Tag Archives: Yorkshire

The Glossy Ibis ; a rare bird in Victorian Nottinghamshire

Glossy Ibis is a bird from warmer, southern climes such as the Mediterranean. Even nowadays, it is quite a rare species in the county:

glos ibis

On October 27, 1909, a single bird was shot by Fred Smith at Misson in the very north eastern corner of the county, almost in Yorkshire. This latter county had, for reasons unknown, received an influx of at least fourteen birds during this month of October 1909.  The orange arrow marks the spot. The county boundary with Yorkshire, to the north west, is indicated by the perforated line and must be only a few hundred yards away:

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Two interesting letters to Joseph Whitaker tell the story.

Dear Sir,
I have the pleasure of dropping you a line in reply to yours, duly received. A man named Fred Smith, who I fear is a shocking poacher, shot the bird, Glossy Ibis, in question. His wife took it to a game dealer, at Doncaster, whose name is Borrill, his shop being in St Sepulchre Gate . He gave her the large sum of one shilling for it, after endeavouring to get it for sixpence.
A doctor bought it from Borrill and is having it stuffed for the museum. I am sorry to have forgotten the doctor’s name, but no doubt the game dealer would tell you if you wrote him. You will forgive me, I hope, for not knowing your book.
I also love birds and used to keep a great many – once I had 46. We still have a few in a good-sized aviary in a greenhouse and my little daughter aged 11  is much interested in birds and has lately acquired several volumes at a cost of £3.10 shillings on the subject.
Yours faithfully,
FW Keane

Glossy_Ibis_1700_e

Joseph Whitaker followed the clues and two months later, he received further information from Dr Corbett himself:

9, Priory Place,
Doncaster
11. 11. 09

Dear Sir,
Mr Borrill showed me your letter re-the Glossy Ibis. All I know of it is that it was exposed in his shop with other wildfowl & I was, fortunately for me, the first to “spot” it & purchase it for the local museum of which I am the curator. If ever you are in Doncaster I shall be pleased to show it to you.
Yours truly,
HH Corbett

Anybody who missed that dead specimen in Doncaster in 1909 had a very long wait to see another Glossy Ibis in Nottinghamshire. In the winter of 2013-2014, a single bird was seen in a flooded roadside field next to the Peugeot Garage in Lowdham, near to the River Trent in the south of the county. southern Nottinghamshire:

lowdham

Most people who wanted to see a Glossy Ibis were able to watch this particular individual which was very amenable and reliable in its appearances. It attracted a steady stream of admirers, and was very easy to see::

Watching an Ibis copyright a

A more spectacular species of Ibis to occur in  Nottinghamshire in the future might well be the Sacred Ibis. This bird normally lives in sub-Saharan Africa, but, in actual fact, there is a healthy feral population in western France. It would not be outrageous for them to cross the Channel:

Ibis

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Werewolves in Yorkshire: Ee bah gum !

I have written a good deal, some would say too much, about the monsters which terrorized France between 1500 and the end of the nineteenth century. The most conservative zoologists say that the so-called monsters were just wolves behaving badly. Other more daring individuals say they were cave hyenas or dire wolves or waheelas or whatever:

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I personally think that they were some kind of Superwolf which was like generally pretty much like an ordinary wolf in appearance, but with enough differences in behaviour to stand out from the rest. Just enough for the French peasant of 1764-1767 to think to himself, “C’était comme un loup, mais ce n’était pas un loup.”
What I have never imagined as the solution to this blood spattered conundrum is the werewolf. In French, it is the Loup-garou:

werewolf

The Americans in those areas of the USA which have a French heritage call it the Rougarou, rather as if somebody in 1700 had slightly misheard the word. Given that the Rougarou allegedly lives in the bayou and perhaps makes a “Wooo-hooo” call, I have always been somewhat surprised that no aspiring songwriter has ever taken up this subject.

werewolf attack
Nobody, though, would expect there to be any claims of werewolves, Loup-garou or Rougaroux in England, but, of course, there have been. I visited a forum recently, and they mentioned not one, but several.

