A Monstrous Castle
Late one evening in September 1986, Mick Dodds and his wife were driving his mother-in-law back to her place of abode, which was a small but picturesque cottage in the Staffordshire, England village of Stowe-by-Chartley. All was completely and utterly normal until Dodds passed by the ancient and ruined Chartley Castle that overlooks the A518 road when something terrible and terrifying put in an unearthly appearance…
Constructed on land that came into the possession of the Earls of Chester as far back as the 11th Century, Chartley Castle is a stone motte-and-bailey fortress founded in the thirteenth century by Ranulph Blundeville, the then Earl of Chester.
Supported by the motte are, today, the still-standing remains of a rare cylindrical keep, with the inner bailey curtain wall still strongly flanked by two huge half-round towers, a gate-house, and an angle-tower. A strong counter-scarp bank and cross-ditch divides the inner and outer baileys, with another ditch and bank encasing the whole castle.
Notably, Chartley Castle is to where – on Christmas Eve, 1585 – Mary, Queen of Scots, was taken before being moved to Fotheringay for execution on February 8 of 1586. And, according to Mick Dodds, Chartley Castle just might be home to a literal British Bigfoot…
Dodds says that after dropping his mother-in-law off at her home, he and his wife began the journey back to their own abode, and what they assumed would be a stress-free, night-time drive through Staffordshire’s engaging countryside. How completely and devastatingly wrong the pair was.
According to Dodds, as they drove along the road, and with Chartley Castle rapidly closing in, he was forced to violently and suddenly slam on the brakes as a huge stag ambled slowly – yet majestically, too – across the road directly in front of them.
The sight of the massive beast was enough to both amaze and gob-smack Dodds and his wife in equal amounts. But that was nothing at all compared to what supposedly happened immediately thereafter.
Dodds, realizing how bizarre the next aspect of his story was surely going to sound to me, apologized profusely before he even began relating the complex details. In return, I told him that no apology was necessary. Instead, I explained to him, I would much prefer to merely hear the facts and then try and firmly evaluate them for myself. And so, with that out of the way, Mick Dodds duly began.
As the huge stag made its slow yet deliberate way across the road, his wife suddenly screamed at the sight of what looked like a large chimpanzee that bounded after the stag from the darkness of the field that sat to the right of their car. Half way across the road, the chimpanzee stopped suddenly, looked directly at the terrified husband and wife and, to their utter horror and consternation, charged their vehicle – but, at the very last moment, backed away from actually causing any structural damage to the car, or physical harm to the fear-stricken pair.
Dodds said that in his overwhelming panic to quickly put the vehicle into reverse gear, he stalled its engine, and then, even worse still, ended up completely flooding it as he raced to try and re-start the car. As an inevitable result, the Dodds were briefly stranded in the road with a hairy monstrosity looming wildly in front of them.
For about twenty seconds the beast stared at both husband and wife, and on two other occasions again headed for their vehicle at full speed, “like it was going to attack,” before finally bounding off to the left, and, so it appeared at least, in a direction that specifically followed that of the huge stag – which, by now, was seemingly long gone.
More than a quarter of a century after their curious encounter, the Dodds’ still stand by their story. And, having spoken to them extensively and having become convinced of their credibility, who am I to argue? Something monstrous, I am sure, lurks around old Chartley Castle…