Spectral Beasts or Physical Anomolies?
Ever since I was a small child, I always felt that mysterious creatures like Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster, were in actual fact a spiritual entity rather than a physical creature.
I always loved reading about ghosts and UFOs when I was a child (that explains everything!), and another big interest of mine as a kid was also mysterious creatures that were only ever seen as fleeting glimpses. I always wondered that if these creatures actually did exist, why weren’t they seen for much longer periods of time? Hopefully, this article will provoke some response from Haunted Devon members in a forum thread on the Haunted Devon Members website, as it is always good to hear other member’s perspectives that is different to your own.
The paranormal term given to mysterious creatures that science states cannot possibly exist is “cryptozoology”, which was first used in a book in 1955 by a Belgian-French zoologist “On The Track Of Unknown Animals”.
There are of course many mysterious animals all around the world, such as the Abominable Snowman (who many regard as a relative to the American Bigfoot), and the alienesque Chupacabra from Puerto Rico, but I would very much like to keep this article to the mysterious animals of the UK, and even more so to local sightings reported from around Devon and Cornwall.
But before we go local, let’s head up north to Scotland, to arguably the most famous mysterious creature of all, The Loch Ness Monster (or Nessie to her friends!). Many sightings have occurred of Nessie since the 1920s, but it may surprise some of you that the first known sighting of this unflappable beast was in the 6th century by an Irish monk Saint Columba. I remember all too well as a child when in the summer of 1978 and 1979 our family went to Scotland, where we drove around the entire loch on both occasions. The water on the loch really is as dark as it looks on photos and on television, which gives it an eerie atmosphere all to its own. One of my favourite paranormal books is “The Dragon & The Disc – An Investigation Into The Totally Fantastic”, by F W Holiday (1973). In this book, Holiday describes how it is his belief that Nessie is strongly connected with the paranormal, where he spent hundreds of hours on the shores of Loch Ness during the 1960s, with camera and tripod at the ready, and that due to bizarre coincidences, Nessie would outwit him and other photographers by only appearing when they were dismounting their cameras at the end of the day, or only to appear at the exact time that cameras would cease to operate. Sounds familiar to anyone? (My answer to this when trying to capture scientific evidence of the paranormal is that the Cosmic Joker is at play). Of course, we have our own local Nessie right here in Cornwall, that being the Beast of Morgawr Bay!
Let’s move on to that other famous beast, Bigfoot (or Sasquatch – a native American Indian term), but not the one from America, but one from our own doorstep here in the UK! My UFO colleague and myself were driving back from Penzance after doing a UFO presentation at a paranormal conference in 1996, when we picked up two female hitchhikers on the road between Bodmin and Liskeard. After discussing such pleasantries as the weather (it was an incredibly hot day), we mentioned about our involvement in the paranormal, when they both recounted to us an experience they had about 5 years earlier, when they were teenagers. The story they told us can easily be looked upon as utter nonsense from a sceptical viewpoint, and that they were obviously blatantly lying to us. All I can add is that both my colleague and myself took their story at face value, with them being incredibly sincere in recounting their experience to us. As mentioned, it happened 5 years earlier, when they were playing on the edge of woodlands just outside of Nottingham. They heard a noise coming from the woods, but couldn’t see anything untoward. Then suddenly, materialising about 15 feet away from them, is what they described to be a classic Bigfoot, very tall, very muscular, covered in hair all over. It stared at them, and they became naturally terrified. It started to walk toward them, but as it did so, it just vanished, right before their eyes! They told all of their friends and family – some of them believed them, whilst others thought they both shared a hallucination (this “mass hallucination” theory that keeps cropping up to explain away the paranormal I find scientifically absurd!). Indeed, most American Indian tribes believed Bigfoot to be a spiritual beast rather than a physical one. One of the most unusual UFO cases involved several Bigfoots (Bigfeets ?) being seen walking around outside of the landed UFO by several witnesses (Pennsylvania 1973), and of a Bigfoot carrying an orb of light. There is without a doubt in my mind that there is more to the Bigfoot mystery than meets the eye.
