Tag Archives: Hodsock Priory

A Werewolf in Cambridgeshire. Run away!!

In three previous blog posts, I discussed “Shuck”, the huge phantom black dog, who for centuries has roamed, for the most part, the fields, fens and even beaches of East Anglia. I showed, though, that the cryptic canid has also walked on occasion in Nottinghamshire, visiting churchyards and graveyards. He frequents ancient tracks and pathways and, in particular, a lonely footpath down by the River Trent in Beckingham. He has been seen in isolated Crow Lane in South Muskham and, in recent times, on a pitch black Blyth Road, near Hodsock Priory:

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In my third blogpost, I tried to establish a link with the American Wolfmen such as the “Beast of Bray Road”:

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These are hairy bipeds with canid features who, like Black Shuck, seem to occur “near freshwater; on hills; at boundary areas such as roads; and on or near burial grounds, and military zones, and all types of sacred areas around the world”:

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These are the words of Linda S Godfrey in her wonderful book, “Real Wolfmen: True Encounters in Modern America”:

book cover linda

After receiving this book as a Christmas present in 2013, I received an equally interesting publication in 2014. It was “Haunted Skies Volume One” by John Hanson and Dawn Holloway:

vol 1

As they say on the cover, the book is part of a whole series telling the entire story of British UFOs. In total, there are ten different volumes and they are, quite simply, an absolute tour de force, a labour of love which runs from 1940 to the present day. So far, I have bought a number of other volumes although I am still a little bit short of the full set (as they say).

What has this got to do with Shuck you may ask? Does this mean that the Beast of Bray Road has moved kennel to England?

Well, in a way, it does. This is Volume 5:

vol 5 cover

This volume runs from 1972-1974. It contains a tale told about RAF Alconbury, a USAAF airbase in Cambridgeshire, which has a number of claims to fame as being haunted by a variety of different spectres. Here is a large scale map of the area. Look for the orange arrow which indicates the airbase:

alconbury map

And here is a close up. The orange arrow is in the same place on both maps:

larg scale alconbury

The amazing tale told to John Hanson and Dawn Holloway, the authors of the book, by an eyewitness, is that a mechanic was:

“carrying out some routine work to an F-5 Aircraft, parked on the runway, a job that should have been completed in an hour. When he failed to make the telephone call, requesting a lift back from the Hangar, a search went out to find him. They found him sitting in the aircraft, as white as a sheet, with the canopy closed. Although I asked him, many times, what it was that he had seen, he declined, saying that it had frightened him so much that he refused to go anywhere near that location again. We discovered, from another source, that the man had seen a terrifying hairy humanoid, which had walked past the aircraft.”

This is a Northrop F-5 aircraft:

Northrop F-5E

This is a second eyewitness account which they quote:

“I also heard about an incident involving two mechanics, working on an aircraft parked on the north side of the base, one of whom was so frightened by the appearance of a strange hairy creature that he jumped into the cockpit of the aircraft and refused to get out for some time.”

ALCONBURY-some of

It is entirely impressive that the two co-authors should then discover a third corroborative tale about two USAAF personnel:

“Sergeants Randi Lee and Jackson…. one night, while on patrol with their two dogs, they saw some movement near the towers and called the Main Gate to check if any workmen were still on-site…. As they approached the tower, they came face-to-face with a hairy figure. The dogs stopped in their tracks, absolutely terrified, frantically trying to get away…..The truck arrived just in time to see the creature, whatever it was, climbing over the security fence, where it was last seen entering North Woods.”

It is difficult to imagine how much more thorough these two authors could have been at this point. They manage to find yet another witness to this bizarre tale:

“One foggy night my father received a radio call; there was an intruder within the perimeter…. He tore out in his truck and sped towards the scene…. Seeing a figure in the fog, he pulled over, thinking it was one of his guards. He rolled down his window and was screamed at, full in the face, by what can only be described as a man-like, bipedal creature. My father nearly wet himself in fear. In an instant the thing ran off at incredible speed and my father drove after it. Within moments it had sped past another of the guards….my father and these men witnessed this creature make fantastic, running bounds across the grounds before leaping over two tall, well-spaced barbed wire fences in a single bound. It disappeared into the surrounding woods.”

