Whenever a debate is initiated on the topic of the many and varied mysterious, hairy man-beasts of our world – such as the Sasquatch of North America, the Chinese Yeren, Australia’s Yowie, or Russia’s Almasty – there is one aspect of the phenomenon that regularly gets relegated to the sidelines. Or, as is more often the case, it’s an aspect of the controversy that doesn’t even get addressed to any meaningful degree at all. It’s the admittedly unusual issue of Bigfoot in the British Isles.
More than 800-years ago, one Ralph of Coggeshall, in Chronicon Anglicanum, penned the following, thought-provoking words relative to a hair-covered, human-like entity that was seen, and ultimately captured, near the ancient locale of Orford, England, which is located on the east coast of the country:
“In the time of King Henry II, when Bartholomew de Glanville was in charge of the castle at Orford, it happened that some fishermen fishing in the sea there caught in their nets a wild man. He was naked and was like a man in all his members, covered with hair and with a long shaggy beard. He eagerly ate whatever was brought to him, but if it was raw he pressed it between his hands until all the juice was expelled. He would not talk, even when tortured and hung up by his feet. Brought into church, he showed no signs of reverence or belief. He sought his bed at sunset and always remained there until sunrise. He was allowed to go into the sea, strongly guarded with three lines of nets, but he dived under the nets and came up again and again. Eventually he came back of his own free will. But later on he escaped and was never seen again.”
Jon Downes, one of the world’s premier cryptozoologists, who runs the esteemed British-based Center for Fortean Zoology, has investigated many such cases, more than a few of which occurred in the English county of Somerset. In Downes’ own words to me: “The area around Smitham Hill in Somerset has been the site of a number of such encounters. For example, what is now an abandoned mine was linked to tales of strange beasts seen watching the miners. Sometimes, on returning to work in the morning, the men would find that carts and equipment had been pushed over and thrown around during the night.”
He continued to me: “But these things, whatever they were, are still seen in that area today – or at least as late as November 1993. This is an exact quote from a witness whose case is in my files: ‘I was on a walk through the woods, when I heard a twig snap. I thought nothing of it and continued on. Suddenly the dogs became very agitated and ran off home. At this point I became aware of a foul smell like a wet dog, and a soft breathing sound. I started to run, but after only a few feet, I tripped and fell. I decided to turn and meet my pursuer only to see a large, about seven feet tall, dark brown, hairy, apelike man. It just stood, about ten feet away, staring at me. It had intelligent-looking eyes and occasionally tilted its head as if to find out what I was. After about twenty seconds it moved off into the forest.'”
Situated on the fringes of the old hamlet of Cannock Wood in Staffordshire, England, and created at some point between 500 B.C. and A.D. 40, Castle Ring is an Iron Age structure known as a Hill Fort. And it’s the absolute highest point on the huge, deeply-wooded Cannock Chase that dominates the surrounding countryside. Very little at all is known with respect to the enigmatic, long-gone tribe of people that constructed the Ring, aside from the fact that they vanished around A.D. 50, never to return.
In the early summer of 2004, a man named Alec Williams was driving along the winding road that can be found opposite the entrance to Castle Ring, when he was shocked to his very core by the sight of a large, extremely tall, shaggy, humanoid form that bounded across the road in a second or two, and duly vanished into the shadows. Not only that: the beast sported a pair of blazing, red eyes. Whatever the true nature of the monster, its presence left a deep mark on Williams, who vowed never to return to the Castle Ring – and who can blame him?!
And these accounts are very much just the tip of a huge iceberg that shows no sign of vanishing any time soon. Are flesh-and-blood man-beasts really running around the woods of Britain? Might they be entities of a definitively paranormal nature? Or could they even be Tulpas – monsters of the mind that have been externalized and given a degree of semblance and reality in our world? The questions are many. The answers, unfortunately, still elude us. Just like the creatures themselves.