Also connected to UFOs is that of the Owlman, or sometimes referred to as the Mothman (the Mothman variant being connected to the USA, and I urge all members to read the excellent book “Visitors from Space” by John Keel, several decades later made into a Richard Gere movie “The Mothman Phrophecies”). The Owlman sightings are from our own local area, Cornwall – the village of Mawnan to be more precise, from 1976 to 1978. The first sighting was by 2 girls, who saw it flying around the church, and described it as a large feathered bird-man. They were so terrified that their family had to cut their holiday short. Later sightings further describe it as having claw like feet, and red slanting eyes. Whoever saw it became terrified by what they were witnessing. This interestingly coincides with a spate of UFO sightings also in the area at the same time along with other paranormal phenomena (as with the American Mothman).
Another local beast that sends shivers down the spine of all those who see it is that of the spectral black dog, seen mainly around North Devon (and indeed, there is a hamlet in North Devon called Black Dog), said to be much larger than a normal dog, with large glowing eyes. A friend of mine, who is a very rational person, came across this ghastly hound whilst out walking in the daytime during the mid-1980s, and the experience left him truly terrified. He described it as not being like any physical dog, and that he felt he was witnessing a ghostly manifestation.
I shall now move onto the final mysterious animal in this line-up, and without doubt our most famous local mysterious beast, that known as The Beast of Bodmin, or The Beast of Exmoor (although it has been seen many times on Dartmoor too). This is described as being a large black panther-like creature, and very muscular. As with Bigfoot and the Owlman, there have been several UFO sightings in connection with big black cat sightings. There are of course many witnesses to the Big Cat sightings around Devon and Cornwall, and many photographs and film footage showing the existence of such creatures (although admittedly some of them are obvious fakes), but I want to focus on two fascinating stories that were told to me by local UFOlogist Joan Amos (who sadly passed away in 2001). The two stories are very much linked. Joan lived in a very old cottage in the rural village called Peter Tavy on Dartmoor. Each time I visited her in her cottage, I always had the sense that someone else was there watching me, and indeed, Joan told me of the many ghostly encounters she experienced whilst living there (but that’s another story for another time!). During the late 1980s, her hairdresser came to visit to cut her hair, and whilst doing so, Joan told her hairdresser that in the next few days, a TV crew from London were coming to interview her regarding the Big Cat mystery (as well as being the regional UFO co-ordinator for all UFO groups in the southwest, she also collated all information and reports on the sightings of the Big Cats). Her hairdresser scoffed at the very idea and told her she thought the whole thing to be absolute nonsense, and went along with the belief that it was either a hoax or misidentification. Whilst driving home from Joan’s to the hamlet of Sampford Spiney (also on Dartmoor), a large black panther emerged from a gorse bush by the side of the road.
The hairdresser slowed the car down, staring at the beast in utter bewilderment. The panther leapt up onto the bonnet of the car, and stared in through the windscreen at her. She would never forget those eyes staring right into her own eyes. Then, ever so gracefully, the panther leapt down off the car and just wandered off into the thick gorse bushes to the right. The hairdresser was left well and truly shaken. Enough said about that! And now onto the second story - the TV crew came down in the next few days, a 3 man team, and conducted the interview in Joan’s home. After the interview, and off the record, two of the crew stated they did not believe that such beasts roamed the area, and put it down to misidentification. As they left Joan’s home in Peter Tavy to head back to London, they joined the main road from Tavistock to Okehampton. Within a few minutes of being on the road, a large black panther came bounding along over a stone wall from the left, and ran right in front of their van and leapt over a wall on the right (they phoned Joan telling her of their frightening experience). One of the crew members was so shaken by this, that he vowed never to dabble with the paranormal again!
It is fair to say that from a sceptical viewpoint, many Big Cats were let loose by their owners when the Dangerous Wild Animal Act came into force in 1976, whereby the owners would set loose their pets rather than handing them over to the authorities to put them in captivity, and that they have probably been breeding ever since, however, I believe this only accounts for a proportion of the sightings. I firmly believe a supernatural explanation is required, not just with some of the Big Cat sightings, but to many of the mysterious creatures that have scared us over the years.
As with ghosts and UFOs, I believe these supernatural creatures, when manifested into our physical realm, can exert a physical influence over the matter around them. But what I would love to have answers to, are what triggers these manifestations? How about members discussing this further on the Haunted Devon Forums?
In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled whenever your next out in the countryside.