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Saturday, 31 December 2016

BRITISH BIG CATS - IS THERE REALLY ANY MYSTERY?


Nocturnal Isolation:
The most commonly held opinion and theory on the presence of Big Cats in Britain is that they were released by owners in 1977 after the introduction of the 'Dangerous Wild Animals Act' and have since thrived in what is largely an island of cattle and countryside, filled with millions of livestock and easy prey species, which are in most cases lacking natural predators. Britain is for the most part an island in darkness, with poorly lit villages and dimly illuminated towns. Even its large cities have plenty of green spaces full of cover where a nocturnal and elusive animal could easily hide out. (This is evidenced by many sightings in cities and large urban areas in recent years).

So, how do we investigate this phenomenon? Unlike most cryptids, we are at least certain of the existence of these animals', it's just that they are not supposed to exist here in Britain!



Living in Symbiosis
Big Cat sightings in 2016
Usually, when investigating an unknown or out of place animal  we would start  with the theories of what they might be and how they came to be here and that in itself would normally be a good way to try to gain an understanding of their mysterious presence on our island. However, It would seem very likely in this case that the explanation is simple and that the introduction of an 'expensive'  licensing act dictating the conditions 'Wild Animals' were to be kept under meant that some Big Cat owners were simply unable to foot the bill and let their pets go. I imagine that many were released into the wild, where their owners either believed they would perish or be protected by their largely nocturnal habits and rural isolation.

Norfolk, Suffolk, Devon and Cornwall seem to have the largest concentration of sightings and in some cases there have even been sightings of Big Cats with cubs, yet more proof, if any were needed that the animals are surviving quite comfortably in our little green island of fields and hedgerows.

When it comes to this particular 'British Cryptid', or perhaps we should say, 'Out Of Place Animal', there are simply too many significant sightings to recount here. They are in fact so numerous, that I am certain that several books could be written on the subject and yet still leave a wealth of untapped original reports for other authors to research.  

Below I have listed 3 recent reported sightings, followed by 4 sightings personally known to the author: 


Recent Sightings: 

The Tamworth Beast
One of the most recent sightings of a British Big Cat comes from a hiker, who wished to remain anonymous, who managed to capture the beast on video in a field in December 2016, whilst he was walking along Trinity Road, Tamworth. He described the beast as being about 5 feet in length, jet black, with round ears and piercing green eyes. He said that the beast was slinking through the undergrowth across the field from him, keeping it's head very low and seemed to take no notice of him and his dogs . There have now been over 70 reported sightings in Tamworth since 2001.
The Fovant Panther. Photo by Sylvia Bladon

The Fovant Panther - A resident of Fovant near Salisbury, says she spotted a “huge black shape” at 7am one November morning which she believed was a big cat big cat. “She viewed the creature through binoculars and even crept out of the house and up to her garden wall to try to take some photos of the creature. She was convinced that what she had seen was a panther. she said. “I am 100% sure it was a big cat. I’ve seen enough wild animals where I lived in Canada.”  she described it as being blackthree to four feet long, with a long tail and round ears like a bear. The creature turned and looked at her before slinking away through the grass. 

Beast of Cumbria - A former chief superintendent with Cleveland Constabulary photographed a large black cat on a railway embankment at Eden, Cumbria. The animal was first spotted by the witness' wife at 7:40pm one Saturday evening in August, whilst standing outside their static caravan. She at first thought she was looking at a big dog walking along the railway lines, but was quickly corrected by her husband who recognised the animal as some kind of big cat. “I said to her, ‘That’s not a dog, that’s a cat.’ You could tell by the way it was walking. It also had a muscular lump on the back of its shoulder." The witness reported the incident to the police out of concern for local farmers and their livestock. Cumbria police force admit that they regularly receive reports of these animals and had received another report of a large cat spotted in a field at Hackthorpe, near Shap, that same week. 


In the following section I have detailed 4 sightings of Big Cats that were personally reported to me first hand by the people who had  actually witnessed them. I have kept the names of the witnesses anonymous as their stories were related to me in a personal context many years ago and not shared for the purpose of being written in a blog or book about cryptozoology.



