Pauline and Raymond Wood have a bizarre problem. Decapitated fish keep showing up in their garden. It's not the work of a murderous house cat on a goldfish bender. The fish they find in their garden are big and of different varieties, none of which would be easy prey for the average house cat. But what about a not-so-average cat?
The Heybridge, UK couple say they've had numerous instances of walking out of their house in the morning to find mostly headless, though sometimes otherwise mutilated, fish flopped under a tree or in a flower bed. According to Pauline Wood:
“It’s like a Biblical plague – of the headless flying fish!”
Pauline says she recently found a headless dab underneath a fir tree and then days later found a tail apparently belonging to another unfortunate fish on the path leading from her back door. But these fish are by no means the first, nor are Pauline and Raymond the first to find the fish. In an interview with the South End Standard, Pauline says:
"Last year in the paddocks next door to us they found all different sorts of headless dead fish in the grass. The lady there asked if we had found any fish in our garden. I said no, but the week afterwards I found two eels with no heads in my garden.
There have been two so far this year but last year there must have been six or seven eels with no heads."
It's not a mystery where the fish are coming from. Heybridge is on England's east coast, and the Woods live close to both the Heybridge basin—a small pond down a dirt road—and the River Blackwater which opens up into the North Sea. Fish are not an anomaly in Heybridge on their own. But how decapitated fish are making their way out of the water and into their garden is a mystery. Pauline says:
I just can’t understand where they are coming from. It only seems to be on this side of the road and our garden backs on to the coast path.
Are these fish flying here from Basin Lock, or are they some sort of gift from the birds that we feed?”
One theory is that the fish may have fallen prey to local predators and were then dumped unceremoniously into the Woods' garden. That seems likely, but Pauline has questions about that explanation:
“If it was a wild animal, wouldn’t it eat the whole thing - not just the head?"
Not necessarily. While humans grow up learning not to waste their food, wild animals don't have nearly as many scruples. Mangled remains of their food are also often a present animals, notably cats who are notorious for enjoying a good fish dinner, leave for people. But according to Pauline, if it was a cat, it would have to be pretty big:
"Last week’s fish was quite large. It would have gone across a dinner plate – if it had still had its head."
Although, England does have folklore of mysterious big cats roaming the countryside, and the first sightings of these anomalous big cats happened to occur in the county right next door to Heybridge. In recent years, there have been numerous sightings and video recordings of large cats in southern England. Are the Woods being left presents by the fabled anomalous big cats? It's unknown if the Woods have tried to capture any sort of evidence for what might be leaving the headless fish, but it might be a good idea. For one, they might find solid proof of a legendary cryptid. Also, they might be able to get their garden to stop smelling like dead fish.