Recent photos of a "mystery beast" that surfaced in the United Kingdom have had some residents near Great Alne, Warks, concerned about a possible predator lurking in their neighborhood.
The photos were captured by Philip White, who managed to film the animals from a window in his home with a camcorder he had on hand.
White told the Mirror about his sighting of what he believed to be one of the UK's many mysterious "big cats", describing the animal as follows:
"It looks like a wild cat you normally see in the zoo or a safari park. Either it's escaped from a private collection or just living in the wild but it was pretty scary to see. It looked fully grown and was walking around with confidence so its obviously used to its surroundings. We keep our windows and doors closed at all times now and are always careful when we take our one-year-old daughter out in the garden."
While speculation about the alleged "beast" involved an escaped animal of some sort, the Mirror reports that the cat in the photograph is now believed by most to have been a pet Bengal Cat which is known to roam the neighborhood, rather than one of the UK's long-observed mystery beasts.
England has a long history of observations of such creatures, with stories of famous "beasts" that resemble large cats like panthers or leopards seen stalking about the moors for decades. During a recent discussion with the English artist and cryptid enthusiast Sam Shearon, we talked a bit about the country's long history of sightings of the creatures, of which he was quite well-versed.
"You have the Beast of Exmoor, the Beast of Bodmin Moor, the Surrey Puma; all these different legends that become almost folkloric in the English lifestyle of cryptozoology.”
Shearon, while well-versed in the UK’s mysterious big cat reports, is more than merely an enthusiast of the local folklore. In 2004, he was driving along a secluded area at night when he and his girlfriend actually observed one of the creatures themselves.
“Indeed, I did see one. It must have been 2004, and I was driving with my then-girlfriend through a country lane, and one literally crossed the road in front of us at night in front of the car. It leaped—almost floated—it was so smooth. Just up over a hedgerow and into another field.
“We just sort of stopped the car, and looked at each other, and thought ‘oh my god, what was that.’ For a second, we were about to get out of the car and have a closer look. And then, common sense rapidly sank in. Oh no, that’s a big cat, probably not a good idea!
“I called the National Bigfoot Society, and made a report. They called me back within the hour and said, ‘oh yeah! You’re the sixth person in that area that’s reported one this year.’ So, we definitely saw one.”
But is there indeed really a "mystery" to the appearances of the cats throughout the country? After all, how might the creatures have come to exist in an area like the English countryside, where their existence would otherwise seem impossible?
Shearon refers to it all as a "now sort of ‘not so unexplained’ mystery."
“Back in the 1970s in Great Britain, a law was brought in to curb the collections of these menageries of people having exotic pets," Shearon says. "People would literally keep leopards as pets, or large reptiles and things like that. And for reasons of animal cruelty, etc, they brought in a law to say that you have to buy a license to own an exotic animal.
“Of course, a lot of people simply let their animals go, because they didn’t want to have them handed over to a zoo, or destroyed. So as with anyone with a pet that they love, you want to save it and make sure that it’s not going to be destroyed. So a lot of people actually released these big cats out into the moors of England.”
“Throughout England, there are a lot of rolling hills, countryside and forest for miles and miles, where a lot of people don’t live. So these cats, for decades later, have been seen in these little pockets."
According to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976, the ownership of an extensive number of species of wild animals is prohibited, including eleven types of big cats if the owner does not possess a license. According to the act, "Licenses are granted by the local authority of the area in which the resident who wishes to own the animal resides, and the applicant must be judged suitable to hold a license and must pay a relatively expensive application fee before he or she can obtain a license. License requirements include measures to ensure public safety and animal accommodations that are secure and suitable for the animals’ welfare."
Though sightings of the UK's mysterious "big cats" have often been doubted throughout the years, it does seem that there may be more to the stories than merely hearsay; if anything, as Sam Shearon suggests, the only thing really "mysterious" about the appearances of these creatures is that people outside of England find them so.
Back home, perhaps the existence of these large, prowling cats is something that is more widely accepted, since, after all, it seems that their origins are more well-understood than many would think.
“In fact, I believe they’re now protected by the Queen, believe it or not," Shearon adds. “So they’re definitely out there."