris was occupied by the English and the famine there was so great that unfortunate Parisians spent all of their daylight hours wandering around just searching for food. Numerous packs of wolves, as hungry as the people, advanced into the suburbs of the capital, which was now just a vast, frozen wasteland. The River Seine froze over and people could cross over from one side to the other without problem:

hiver-paris-1891

Two years later, in 1421-1422, there was another winter of  almost unbelievable severity. Wolves again entered the city. Every night they roamed around the streets of Paris, dug up recently buried corpses in the local graveyards and ate them. Anybody who tried to intervene was ripped to pieces and eaten, presumably, as a second course. Any wolves which were killed were strung up in the streets by their back legs the following morning, as a perhaps, slightly over optimistic warning to the rest.

It was so cold during this winter that bottles of wine, grape juice and vinegar froze in the cellars of Parisian houses and in some cases icicles formed on the vaults of cellar roofs. The River Seine, which had previously been in spate, froze over in less than three days and the ice quickly became firm enough to walk on. On January 12th 1422, there began in the French capital what was considered at the time to be the most severe spell of cold ever experienced by man.
The River Seine froze completely throughout its entire length. Wells froze after four days. This harsh cold persisted for almost three weeks. To compound Parisian misery, a couple of days before the beginning of this extremely cold weather, there had been a heavy snowfall. Because of the severity of this snow and the subsequent extreme cold, people were completely unable to work. Instead, they resorted to jumping games, playing ball and other vigorous activities to keep warm. The freezing conditions were so intense that the ice in the streets and public squares persisted until March 25th. It was so cold that on the heads of cockerels and hens, their combs froze:

cockerel

Equally surprisingly, there were no wolves reported in Paris during the extremely harsh winter of 1433-1434. The big freeze began on December 31st 1433 and then lasted for nine days short of three months. After this, another severely cold period followed, from March 31st 1434 until April 17th 1434. Just as a comparison, during this particular winter, the entire River Thames in England had frozen completely solid from December to February and remained completely impassable to shipping.
The wolves, though, were back with a vengeance in the second Parisian “Winter of the Wolf”, “L’Hiver du Loup”.  This came in 14371438, when the weather was equally, if not more, glacial.
The River Seine again froze over completely and packs of wolves wandered into the French capital, roaming the streets in search of food. Here is an anachronistic photo of the River Seine, frozen over in 1437.  How can you tell that, mon cher Sherlock?

Seine-gelée-paris-1893

In actual fact, there had been five unbelievably cold winters in succession over the whole of the European continent, and this was the last of the five. In England, the famine was so severe from 1437-39 that it was second only to the worst years ever in 1315-1317. These latter years were so wet that virtually all the nation’s crops failed and as many as 10% of the population may have eventually perished, in a decade characterised by crime, disease, mass death and cannibalism.

From 1437-1439, though, the winter cold was such that the English people in the countryside  were driven to attempt to make bread from fern roots and ivy berries. An unbelievably prudent Mayor of London had avoided this situation in the capital by importing a good supply of rye from Prussia. This may have been Mayor William Estfeld (1437) or Mayor Robert Large (1439) but personally I would go for Stephen Broun the Grocer (1438).

The only record of wolves in Paris which I have been able to trace during these three years of 1437-1439 came as early as the last week of the month of September 1439, when a desperate pack entered the city in search of fresh meat. They ripped out the throats of around fourteen people and duly devoured them. This occurred in the area between Montmartre in the north of the city:

monty

And the Porte Saint-Antoine in the east, right next to the Bastille prison:

antony

From 1450-1850, and possibly beyond that, into the early years of the twentieth century, the so-called Little Ice Age held sway over Europe. In 1457-1458 in Germany, for example, extreme cold froze the Danube River to such a thickness that an army of 40,000 men was able to camp on the ice. Two years, later during the winter of 1459-1460, the entire Baltic Sea was frozen and people could cross between Denmark, Germany and Sweden both on foot and on horseback:

basltiv

In France, the most severe weather came right at the beginning of the Little Ice Age during their very worst winter of 1449-1450. During this period the weather in France was very wet, extremely cold, and there were, consequently, huge quantities of snow. Indeed, the winter had begun as early as October 1449, when large numbers of olive trees began to die of the cold across the whole country.

It was during this exceptional winter that Paris became the victim of its most famous attack by man-eating wolves, “des loups anthropophages” (a very useful mouthful, should you ever need the phrase on holiday, or perhaps wish to prove your sobriety to a French police officer).