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In two cases, back in the day, they were unknown creatures that attacked livestock and left a trail of blood and gore. That could have been anything, of course, perhaps even the first Alien Big Cats in the country but much more likely to have been just feral dogs, which regularly kill both people and livestock in far larger numbers than either wolves or werewolves:

feral
There was mention of a genuine werewolf near Ripon, Yorkshire, in the 1920s and then another in Edale, Lancashire, in 1925. It was described by the forum contributor, Jerry_B as “some large animal…tearing sheep to bits”. Sounds like it’s back to those feral dogs to me.
A bloodsucking equivalent of these two werewolves, allegedly, was the monster “on the prowl in 1905, at Badminton (Gloucester)”.
All of these seem extremely far-fetched in my humble opinion, but there is one interesting English werewolf tale which features very widely on the Internet.  For me though, it is a superb example of putting a couple of interesting facts together, and then using them to come to a fairly ridiculous conclusion. After that, everybody is more than happy to view this iffy conclusion as completely sensible and to consider it henceforth as hard fact. No need to bother about questioning the reasoning process. If you still don’t understand what I’m getting at, then treat yourself to the finest example I know of, namely any episode whatsoever in the “Ancient Aliens” TV series.

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First of all, though, for the sake of argument, I am willing to accept the supposition, for the moment, that wolves in England, centuries ago, were capable of behaviour that, nowadays, would be dismissed as being highly unlikely. That behaviour, of course, would be to treat human beings as a prey item and to attack them as a matter of ordinary routine:

621166__the-wolf-pack_p

Whatever you may think about that as a supposition, the author, John Harries, in his book “A Ghost Hunter’s Road Book”, states that things were so bad in Saxon times that, presumably at the behest of King Aethelstan:

“ about the year 940 AD  a hostel was built in the village of Flixton to shelter wayfarers in wintertime from attacks by wolves. At that period packs of the animals were not uncommon in the north of the country, and they were regarded with particular loathing because in times of severe weather they scavenged in graveyards.”

That statement is by no means outrageous, although it would be nice to know where the story originally came from. After all, there cannot be too many sources available to be cited when it comes to events more than a thousand years ago in 940 AD.
What tips it over the edge, though, is the next piece of rather iffy logic:

“Their cunning in discovering unprotected cattle, their boldness in attacking travellers, and their habit of suddenly descending in large numbers on an area where they had previously been unknown, all helped to give rise to the belief that the animals were not ordinary wolves but human beings who adopted a travesty of wolf shape by night.”

Wolves capable of finding “unprotected cattle”? How unusual! How unprecedented! I’m sure that has never happened in the northern states of the USA.

“Descending in large numbers” to a source of easy food? How extraordinary for a pack predator to be any good at doing that!

wolf bounding

The wolf is one of the most widespread and successful predators on the planet. So why do we need to explain his achievements as the work of werewolves? And not even ordinary werewolves at that…

“Their nocturnal exploits were supposed to be organised by a wizard whose innocent appearance enabled him to gather information about cattle, sheep and human wayfarers in taverns and market places.”

Look out! There’s a wizard about!! Careless talk costs lives!!

Flixton, by the way, is in Yorkshire, in the north of England, near Scarborough. Look for the orange arrow:

small scale

Here is a more detailed map:

large scale

Further details about the Flixton Werewolf were that he has glowing red eyes and a particularly bad body odour. (Don’t say it!) Reports supposedly began all over again in 1150, although by now he had grown a very long tail. In 1800 a stagecoach making its way to York was supposedly attacked by an apparent werewolf. In 1970, the Flixton Werewolf made an unsuccessful attempt at attacking a long distance lorry. Easy prey, of course:

Volvo_FH12

All these additional details, and a succession of precise dates, all help to give the story of a werewolf in Yorkshire veracity and credence, of course.

