Friday, February 27, 2009

Chasing the Chase Beast

Jon Downes and Richard Freeman track the Cannock Chase Bigfoot...

The Man-Monkey Solved?

As regular readers of this blog - and of my books, too - will be aware, one particularly strange British-Bigfoot story that has fascinated me for years is that of the so-called "Man-Monkey" of the Shropshire Union Canal.

Indeed, so fascinated am I by it, I even wrote a book about the damned critter!

The story essentially had its origins in 1879, when a man walking home late at night, and with his horse-and-cart in-tow, claimed to have been attacked by a bizarre ape-man style beast with shining eyes that ultimately vanished into the night.

Not only that: the beast was distinctly spectral in nature, as can be evidenced by the fact that the man said that as he struck it with his horse-whip, the whip actually passed right through its hairy body!

More intriguing: sightings of the Man-Monkey have abounded in the area ever since. Indeed, I think my current count of cases, sightings and incidents is upwards of 30 - and which covers the period from the early 20th Century and right up until September 2005.

But now, there is a fascinating development in the saga - and maybe, just maybe, it may open some doors to the question of what the Man-Monkey really was, is, or may have been.

The story comes via Fortean expert and author Mike Dash.

As Dash says, just recently he was leafing through a copy of the December 8, 1878 edition of Sheldrake's Aldershot & Sandhurst Military Gazette, and came across the following story in its pages:


For a fortnight past the district around Madely Wood, Salop, has been in a state of intense excitement, by the alleged depredations committed by a gorilla, which is said to have escaped from a wild beast menagerie travelling to Bridgnorth.

The animal was stated to have first made his appearance in the neighbourhood of that town, where in the darkness of the night it was severally seen by a clergyman and a policeman, both of whom fled.

It is also said to have appeared at several places in the immediate neighbourhood. A few evenings since the occupier of a house in Madely Wood went to bed at a reasonable hour, with the greater portion of his family, leaving his “gude wife” up, who took the opportunity to visit a neighbour, leaving the door open and a candle burning.

Returning in a short time, she was horrified at seeing a bent form, with a goodly array of gray hair around its face, crouching over the expiring embers of the fire, apparently warming itself, the light having gone out.

Too frightened to shriek, she ran to her neighbours, who quickly armed themselves with pokers, iron bars, guns, and pitchforks and other instruments of a similar character, and marched in a body to capture the gorilla.

The form was seen sitting at the fire, but evidently aroused by the approaching body, rose to its full height and revealed the figure of an eccentric character well known in the neighbourhood as “Old Johnny,” who seeing the door open had quietly walked in to light his pipe, accidentally “puffed” the candle out, and was very near being captured, if not exterminated, in mistake for an escaped gorilla.

The animal has not been heard of since.

Well, this is indeed fascinating: the story surfaced only one month before the Man-Monkey was seen - and in the same English county of Shropshire, no less.

And as Mike astutely notes:

"Old Johnny and his humorous encounter make for an interesting story, and it's easy to see why the journalist who wrote the piece focused on him. As published, though, the article ignores the central question of what became of Shropshire's mysterious 'gorilla'. The wild-beast-escaped-from-a-travelling menagerie is a common motif in out of place animal stories, as Mick Goss demonstrated years ago in a Fortean Times article on the mysterious crocodile of Cefn Caves - itself just over the border in north Wales. But it would be an ambitious showman who kept an animal as dangerous as a gorilla in a travelling show."

Indeed, Mike is right: numerous stories, tales and rumors of "circus escapees" (in Britain , in the U.S. and elsewhere) have been trotted out time and again to account for sightings of exotic animals having been seen in areas where they have no business roaming.

A perfect case in point is Britain's big-cats.

For example, in his classic title Cat Flaps, British Fortean author Andy Roberts discussed a wave of "big-cat" sightings in the English county of Yorkshire in the 1980s. One particular series of encounters led one commentator to tell Andy that: "They all come from Knaresborough Zoo, you know."

Of course, there was no evidence at all that the zoo had lost any big-cats - yet such tales and theories often spring up in such situations.

So, is that what happened back in 1878?

Had someone - or, as the Gazette's story suggests, several people - seen a weird Bigfoot-like entity that was subsequently explained (without any actual evidence to support the notion), as having escaped from a "travelling menagerie"?

Or, incredibly, was the story actually true?