The Preseli Panther - sighted by the sister of an old ex-girlfriend. After an afternoon visiting a friend in a nearby farm, our witness was riding her horse home over the Preseli mountains, when she stopped briefly to rest and look back towards the farm she had just left. A usually sceptical person, she was very surprised to see a large black cat with small ears and a long tail, about the size of an Alsatian dog, chasing sheep in the field next to the farm. She said that she quickly rode home in fear of the creature.

The Crymych Cat - Another big cat sighting took place outside a home in which I was staying in the lovely village of Crymych, Pembrokeshire, on Christmas morning around 5am in 1999. A guest of my host, a lady in her mid 50's and a smoker, was smoking a cigarette at the front of the house, when she suddenly noticed a large black cat resembling a panther staring at her out of the darkness about 15 feet away. She watched the animal for about 30 seconds before it  melted into the undergrowth. She was understandably in a state of shock at what she had seen and for obvious reasons decided not to come on our impromptu Big Cat hunt later that morning.  I personally have a lot of trust in both of these sightings. Both persons were known to me and had no interest in or awareness of the Big Cat phenomenon. They both gave corroborating  descriptions of the animal/s they witnessed and I think it can quite confidently be asserted that either they witnessed the same animals or the same type of animal on both occasions.

The Sandy Coloured Stalker
 - I am also aware of 2 other sightings that occurred in Devon. 1 of these sightings was passed to me by a roadie for one of my bands back in the 90's who witnessed a  sandy coloured large cat that resembled a puma, on a beach at night. The animal approached Him and his friends, stopping just short of the headlights of their car. It briefly observed them for around 30 seconds and slowly sauntered off into the night.  

The Dog Catcher - The second of these sightings of these mystery big cats in Devon was passed to me by a, then current flatmate, in the year 2000. He had grown up in a small village in rural Devon and was walking his dog one summer evening at twilight, when he became aware of a black shape in the tree line moving towards them. At first he thought that this it was another dog, due to its size, but quickly realised that he was being stalked by what appeared to be a large black panther. He quickly ran with his dog to his home, which was close by and secured himself and his dog inside. He stated that he believed that the creature was stalking his dog and not him, but was fearful of what could have transpired if he had not escaped, due to the animal's size and predatory demeanour. 

Beast of Bodmin. Photo by Chris Ede (2008)
Beasts in Our Backyard

I realise that these sightings are just the tip of a very large iceberg, and that there have been over 455 sightings logged by police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2016. It is estimated 2,000 of these beasts are seen each year in The UK, many of which are not reported out of fear of ridicule. This extremely high number of reports and sightings would seem to defy the efforts of any skeptic to deny the presence of B.B.C's here in the U.K.  I would expect that anyone examining the wealth of evidence that has been presented through photograph, film, eyewitness reports, livestock kills and other signs of habituation, would seriously reconsider their position on this very exciting subject. 

We live in a land of plenty for such skilled predators as Big Cats, a land that offers many places to nest and hide, filled with livestock and many smaller species of animals that could sustain quite a healthy population of these 'Out Of Place Animals'. For many of us we probably believe these sightings are cases of mistaken identity or an occasional zoo escapee, but for our children, I believe that Big Cats will be an accepted and natural part of the fauna of the British Isles!

For people interested in Big Cat research and sightings I would suggest joining the following groups who specialise in the subject:

British Big Cats Society: Facebook
The CFZ Big Cat Study Group: Facebook


Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

FLYING BEASTS

Mawnan Old Church
ARE THERE UNIDENTIFIED FLYING CRYPTIDS IN THE BRITISH ISLES?

Could there be UFC'S (Unidentified Flying Cryptids) in the British Isles?
There certainly seem to be some reports throughout the country of what in some cases appear to be pterosaur like creatures, very large predatory birds, giant headless bats and also a bipedal man like owl.

Surely a country so thoroughly explored and inhabited like Britain could not be hiding a population, however small, of prehistoric pterosaurs, a giant species of raptor or even a giant bipedal man like owl, could it? Well, the witnesses of these extraordinary creatures would certainly say so. Some of whom have been so affected by their experiences that they can still remember every detail of their sightings many years later.