I was able to find mention on the Internet of just a two other werewolves in England, both of them in Devon (in the Valley of the Rocks in Lynton and the Valley of the Doones on Exmoor). On the latter occasion, a Victorian lady walking home in the dark saw a grey man with a wolf’s head, apparently stalking a large rabbit. The grey man disappeared when he was disturbed by a stag emerging suddenly from some nearby woodland.
Funnily enough, this apparently bizarre tale of the grey man with a wolf’s head sounds a lot more probable to me. If you have read my articles about Shuck and then the Wolfmen in the USA, you may recall that the almost cute behaviour of this grey man with a wolf’s head is much more typical of these cryptocanids:

michigan-dogman cccccccMuch more interesting than the Flixton Werewolf though, was the article I found by Nick Redfern about Wolfmen in the Cannock Chase German Cemetery. Nick’s approach is much more studied and cautious, and it is remarkable how close his “2+2” comes to equalling the “4” of Linda S.Godfrey in her description of such entities as the Beast of Bray Road and the Michigan Dogman. Reports mentioned by Nick include:

“Nick Duffy, of the West Midlands Ghost Club, reported that “The first person to contact us was a postman, who told us he had seen what he thought was a werewolf. He saw what he believed was a large dog, but when he got closer, the creature got on his hind legs and ran away.”

The next report was:

“A local scout-leader reported that: “It just looked like a huge dog. But when I slammed the door of my car it reared up on its back legs and ran into the trees. It must have been about six to seven feet tall.”

Both of these pieces of behaviour come much, much closer to the Dogmen and Werewolves of the USA. If you read Linda S.Godfrey, you will see that the majority of these monsters prefer not to attack but to run away:

book cover linda

Let’s finish with two things. Firstly a question. Why do you always have to shoot a werewolf with a silver bullet to kill it?

were lon

It’s because back in the days of muskets and similar hit-and-miss weapons, accuracy was way below today’s standards, as was killing power. One, albeit expensive, way to improve both was to discard the third rate bullets of the day, and make your own, rock hard, bullets from…you’ve guessed it! Silver.
And secondly I was unaware that when they were filming that classic tale “An American Werewolf In London”, the opening scenes on the Yorkshire moors were all filmed in Wales because “Yorkshire didn’t look Yorkshire enough”:

THE-GUYS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Black Shuck on the world stage

As I have said in two previous blogposts, Old Shuck, Black Shuck, or simply Shuck is the name of the huge, phantom black dog which roams, allegedly, the fields and fens of Norfolk and Suffolk. There are, of course, many places other than East Anglia where completely credible reports occur. We have already looked at three in Nottinghamshire, but almost every county in England has its own version of the creature, whether that be the “Bogey Beast” in Lancashire, the Lincolnshire “Hairy Jack”, the “Gallytrot” in Suffolk or the “Bargheust” in Yorkshire and the North.

hellhound zzzzz

They are often associated with electrical storms, such as Black Shuck’s appearance at first Bungay and then Blythburgh in Suffolk. More often, though, they are linked to places rather than meteorological conditions. Churchyards and graveyards at midnight are a favourite, as well as crossroads. Equally, if not more, favoured are dark lanes, ancient pathways and lonely footpaths in the countryside. Occasionally, there is a connection with water, such as a river, a lake or even a beach. Sometimes, such as at Launceston in Cornwall, it may be an ancient tumulus, as is the case with the….

“graves and prehistoric burials whose attendant hounds proliferate densely in Wiltshire and West Somerset on the grounds that they can be seen as passages downwards to the World of the Dead, and so also suicide graves and scenes of execution…”

(Theo Brown: ‘The Black Dog’, in Porter and Russell (ed.) ‘Animals in Folklore’ (1978).”

Likewise, the Black Dog is seen as the “guardian of the threshold, escorting souls into the afterlife”. According to Jennifer Westwood in her book “Albion” (1985) :

“Black Dogs commonly haunt lanes, footpaths, bridges, crossroads and graves – all points of transition, …..held to be weak spots in the fabric dividing the mortal world from the supernatural.”

And :

“If a count be made of the kind of places favoured by these apparitions one thing becomes plain. Quite half the localities are places associated with movement from one locality to another: roads, lanes, footpaths, ancient trackways, bridges, crossroads.”

Let’s now leave Nottinghamshire’s Shuck eating his Pedigree Chum for just a moment, and skip thousands of miles to the north east of the United States. In her most excellent book, “Real Wolfmen True Encounters in Modern America” the author Linda S Godfrey explains her idea that…

“One common factor seems to emerge from every collection of strange creature accounts: there is an unmistakable connection between anomalous beings and certain features of the land. Unexplainable creatures and events tend 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.
This geographic predictability supports the premise of many contemporary investigators like Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Nick Redfern, and the late John Keel, who suspect that anomalous creatures are not natural animals; they are entities that belong to a completely non-human realm and are attracted to certain energies of the Earth and all living creatures.”