Could there really have been a travelling menagerie from which a gorilla made a successful bid for freedom? And if so, did it ultimately find its way one dark and winter night in January 1879 to the heart of the Shropshire Union Canal, where it scared the you-know-what out of the man who had the misfortune to encounter it?

Perhaps further digging will unravel the puzzle.

Could it really be the case that a fully-grown gorilla briefly made its home in the wilds of Shropshire before probably succumbing to starvation and the effects of a harsh winter?

Of course, that would not explain the seemingly spectral nature of the beast reported at the canal - nor would it explain how sightings of the same beast have continued until the present day.

Unless, that is, what people are seeing today could be the ghostly-form of the long-dead gorilla; forever doomed to haunt and wander the tree-shrouded, old canal...

But, bringing animal ghosts into the story is a whole different kettle of fish that I will keep for another day!

Suffice to say for now, however, Mike Dash has made a highly significant breakthrough in a story that - despite its age - never seems to go away.

For further information, see the following links:

1. Mike Dash's original article.

2. A post on this development at Cabinet of Wonders.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Pye Green Bigfoot

As most of you who regularly read this blog will already know, barely a week goes by without some sort of monstrous, high-strangeness occurring in the vicinity of England's Cannock Chase woods. And now there is this: a new article (at the local Chase Post newspaper) that details the very same high-strangeness (which includes so-called British Bigfoot reports) at the Chase's Pye Green Tower.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

British Bigfoot Opinions...

You can find a new interview with me over at Alien Seeker News; and although it's chiefly not about cryptozoology, we do get into the subject, including the following on the controversy surrounding Bigfoot in Britain, and its undoubted paranormal qualities:

Paul Dale Roberts: "Do you think that Bigfoot is an inter-dimensional creature and that is the reason why we can't capture one?"

Nick Redfern: "Yep, that is definitely what I think - or, that at the very least, it is not flesh-and-blood, as we understand the term. The whole Bigfoot field has a lot of Fortean weirdness attached to it that a lot of researchers who focus more on the flesh-and-blood theories don't like to deal with, at all - because it opens some very problematic doors. But, as with UFOs, when it comes to Bigfoot I have no time for belief systems that are so rigid they can't be tampered with. To ignore the paranormal stories associated with Bigfoot actually means discarding a hell of a lot of material. And I won't do that just to bolster the simple idea that 'Bigfoot is a giant ape.' I have investigated a lot of British-based Bigfoot reports, and there is just no way a flesh-and-blood Bigfoot could live, hide, breed and die without detection in a country the size of Britain. But people see it - whatever 'it' is. And in Britain, most of the reports from there are of Bigfoot creatures appearing and vanishing in the blink of any eye, not leaving footprints, being seen near old prehistoric sites, etc."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Freeman and the British Bigfoot

Over at his Room 101 site at Binnall of America, Richard Thomas interviews the Center for Fortean Zoology's Richard Freeman about his cryptozoological work. In part, they cover the controversy surrounding the British Bigfoot - and, I have to say, my conclusions are inline with Richard (Freeman). Here's their specific exchange on the British Bigfoot:

Richard Thomas: "Nick Redfern has written a book with the interesting title Man-Monkey: In Search of the British Bigfoot. What do you think the likelihood of such a creature in the UK really is and, perhaps more interestingly, what do think it could be? For instance, do you think we're dealing with some kind of missing link or something else entirely?"

Richard Freeman: "There is no way a species of giant ape could live undetected in the UK. You would need a population to carry the species on and there is just not enough room. The UK is not like Canada or Tibet, a real ape or hominid would have been discovered decades ago. I think what people are seeing are zooform creatures.

"Interestingly though, relic hominids may have lived on mainland Europe until relatively recently. The trolls of Scandinavia sound very like them and as recently as the 1980s a hominid was reported from western Russia only 15 miles from the borders of Finland."

And click here to read the entire interview.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hexham 2

Here's part-2 of my article on one of the strangest British man-beasts - that borne out of the controversy of the Hexham Heads.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hexham Werewolves

As regular readers of this blog will know, from time to time I veer away from talking strictly about the British Bigfoot, and focus on other British man-beasts too, including werewolves. And, on this particular issue, over at my weekly Lair of the Beasts column at, you can find the first-part of a two-part story on one of the weirdest of all British werewolf stories - namely, that of the Hexham Heads.