Are we talking about a resident breeding population of these animals?  I would say no! Overall, it would seem that these sightings are rare and relatively few in number and more would be expected if such outlandish creatures regularly frequented the countryside. The reasons for the sightings can only be speculated upon, but I suspect that like many known avian species in our tiny island, that the occasional sightings we have recorded might possibly be due to Britain being part of a migratory journey these creatures make.  A jumping off point, or a rest stop if you will, on a long transatlantic journey or a super highway to the uttermost parts of the North.

In examining these creatures, it is important to paint an accurate portrait of what the witnesses have seen, remembering that; when unrelated witnesses describe the same experiences and give corroborative statements under traumatic circumstances, that it can be accepted as valid testimony and immovable fact (a fact that is, in the sense of the perceived similarity and continuity of what they believe they saw!)

So, I suppose the question is what are they and where are they? The first two of these mysterious reports come from the very 'cryptozoologically' productive areas of Kent on the south east coast of England and the very mysterious Celtic annex of Cornwall on the far south west coast of the country.   


The Owlman of Mawnan
THE OWLMAN OF MAWNAN: 

Starting with the most well known of these creatures, 'The Owlman of Mawnan' or 'The Death Raptor', what is it we find described by these witnesses? Well, we hear the first witnesses who were in fact children, ages 9  & 12 claim they saw a Birdman hovering above the tower of Mawnan Old Church. The young girls are said to have run away and directly reported the incident to the police. they were taken to separate rooms to give their statements and allegedly sketched exactly the same creature.
The effect of the fear of this sighting upon the girls and the impression it made upon their families seems apparent, in that their holiday was cut short and they immediately left the area. 
Another sighting occurred when several witnesses saw a large Man like Owl sitting on a large branch in a pine tree. The witnesses were initially convinced that someone was playing a prank on them until the creature took off and flew away.  Curiously, they claimed to hear a crackling sound like static  electricity after the creature left.  There have been other sightings over the years around the churchyard of people seeing red lights floating over the Church roof.                          
The Owlman is described as being 5-6ft tall, grey/brown and feathered with a wingspan 10ft across. It is bipedal in appearance, with red glowing eyes and is said to emit a screeching or hissing noise.


THE BAT BEAST OF KENT:
One evening in November 1963, 4 teenage friends were walking home from a party in the county of Kent when they saw a mysterious flickering light descend in to a nearby field in Sandling Park and make its way in to some trees at the edge of the park. The 4 teens noticed a rustling in the brush and were shocked when a figure emerged and waddled towards them. The creature was described by the witnesses as looking like a bipedal, headless bat, it was completely black and around 5-feet tall, with big webbed feet and wings on its back.  One of the witnesses was convinced that it did not have a head!
The Bat Beast of Kent


Another story of  an Unidentified Flying Cryptid in the British isles, comes from Glamorgan, Wales.


THE PENLLYN PARROT:

The woods around Penllyn Castle, Glamorgan, were said to be the home of winged
serpents that terrified the local population as late as the early 1900s. An old man, who had been a  lifelong inhabitant of the area claimed that they still existed when he was a child and said that his father and uncle had killed some of them. The winged serpents were described as being very beautiful with eyes like the feathers in a peacock's tail, head crests sparkling with all the colours of the rainbow and appeared as if they were covered with jewels. They were coiled when resting and would glide swiftly to their hiding places if disturbed or swoop over people's heads if annoyed. The old man attributed the extinction of the winged serpents to their preying on poultry and being terrors in the farmyards.      
This matter of fact rural description of their appearance and explanation for their extinction, delivered in the plain Welsh style, would seem to add a lot of credibility to this story.                                                                          


FIERY DRAGONS OR BIO-LUMINESCENCE:

I am not really in favour of a supernatural explanation for these sightings. 