The researchers listed above, and many others, believe that werewolves, Bigfoot, alien big cats, grey aliens, UFOs and sea monsters as well as more traditional entities such as fairies, dragons and ogres are all part of a planet-wide “spirit” population that manifests “in some sort of concert with the human mind, intent on  its own enigmatic purposes.”

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And of course, this theory does go quite a long way to explaining a very large question, namely, “Why do so many apparently reliable witnesses continue to report the same, impossible things?”

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If we just think of Great Britain, how many UFOs, Black Dogs, ghosts and even sea serpents have been reported over the years?

Linda S Godfrey, who specialises in the more exotic of the world’s canids and possible canids writes about the Wolfmen who are regularly seen in her native Wisconsin.

portrait xxxxxxx

Wolfmen in form are rather like Bigfoot, except that they have a wolf’s head.  They are thinner than Bigfoot, and consequently, can move very quickly if required. The most famous of the American Wolfmen is the “Beast of Bray Road”.

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Witnesses have sketched what they saw on this most famous of cryptozoological highways…

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Linda S Godfrey first became interested in the Beast when she was a journalist and had the opportunity to speak to one of the first witnesses….
WisconsinWolfnespaper ccccccc

Fairly frequently, the Wolfman’s favourite food is roadkill. These were originally witness sketches…

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There are at least two photographs…

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One of the very earliest known sightings of a Wolfman occurred not in Bray Road, but at the St Coletta School for Exceptional Children, where Mark Shackelman worked as a security guard. Linda S Godfrey tells the story….

“The nightwatchman’s main duty was to make quiet surveillance of the 174 acre grounds…The land was dotted with ancient Native American burial mounds.
One evening, movement on the mound behind the main building drew the sharp nightwatchman’s attention as he observed what appeared to be a large animal digging furiously atop the raised earth. The creature was roughly man-size, covered in dark fur, and knelt in a way that should have been physically impossible for a four-footed beast And it fled on two feet rather than four as soon as it noticed Shackelman’s presence.
The flummoxed Watchman examined the mound next day and saw that the Earth had been torn by what looked like big claw marks, with raking slashes in sets of three. That night, he made sure to arm himself with a big, club-like flashlight before making his rounds. Sure enough, the creature was there again, digging in the mound near midnight. This time, however, it rose upon its hind legs and faced Shackelman. It stood about six feet tall and reeked of rotten meat.
Shackelman bravely shined his light at the creature so that he could get a good, long look at it. Although it was covered in fur, he could make out powerful arms that ended in hands with thumbs and little fingers that were much smaller than the middle three digits, explaining the triple slashes in the dirt. It had a muscular torso and a canid head with a muzzle and pointed ears. Perhaps most surprisingly of all, the creature made a growling vocalisation that Shackelman later described as a “neo-human voice” and that sounded to him like three syllables, “ga- dar-rah”. The creature continued to make fearless eye contact with Shackelman, who felt he was in imminent and mortal danger.”

If you want to read what happens to Mr. Shackelman, or the Wolfman, then you will have to buy the book! You will not be disappointed! It is a marvellous book which opens a whole world of strangeness that takes a lot to explain away. This report of a wolfman was just the first of the many. According to Linda S Godfrey…

“Was the St Coletta creature just a sign of things to come? The Shackelman sighting was only the first of over one hundred reports nationwide of a human sized canine that could run upright or crouch with a chunk of bloody carrion clutched in its paws. In that incident and most sightings since, the creature is described with a head that appears wolf-like but a body that often – except for its fur, dog shaped limbs, and elongated pause – looks somewhat humanoid because of its powerfully muscular torso and shoulders.”

Here are some more modern colour photos, in some cases taken by trailcams.

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If you look at Youtube, a search for the “Beast of Bray Road” will reveal scores of films of varying quality. This lasts an interesting three minutes…

and this is a more thorough full length programme

If, however, you find yourself being tempted towards the “Gable Film”, please be aware that its maker has already acknowledged, several years ago, that the film is (a very accomplished) fake .

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