Filey Brigg is an impressively-sized, rocky peninsula that juts out from the coast of the Yorkshire, England town of Filey. Local folklore suggests that the rocks are actually the remains of the bones of an ancient sea dragon. Unlikely, to say the least. But, the story may have at least a basis in reality. In all likelihood, the story takes its inspiration from centuries old sightings of giant monsters of the sea that called the crashing waters off Filey Brigg their home. One person who was able to attest to this was Wilkinson Herbert, a coastguard, who, in February 1934, had a traumatic, terrifying encounter with just such a sea dragon at Filey Brigg. It was – very appropriately – a dark, cloudy, and windy night when Herbert’s life was turned upside down.
The first indication that something foul and supernatural was afoot came when Herbert heard the terrifying growling of what sounded like a dozen or more vicious hounds. The growling, however, was coming from something else entirely. As he looked out at the harsh, cold, waves, Herbert saw – to his terror – a large beast, around thirty feet in length and equipped with a muscular, humped back, and four legs that extended into flippers. For a heart-stopping instant, the bright, glowing eyes of the beast locked onto Herbert’s eyes. Not surprisingly, he said: “It was a most gruesome and thrilling experience. I have seen big animals abroad but nothing like this.”
Further up the same stretch of coast is the county of Tyne and Wear. And in the vicinity of the county’s South Shields is Marsden Bay, an area that is overflowing with rich tales of magic, mystery, witchcraft and supernatural, ghostly activity. Legend tells of a man named Jack Bates (a.k.a. “Jack the Blaster Bates”) who, with his wife, Jessie, moved to the area in 1782. Instead of setting up home in the village of Marsden itself, however, the Bates family decided that they would blast a sizeable amount of rock out of Marsden Bay and create for themselves a kind of grotto-style home.
It wasn’t long before local smugglers saw Jack’s cave-like environment as the ideal place to store their goods – something which led Jack to become one of their number. It was a secret, working arrangement that existed until the year of Jack the Blaster’s death, in 1792. The caves were later extended, to the point where they housed, rather astonishingly, a 15-room mansion. Today, the caves are home to the Marsden Grotto, one of the very few “cave pubs” in Europe.
Mike Hallowell is a local author-researcher who has uncovered evidence of a secret cult in the area that extends back centuries and which engages in controversial and dangerous activities. He has a deep interest in matters relative to Filey Brigg, sea serpents, and Marsden Grotto. It all began with the Viking invasion of the UK in the 9th century and their beliefs in a violent, marauding sea monster known as the Shoney. Since the Shoney’s hunting ground ranged from the coast of England to the waters of Scandinavia, and the monster had a reputation for ferociousness, the Vikings did all they could to placate it. That, primarily, meant providing the beast with certain offerings. We’re talking, specifically, about human offerings.
The process of deciding who would be the creature’s victim was a grim one: the crews of the Viking ships would draw straws and he who drew the shortest straw would be doomed to a terrible fate. He would first be bound by hand and foot. Then, unable to move, he would have his throat violently slashed. After which, the body of the unfortunate soul would be tossed into the churning waters, with the hope that the Shoney would be satisfied and would not attack the Vikings’ long-ships, as they were known. Sometimes, the bodies were never seen again. On other occasions they washed up on the shore of Marsden, hideously mutilated and savagely torn to pieces.
Incredibly, however, this was not a practice strictly limited to the long gone times when the Vikings roamed and pillaged in marauding fashion. Mike Hallowell was able to determine that belief in the Shoney never actually died out. As a result, the last such sacrifice was rumored to have occurred in 1928. Hallowell’s sources also told him that the grotto’s caves regularly, and secretly, acted as morgues for the bodies of the dead that the Shoney tossed back onto the beach, following each sacrifice.
And now the story becomes even more disturbing: as a dedicated researcher of the unknown, Hallowell began to dig ever deeper into the enigma of Marsden’s dragon cult and even contacted local police authorities to try and determine the truth of the matter – and of the murders too, of course. It was at the height of his research that Hallowell received a number of anonymous phone calls, sternly and darkly warning him to keep away from Marsden and its tale of a “serpent sacrifice cult,” and verbally threatening him as to what might happen if he didn’t. To his credit, Hallowell pushed on, undeterred by the Men in Black-like threats. And, although much of the data is circumstantial, Hallowell has made a strong case that such a cult still continues its dark activities.