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Many similar and confirmatory accounts can be found on the Internet of this interesting, yet frightening creature. Just as I have quoted John Hanson and Dawn Holloway, some of the websites are clearly redolent of Nick Redfern’s blog post of 2007, “Do Werewolves Roam The Woods Of England?
One of the contributors, a gentleman who calls himself “wes” recounts his own version of the Alconbury creature:

“I encountered a werewolf (lack of better description) in England in 1970, I was 20 years old when I was stationed at RAF Alconbury. I was in a secure weapons storage area when i encountered it. It seemed shocked and surprized to been caught off guard and I froze in total fright. I was armed with a .38 and never once considered using it. There was no aggression on its part. I could not comprehend what I was seeing. It is not human. It has a flat snout and large eyes. Its height is approx 5 ft and weight approx.200 lbs. It is very muscular and thin. It wore no clothing and was only moderately hairy. It ran away on its hind legs and scurried over a chain link fence and ran deep into the dense wooded area adjacent to the base. I was extremely frightened but the fear developed into a total commitment of trying to contact it again. I was obsessed with it. I was able to see it again a few weeks later at a distance in the wooded area. I watched it for about 30 seconds slowly moving through the woods”

werewolf xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxvvvvvvvbbbbbbb

At the website “Winter Spirits” a person called “earth_spirit” recounts how he too was in the RAF:

“In 1978 I was stationed with the US Air Force in West Germany and was sent to RAF Alconbury in England for a 30 day TDY (temporary duty.) When I mentioned to a co-worker I was going to RAF Alconbury, he told me that he had been there in 1972 when one of the aircraft mechanics in his squadron had been found late one night in the back seat of an RF-4C Phantom jet, supposedly after he had died of “fright.”  The story was that a subsequent investigation revealed unexplained scratches on the glass of the canopy of the jet, and this started a rumor circulating that the unfortunate crew chief had been the victim of what came to be known as the infamous “hard stand monster.”

You could be forgiven for misinterpreting the “hard stand monster” but clearly, there is something behind these stories.

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In a fascinating blog, well worth a look, written by Sarah Hapgood and entitled “sjhstrangetales”, the testimony of yet another witness is quoted:

“Dennis Prisbrey, stationed here between 1973/5, told of colleagues seeing a “creature” near the north side of the airfield. One sighting of it scared a colleague so much that he jumped into the cockpit of an aircraft and refused to get out. The creature was also seen climbing over the security fence, and entering the North Woods. Wesley Uptergrove also saw it, and said he tried to pursue it in a truck. He described it as 5ft 9″ tall, with human-like eyes, a flat nose, and large ears.”

With so many websites discussing the unusual, the ghostly and the frightening, it is again just a matter of establishing some kind of average between the many repeated tellings of what is obviously the same incident. One intriguing explanation is offered by Nick Redfern with the full backing of Linda S.Godrey. Clearly based on the fact that these werewolves are often seen near military bases, it is well worth five minutes of your time. This individual is my favourite. He looks as if he waiting for his library book to be stamped:

werewolf xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Whatever happens though, you could do lot worse than to take a look at the many volumes of “Haunted Skies” by John Hanson and Dawn Holloway. They are an unbelievable set of books, although “unbelievable” is perhaps not the best choice of words when discussing UFOs.

 

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Hallowe’en Nights (3) Black Shuck in Notts

In my first blog post about the cryptic canid, it becomes perfectly obvious that for hundreds of years Black Shuck has been seen fairly frequently throughout all of East Anglia. Not only that, but he can still be seen there right up to the present day. Well known folklorist Ivan Bunn continues even now to find regular examples of Black Shuck’s appearances in our 21st-century world.

And so too, Black Shuck has been seen throughout the whole of the country. One website details 329 different places in the British Isles where spectral dogs of various size, shape, colour and attitude have cropped up over the centuries.
But has this famous dog ever been seen in our own county of Nottinghamshire? By careful searching on the Internet, I have managed to find just three examples. Read them through very carefully and make sure that you follow all the directions on the maps provided. There will be a test at the end!
The first tale is of a little village which now has the high-speed A631 dual carriageway constructed around it to the south west, allowing the peaceful, quiet community to preserve its rural tranquillity. Centuries ago, though, the main road from Sheffield to Gainsborough went right through the very middle of the village, which, with the frequent passage of mail coaches, it may well have been livelier than it is now….