This pack, “The Wolves of Paris”, (Oh somebody, form a Heavy Metal Band…the name is crying out for it!), “Les Loups de Paris”, are thought to have killed and eaten large numbers of hapless human victims of all ages over the course of the winter. The animals initially entered Paris through the very large holes in its dilapidated city walls, which had been built some 250 years previously in the early 13th century. Of course, the original builder, King Philippe Auguste, had intended the walls to protect the city from human invaders rather than animal predators:

wolf pack one

The leader of the pack was a wolf named “Courtaud” which means “Bobtail”, as he had a tail which had been “docked” or shortened in some unknown incident. The descriptions of “Courtaud” at the time said that he was reddish in colour, not really a pigment that you would expect in a pure 100% common, Eurasian or Middle Russian forest wolf as the subspecies canis lupus lupus is variously known across Europe.  Suggestions have been made that its unusual colour was because it was an Iberian Wolf canis lupus signatus on its holidays from Spain, but there is a problem with that. As far as I can see, the Iberian Wolf is not particularly reddish. Here he is. Just look at that blood:

Iberian Wolf alpha male feeding on deer, its mouth tinted with f

According to the Wikipedia entry in the link above, canis lupus signatus has a lighter build than the European Wolf, some white marks on the upper lips, dark marks on the tail and a pair of dark marks in its front legs. There is no mention of red.
Don’t get me started, but my explanation for all those various Beasts (bêtes féroces, bêtes dévorantes ou bêtes anthropophages) which ravaged France over the centuries now comes into its own. I believe that they were members of a more aggressive, larger and now extinct species of wolf. If any unusual colour is mentioned for La Bête du Gévaudan, La Bête de Cinglais, La Bête de Caen, La Bête du Lyonnais or La Bête du Vivarais, it is always, exclusively, red. And, as we have just seen, Courtaud too had fur of this colour.

That is why I just do not believe that ordinary wolves were responsible for these blood spattered killings. And anyway, aren’t ordinary wolves a friendly looking bunch of chaps? They would not dream of eating anybody:

621166__the-wolf-pack_p

At first, there were around twenty wolves in the Parisian pack and they killed dozens of people. Gradually, wolf numbers built up, and the list of victims grew longer and longer. In the first month, supposedly around forty people perished, with a total kill for the whole winter of several hundred. They included, for the most part, anybody the wolves found wandering around the city at night, or any individuals who were outside sleeping rough. Inevitably, the inhabitants of Paris in that winter of 1449-1450 were swept by a feeling of total panic. Attempts to kill the wolves in their dens were totally ineffective. The wolves became so self confident that they often enjoyed a sing-song on their way back from the pub:

singing

Eventually, though, Parisians became increasingly enraged that it was no longer safe to walk the streets of their beautiful city. Furious at all the deaths, a brave group of volunteers found a couple of unwanted cows and killed them. Then they set off, dragging the mutilated corpses along behind them on ropes, so that they left a bloodied trail. Eventually, the wolves began to follow the scent, and slowly, slowly,  Courtaud and his bloodthirsty colleagues were lured and prodded into the very heart of the city:

map

When the wolves reached the Ile de la Cité (middle of the map), they arrived at the large square in front of the cathedral of Notre Dame, which is called the Parvis Notre Dame. Here they were trapped, surrounded by pre-prepared wooden barricades. Here is Notre Dame cathedral. See if you can spot the hunchback:Notre_Dame_de_Paris_DSC_0846w

And here is the large square in front of the cathedral, which is really quite extensive in size. I wouldn’t like to have chased a pack of wolves across here:

parvis-Notre-Dame

Finally, the angry Parisians stoned and speared the entire pack, until every single wolf was dead. Courtaud was paraded dead around the city in a cart, pulled by the triumphant crowd. Here is one of those bizarre modern art exhibitions which was held in Paris recently. I don’t suppose it’s Courtaud and his pals from 1449-1450, but I do hope that no real wolves died to make it:

leadership-defaillant xxxxxxxxxxx
I do not really believe that Paris’ historical scrapes with wolves have necessarily finished. Grey wolves were completely extirpated from France in the 1920s and 1930s, but ten years ago they started entering the country again from Italy. There are now around 300 wolves in France and the farmers allege that they have killed more than 6,000 sheep in the last twelve months. The woods around Paris are well stocked with deer and boar and they would make an ideal hunting ground for wolves. Indeed, this year, wolves have been sighted just 40 miles from the city:

wolves
Presumably preparing the Parisian populace for the latest lupine invasion, there are a number of different books available, all of which are all entitled “The Wolves of Paris”:

The first is by Michael Wallace:

“It’s the winter of 1450 and Paris is in a panic. A pack of ravenous wolves is loose in the city, feasting on human flesh. Lorenzo Boccaccio is summoned by a Dominican inquisitor who….”

The second is by Daniel P Mannix and a reviewer promises:

“an extraordinary story with verve and deft pacing. In the reading of what is a tale of high drama, building remorselessly to the climax…”

After that remorseless climax, where next, but the boxset by Lance Roddick, also available in separate sections:

gay wolves of paris

One of the sections has a wonderful review:

“The book started off talking about the hard times France was going through.”

You don’t say!

If you can, always finish a blogpost with a song. And what else could it be except…

 

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