Next month, January 2013, will mark the tenth anniversary of the surfacing of a very strange story of definitive "British Bigfoot"-style proportions - a subject on which I have a brand new book out right now. Published by CFZ Press, it's name is Wildman! The Monstrous and Mysterious Saga of the British Bigfoot. And the case below typifies the kind of accounts that appear in the 300-plus pages of the book.
A high plateau bordered by the Trent Valley to the north and the West Midlands to the south, the huge, picturesque and heavily-wooded Cannock Chase has been an integral feature of the Staffordshire landscape for generations. Following an initial invasion of Britain in A.D. 43, Roman forces advanced to the south to what is now the town of Cannock and along a route that would become known as Watling Street, a major, and historic, Roman road. The surrounding countryside was very heavily wooded even back then, as is demonstrated by the Romans’ name for the area: Letocetum, or the Grey Woods.
In 1872, John Marius Wilson said of the Cannock Chase, in his Gazetteer of England and Wales, that the "...ancient forest…extends to the vicinity of Bednal, Lichfield, and the Trent, with an area of about 25,000 acres; and was anciently a hunting-ground of the Mercian and the Norman kings. It long was covered with wood; but is now bleak, moorish, and wild; yet is so rich in coal and ironstone as to have been much encroached upon both for mining and for cultivation. Large portions of it present the attractions of a hill country; and some spots have ancient standing-stones, supposed to be Druidical."
It was against this ancient, wooded backdrop that in January 2003 a sensational story surfaced, when Peter Rhodes, of the local Express and Star newspaper, wrote an article on an extraordinary and monstrous encounter on the Cannock Chase. Rhodes reported, under the graphic and memorable headline of Night Terror with a British Bigfoot: "Whatever it was, it scared the living daylights out of Craig Blackmore. His mother Val says: 'I have never seen Craig like that before. He came home shaking, absolutely petrified and white, as though he’d seen a ghost.'"
What Craig – and a friend – had actually seen was not a ghost but a "huge, ape-like creature at the side of the road on Levedale Lane between Stafford and Penkridge." Craig told Peter Rhodes that: "I was driving my [Ford] Fiesta down the road towards Penkridge and as we approached a house, the security light came on. I saw something in the corner of my eye. It was coming towards the car, running very fast. It wasn’t a dog or a deer. It was running like a human would run, but it was really hairy and dark. It came level and jumped at the car but just missed. My friend turned round and said it was huge and had run through the hedge and across the field. I turned the car around but there was no sign of it."
Craig’s mother added: "I thought maybe Craig had been drinking, or perhaps someone had spiked a drink. But that hadn’t happened. He is a very truthful boy. He would not say something had happened if it hadn’t. And anyway, his friend was in the same state of shock."
Peter Rhodes noted: "Although the event had been terrifying, Craig, a 19-year-old HGV mechanic, did not report it to the police. He told a few friends ('they all laughed') and tried to forget the experience."
Rhodes also spoke with British-based Bigfoot investigator Geoff Lincoln, who told the Express and Star newspaper that: "Bigfoot in Britain is an odd subject and very often the target of ridicule. But sightings are taking place and I am currently looking into two other reports in 2002, one in Northumberland and another in Lancashire."
To Craig Blackmore, Lincoln offered a simple message (and one that Peter Rhodes said was "worthy of The X-Files"): "You are not alone."
As for what these mystifying British Bigfoot-style creatures might be, well, when you go digging you find they're far stranger than mere flesh and blood entities, that's for sure. For years, I have been on the trail of this mystifying monster of the British kind – one that provokes fear, amazement and controversy whenever it rears its horrific, hairy head. The Shug-Monkey, the Beast of Bolam, the Big Grey Man, the Man-Monkey, and the Wild Man of Orford are just a few of its many names.
But, the wild men and Bigfoot-style beasts of Britain are not what many might assume them to be. They’re not just strange. They’re beyond strange. In Wildman!, I present controversial data that places the British man-beast in a definitively paranormal category.
Lycanthrope-style shape-shifting, occult rituals, the human dead returned in beastly form, animal sacrifice, thought-forms and monsters of the mind given a semblance of life, UFO activity, and amazing encounters at sacred, historic and ancient sites all across the British Isles, are just some of the many issues covered in Wildman!, the first, full-length study of a bizarre and nightmarish phenomenon of appropriately monstrous proportions.