The creatures, although unknown to science, still match the description of animals in both behaviour and appearance. The glowing red eyes of the Owlman could simply be a form of bioluminescence, a trait that was recently ascribed to owls, although still not scientifically accepted.  We also have other flying Cryptids, like the Mothman of Point Pleasant, described as having glowing red eyes, and the Ropen of Papua New Guinea whose abdomen is purported to produce bioluminescence, to support this theory. (Witnesses of the Ropen have often described seeing an orb like light that flickered in a very similar way to the Bat Beast of Kent.)
Tales of Fiery Flying Dragons can be found in many cultures and ancient manuscripts, like 
The Bible, and are still reported in recent times.
I often wonder if what these ancients saw as fiery  dragons, were actually in many cases just their misconception of the animals bio-luminescence as being some type of supernatural fire.

A SHOT IN THE DARK:

There are of course many sightings of large birdlike creatures in the UK that could easily be mistaken (especially in the dark) for some mysterious cryptid. This year alone there have been several very large birds spotted visiting our shores, one of which,  a Giant Romanian Pelican, was photographed in Plymouth. This bird can stand 6 feet high and has a wingspan of 11 feet.  There was also a recorded sighting of the Lammergeier buzzard in Monmouth, as well as an escaped Giant Rhea Bird in Nottinghamshire, an aggressive Ostrich like bird that grows to six feet in height.  One might feel that they had seen something truly strange if they were to encounter one of these birds at night in some lonely place. However, mistaken identity, even with birds as impressive in stature and out of place as these cannot quite explain away sightings like The Owlman or Bat Beast or even The Penllyn Parrots. It would seem certain that Britain is on occasion a host for many rare avian species and very possibly some we have yet to discover!



Written By Andrew McGrath


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Other  less detailed sightings of UFC's (Unidentified Flying Cryptids) are listed below: 

(Sourced from the Paranormal Database)


Cumbria Pterosaur: 
Location: Beckermet (Cumbria) - Nursery Woods
Date / Time: January 2006
Further Comments: A witness reported a large pterosaur-like creature flying above Nursery woods.

Eagle/Pterosaur
Location: Bradford (Yorkshire) - Skies above town
Date / Time: 1982 / 83
Further Comments: A large bird seen in the skies above the town was originally identified as an eagle or an escaped condor by its witnesses; twenty years later a few of them now claim it to have been a pterodactyl.

Large Bird
Location: Chard (Somerset) - High Street
Date / Time: February 1975
Further Comments: A witness watched a huge bird, with a fourteen foot wingspan, pass overhead. Moving with great haste, it quickly disappeared over nearby shops.

Dark Blue Bird
http://www.paranormaldatabase.com/thumbs/na.gif
Location: Chapel le Dale (Yorkshire) - Cave system in village
Date / Time: Twentieth century
Further Comments: Three people reported seeing a large flying creature, 'much larger than a bat', slowly glide past them as they explored the first cavern of these caves.
 Giant Bat 
http://www.paranormaldatabase.com/thumbs/na.gif
Location: Exeter (Devon) - Magdalen Road
Date / Time: 25 May 2000
Further Comments: A witness walking down the road late at night stated he watched a giant bat, with a wingspan of 1.2 metres, swoop around the churchyard along this road.




Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

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Saturday, 10 December 2016

HOAXED BY SEALS

A Genuine Case of Mistaken Identity


It has been a bumper year for Nessie sightings, with 7 genuine recorded sightings, most of which have been photographed or filmed.

After keeping a low profile for a couple of years, it seems that the Loch Ness Monsters are back on form and popping up all over the Loch to the delight of tourists and lake monster enthusiasts alike.

There have not only been a lot of recorded Nessie sightings in 2016, but also a record number of sightings of other 'Nessie like' creatures all around the British Isles!

So, when I read in the metro on my commute to work one morning that an amateur photographer (Ian Bremner) had finally captured indisputable proof of Nessie, I was as you would expect, quite EXCITED!


Photographic proof of Nessie or 3 seals swimming in a line?
Photo by Ian Bremner

However, what I saw in the photograph was 3 seals swimming in formation. 
For a moment my disappointment was palpable, but the more I examined the picture, the less sure of my 'Diagnosis' I became.

I looked and looked, then looked again!
The front of the 'formation'  definitely looked like the torso and head of a seal, but the middle and back 'Humps' seemed so serpentine, causing me to doubt my convictions, like a loud chorus of singing sirenians, somehow posing in mockery of 'Nessie's' purported undulations.