bigger scale

Perhaps this is why Beckingham’s most famous phantom, a colossal Black Dog, always keeps faithfully to his old tried and trusted route. The animal is reputed to be up to five feet tall and has dull red eyes that burn with an inner fire like the glowing embers on a coal fire
black_shuck_by_mearcu-d3lgpnd ccccccThe Black Dog invariably leaves from the churchyard of Beckingham’s parish church of “All Saints” which dates mostly from the thirteenth century, although the exterior is apparently fifteenth century.

church beck

The Cryptic Canid leaves the little church with its square tower and makes his way, presumably down Walkeringham Road and then Station Street, before finally leaving the village along the Old Trent Road, walking purposefully out towards the marshy water meadows.
This map shows the church with its square tower and the red arrow points to the Old Trent Road.
better backingham
Some of the streets are indicated on this larger scale map. The red arrow points to the church…

at long last

The Black Dog always leaves the Old Trent Road (yellow on the map) near the Old Shipyard and then sets off along the old path to the south, alongside the old River Trent. The red arrow points to the riverside route he invariably uses.

red varrow

Black Shuck though, for it is no less than he, is not a dog to mess with.  Anybody who tries to get in his way or to prevent his progress from church to river does so very much at their own risk. A good many years ago a man from Gainsborough attempted to stop Black Shuck by refusing to stand aside and allegedly asking it what it was doing. The dog looked with great anger at this foolish person, who was later found unconscious in the middle of the road. He was paralysed down one side of his body for the rest of his life and never recovered the feelings in his arm or leg.

A second Black Shuck has occurred not too far from Newark-on-Trent. In the Nottingham County Library there is a manuscript dating back to as recently as 1952 which records the words of a Mrs Smalley, who was then about seventy five years old.
Her grandfather, who was born in 1804 and died in 1888, used to have occasion to drive from Southwell to Bathley, a village near North and South Muskham, in a pony and trap. This involved going along Crow Lane, which leaves South Muskham opposite the school and goes to Bathley. Along that lane he frequently, used to see a large Black Dog trotting alongside his trap.
Here is a map of South Muskham, with all the landmarks in the story visible.

better map soujkth muskbhanmThe red arrow points towards Crow Lane, which goes westward  to Bathley. In the other direction, to the east, it runs, typically, past a church with a square tower.

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St. Wilfrid’s Church in South Muskham is medieval but seems to have taken a long time to construct. The square tower, therefore, has its lowest section of thirteenth century construction, the middle section is fourteenth century and the top is fifteenth century. One of the more interesting features are the carved ends of the wooden benches in the chancel, which include a number of “hideous monsters” and one crab.

“Round about 1915, Mrs Smalley’s son Sidney, used to ride out from Newark on a motorcycle to their home at Bathley. He went into Newark to dances and frequently returned at about 11 o’clock at night. He too often saw a black dog in Crow Lane; he sometimes tried to run over it but was never able to. One night Sidney took his father on the back of the motorcycle especially to see the dog, and both of them saw it.”

Overall, South Muskham is an area with a good deal of water in the landscape.

south musk is wetzzzzz

The third story is considerably more modern. It was 2.14 a.m. on May 11th 1991 and….

“Victoria Rice-Heaps had been visiting her boyfriend in Worksop, and was on her way home when she had her unusual experience. It was a journey she had made “thousands of times”. She wasn’t particularly tired, having slept earlier in the evening. Making her way out along the Blythe Road, she soon left the comforting glow of the streetlights for the dark country roads beyond.
After a mile or so, near to Hodsock Priory, Victoria saw illuminated in the beam of her headlights about 150 yards ahead “two red dots.”

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“I slowed right down to a crawl as I saw a huge black dog. It looks like something from hell! It had very shiny fur and a short coat; the nearest thing I’ve seen to it in size was a Great Dane, but it had a good 18 inches over a dog of that breed. Its ears were erect and it appeared to be dragging something quite large across the road.”

Victoria had lived with dogs all her life, but had seen nothing like this creature.
As she waited for the dog to get out of the way of her Fiat Panda, the headlights of another vehicle announced its approach from the opposite direction. The driver of the red Montego estate, evidently seeing her at a standstill, pulled up and wound down his window to ask if anything was wrong. Victoria, having wound down her own window, asked the man if he could see the dog in front of her car.

