A couple of nights ago, I was interviewed on a Canadian radio show about my book Wildman! The Monstrous and Mysterious Saga of the British Bigfoot. To date, it's the only full-length study of the under-appreciated (and seldom highlighted) issue of Bigfoot-type reports in the United Kingdom. One of the questions was focused on how I got interested in the strange subject of the "British Bigfoot" in the first place. And here's the answer...
In 1984 I began working as a van-driver and forklift driver for a company in England's West Midlands that sold paint and wallpaper. It was a job I held until the 1990s. Practically every day, my long and winding route took me to the large and sprawling Staffordshre woodland known as the Cannock Chase.
While out driving across the Chase, and soaking in the majesty of those huge and mighty trees, my mind often wandered back with much affection to those long gone days and nights as a monster-obsessed child. And, perhaps inevitably, to those exciting stories I had heard of the strange creatures that were said to inhabit the thick woods of the Cannock Chase.
Indeed, even way back in the mid-1970s, as I very well knew, seemingly magical tales were quietly told by the local folk of the area of sightings of big-cats, of wild boar, and even of the occasional wallaby or several on the loose deep within the dense, expansive woods.
It was not too long afterwards that my path first crossed with that of a certain mysterious beast, one whose antics and escapades I have since studied extensively. From a bookseller whose name and location have now been long lost to the inevitable fog of time, I had ordered a cheap, used, hardback copy of Janet and Colin Bord’s book Alien Animals.
It's a classic and essential title that digs deep into the many worldwide legends and tales of ghostly black dogs, mysterious big cats, hairy man-beasts, winged monstrosities, and those unknown denizens of the deep, such as the Loch Ness Monster, Ogopogo, as well as a multitude of sea-serpents.
It was in early 1986, I still very well recall, when Alien Animals finally arrived in the mail. I eagerly sat down to read it and was completely amazed to find mention of the infamous Man-Monkey; a bizarre, shining-eyed Bigfoot-type creature that I had never previously come across, but that the Bord’s said haunted Bridge 39 on the Shropshire Union Canal. This was of particular interest to me because the area, it so transpired, was actually very close to that of my daily van-driving route.
I continued to heartily devour the packed pages of Alien Animals and made a careful, mental note to soon make the drive out to the infamous bridge where the Man-Monkey was said to have its lair - a place that I now know very well. It was from pretty much that very moment onwards that I began to take a far greater note of not only the Man-Monkey legend, but also of just about any and all reports of a British Bigfoot variety on which I could lay my eager hands.
As time progressed, and as the days, the months, the years, and ultimately, the decades, went by, I collected more and more accounts, undertook numerous on-site investigations, discovered a wealth of witness testimony, and developed a startling realization that far from being the rarity I and many others had assumed it to be, the British Bigfoot phenomenon was actually one of near-epic, nationwide proportions.
The problem, as I saw it, however, was that while many researchers possessed a report or two, there had been no real attempt on the part of the Fortean community of the day to share, collate and assimilate all of the available data – which, had such an action been undertaken way back when, might very well have led to a deep understanding of the sheer, nationwide scale of the phenomenon.
In other words, this wasn’t just a mystery of not fully understood proportions. It was also an issue that was very much one of not fully appreciated or recognised proportions.
Nevertheless, however, from all across the country’s forests, woods, hills, mountains and even fairly built-up areas, reports most assuredly did exist. And, unlike my own, personal investigations, those reports spanned not just the years or the decades, but the centuries even. Thus, it very soon became evident to me that this was a phenomenon which, to a highly significant degree, and aside from only the occasional comment, was pretty much ignored, derided, laughed at – or all three.
But, the undeniable fact was that there were dozens – maybe even hundreds – of people all across the nation who had encountered beasts that, if we were talking about the Pacific northwest woods or the Himalayas, we would, without any degree of doubt or hesitation at all, be calling Bigfoot or the Abominable Snowman. So, I made it my time (well, a small portion of it – a normal life is essential in this field, too!) to dig as deeply as I was able into the puzzle of the Sasquatch of the British Isles.
Today, my collective research into the matter of the British Bigfoot is comprised of hundreds of stories of Sasquatch-style monstrosities, of wild men, of mysterious apes, and of creatures that should not exist, that logic tells us cannot exist, but that, in some most odd and ethereal fashion, clearly do exist.
But there’s more. And it’s a word of some significant warning for those who may have preconceived notions and ideas about what might conceivably pass for the large and hairy chap in Britain.
Many of the cases, and certainly the vast majority of the available testimony, on record from the British Isles clearly demonstrate that the British Bigfoot most assuredly is not a flesh and blood beast. Or, at least, it’s not of a flesh and blood nature in the way that most of us generally accept, or understand, the term.
There are numerous reports of the British creatures vanishing in the blink of an eye. Such entities are seen time and again in the vicinity of ancient stone circles, prehistoric hill-forts, and areas of historical and archaic significance. They appear to have the unfathomable ability to significantly affect electrical equipment and even people’s perception and state of mind - and seldom, if ever, in a particularly positive fashion, either.
For the most part, the sightings are always of solitary beasts – hardly ever with others of their kind or with juvenile offspring. And, they are seemingly utterly content to go on about their enigmatic activities quite successfully without the need for even a modicum of food, water or shelter. Such, then, is the strange and monstrous "existence" and "life" of the hairy wild man of Britain.
As for my research, it continues...