Furthermore, there also appeared to be water displacement at the front of the middle and back 'Hump' as well as partially visible, seal like flippers on the final 'Hump'. 

 I suddenly heard myself say out loud, "This photo is quite obviously 3 seals swimming in formation!"

I admit to feeling slightly shaken by how long it had taken me to come to this conclusion and freely admit, that were it not for the location of the sighting and the 'Serpentine' pose that these seals were photographed in, I would never have considered the photo to show anything other than what it clearly shows, which is, 3 seals!

I think the inherent danger of blind belief and acceptance of what we desire to be true is extant in this case. However, it also proves something very encouraging about cryptozoology and that is that the majority of its adherents are more than willing to critique and discard desirable, yet flawed theories and evidence to pursue the search for real truth and hopefully one day, a final scientific acceptance of the mysterious animals they so earnestly believe to exist.



Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

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Saturday, 3 December 2016

THE JELLY SQUID OF LONDON BRIDGE

A Mysterious Medusa or Ancient Cephalopod?

As recently as April 2014, 2 brothers witnessed a strange creature in the River Thames whilst walking across London bridge. 
The brothers described the creature as having a greyish featureless and slightly elongated square head, with what looked like lots of green tentacles or tassels at the bottom, around 5ft long and as thick as a mans body. The creature was sighted to the left of the bridge on the surface of the water and swimming against the current. After about 1 minute of submerging and surfacing they finally lost sight of it.
1 of the brothers said the creature had a metallic/mechanical feel to it, but that it was also definitely a biological creature. 


Witness sketch of 
the Jellysquid by Loz Price
The brothers tried to take photographs of the creature with their camera phones, but the quality and distance proved too poor. Both maintain that quite a few persons were present at the time and that they called their attention to the object and that some discussion took place amongst the crowd as to what it might be. 
Loz maintains that it was neither a squid nor a jellyfish, although his sighting seems to have some features of both.


The story continued a year later when 1 of the brothers took his son out mudlarking underneath London bridge when the river was at low tide.  His son, ordinarily a very calm and confident boy, suddenly became hysterical and demanded to leave the area, claiming that he could feel something in the water watching them. Significantly, his son was not aware of the sighting his father and uncle had experienced at that very spot 1 year before. 


This sighting is very unusual and somewhat unique, something like a creature resembling both a squid and a jellyfish. It certainly does not match any currently known Medusozoa or Cephalopod species known to science. 


After some research I found out that in May of 2014 a giant Bell Jellyfish, 4ft across was photographed in a Cornish river  and that many of these types of jellyfish, although not typically sighted in rivers, are frequently sighted along the coasts of Britain.  But the Bell Jellyfish is an orange pink hue and does not match the description of the London Bridge creature at all. 
Giant Bell Jellyfish in The Helford River Estuary,
May 2014.


Perhaps a large squid could be responsible for the sighting, after all in 1925 a giant squid washed up on the banks of the humber in Withernsea Beach. But, again I could find no species of squid either small or large that matched the description of the London Bridge creature. 


I did find one intriguing story however of a squid like creature in Bristol Harbour. The film footage of this creature shows it exhibiting a type of bioluminescence (a very squid like trait). The creature can be seen flashing several times and the outline of a large cephalopod is clearly perceptible. Although these sightings do not exactly match the London Bridge sighting, it is proof at least that similar ocean going creatures do occasionally frequent our rivers and inshore waters.

So what was this extraordinary and unnervingly unique creature?  An Unknown Squid, a rare species of Giant Jellyfish? The Watcher in the Water? We may never know. To date I know of only this one sighting and could not find a single corroborative report anywhere online. That of course does not have any bearing on the validity of this sighting or affect the possibility of its being a living animal. A one off sighting viewed by multiple witnesses still carries a lot of weight and credibility.


So in future whether you are crossing London bridge on your way to work or searching for Saxon treasures in the mud (mudlarking!) keep your eyes on the water, for something weird and wonderful just might be waiting there, for you!





Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 



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