“At this moment he shouted “Oh Jesus!” and sped off into the night. I looked in front of me again and to my joy and amazement the creature had vanished. I drove home as fast as I could. I did a little research later and found a tumulus nearby, a river and an old boundary as well as the priory”.

There is a lot less exact geographical detail for this particular story and I have therefore made one or two “best guesses”.
Victoria was driving north out of Worksop along the B6045 in the direction of Blyth. This road is fairly straight and leads quickly to the Hodsock area. The very narrow yellow road to the west of the B6045 is the turn off to Hodsock Priory, which is a big country house, rather than anything of particularly religious significance. In Nottinghamshire, it is very famous for its magnificent displays of snowdrops in the very first days of Spring.
B6045

My contention, though, is that Victoria only saw a single snapshot moment of Black Shuck’s usual journey. I believe that the huge dog would have started his journey in the northern section of the B6045.  Here is a map with the middle of Blyth and the old unnamed northern section of the B6045 (see arrow). It leads past a church with the square tower, St Mary and St Martin.
wet blyth

Shuck’s exact point of departure would surely have been the churchyard of this ancient church which dates from as early as 1088, when it was a part of a Benedictine monastery. Clearly, if you are driving down the B6045 in a saloon car at 40-50 m.p.h. in the darkness of the night, you will see Black Shuck for a lot less time than if you are on foot, or in a pony and trap, or even on a slow motorbike back in 1915.

The one thing I would really like to know, though, is what “quite large something”  Black Shuck was dragging across the road. And the driver of the red Montego, how had he not seen the ghostly dog when he first stopped? He was going in the opposite direction to Victoria, and Black Shuck was right in front of her car. The driver of the red Montego must have been parked almost directly next to the “Hound from Hell”. Indeed, she actually asked him if he could see the dog in front of her car.

When he apparently and finally saw this enormous beast, he shouted out in terror and drove off into the night. Why? He left a defenceless young woman behind on her own. Did he see what Black Shuck was dragging? Given the Hell Hound’s connection with the imminent death of those who see it, did the man see his own ghostly corpse?
If you have followed the directions and maps carefully, you will not find my next question a particularly difficult one!

“What is the connection between all three of the Black Dogs seen in Nottinghamshire?”

Well, if you have paid attention, you will have realised the elements which occur and recur throughout all three stories.

There is always a church, and the Ordnance Survey map shows that it is always a church with a square tower. That church of course, will have a graveyard around it. Black Shuck then follows a route which is always a very ancient one, rather than opting for the new bypass or the new dual carriageway. It is always a road which has been there for centuries, almost as if he has been following that path for that same amount of time. And as the road continues away from the church, it will gradually become more and more lonely and isolated. At the same time it will lead through a landscape which contains enormous amounts of water, either in the form of lakes, rivers or streams. In one case, namely that of Beckingham, the road leads to the wettest place of all. This is an area of riverside water meadows, which have now been taken by the RSPB to form an official wetland nature reserve.

rspb reservezzzz

Black Shuck makes his departure from this route not only at an old shipyard, but he also sets off southwards alongside the River Trent itself. As if to prove that this is the strongest manifestation of Black Shuck in the county, the phantom animal will pass an ancient hill which is called “Black Island”. This may have been a tumulus in the dim and distant past. Somewhere as flat and wet as this area is certainly a strange place for a completely natural hill.

Victoria Rice-Heaps mentions a tumulus near the B6045, but I have been unable to trace it, although I have not visited the area personally. This does not mean that it is not there, of course. But there is a “Hodsock Red Bridge”, red with the colour of Black Shuck’s eyes, perhaps? And what is “Black Screed”? Nowadays, a screed is “a levelled layer of material (e.g. cement) applied to a floor or other surface.” Earlier than this, it was “a fragment cut from a main piece”, and then “a torn strip”. Was it called “Black Screed” because it was connected with Black Shuck and being “torn to shreds”?
I was delighted to find all these various connections, because they fit in perfectly with the book “Real Wolfmen: True Encounters in Modern America” by Linda S Godfrey. She provides a key quotation about the appearance of spectral canids. And this quotation applies not only to North East Nottinghamshire, but also to the state of Wisconsin in the north eastern part of the United States.

I will be looking at all these various connections and trying to explain why they are so important in another blog post in the future.

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