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Old Stinker, The English Werewolf

For most people, werewolves must surely be solely creatures inhabiting the realm of horror stories. Along with vampires and zombies, it seems that these can’t possibly have ever been real in any sense of the word, and that they are purely the constructs of the human imagination and our nightmares. Yet there are a surprising number of legends of werewolves from all around the world, and in many cases actual supposed sightings of these beasts over the centuries and going all the way up into the present, as absurd as it may sound to some. For many people throughout history and even into the present these are very real beasts, and one place with a long tradition of werewolf tales that seem to have come seeping into the modern day is a quaint little area of England, where a werewolf is said to still roam.

Stories of a supernatural terror stalking the wilds of East Yorkshire, England, have been making the rounds for centuries. Here there is much lore concerning ravenous werewolves prowling the night, to the point that in Saxon times there were places along roads built specifically for travelers to come in out of the night and be safe from the ferocious beasts out in the moors and woodlands. Of the many stories of werewolves going back to at least the 12th century, one of the most notorious was one tale that began in the 18th century of a werewolf called “Old Stinker,” due to the fact that it was said to have particularly fetid breath and was constantly followed by an odoriferous cloud of stench. Old Stinker was said to have brightly glowing red eyes and a powerful tail that it used as a weapon, and the lore says it especially liked to wait in ambush along roads to attack stagecoaches and travelers.

So far this sounds very much like mere spooky local lore and legend, probably based on the fact that it was here were some of England’s last remaining wolves roamed, often rooting through graveyards and terrifying the populace, but what if it was something more? The legend of Old Stinker might have faded away into history entirely as the wolves went extinct, but it was thrust out of obscurity and back into the public consciousness when in 1960 a truck driver came forward to claim that his vehicle had been viciously attacked by an 8-foot-tall bipedal wolf with glowing red eyes as he had been driving outside of the town of Kingston upon Hull, often just called Hull. The creature would apparently smash the windshield of the truck before loping off into the night, and this report would resurrect the old legend of Old Stinker when locals connected it to the old stories.

After this harrowing encounter there were no further sightings of whatever it had been until very recently, when the area of Hull began to experience a string of reports of encounters with what seems to have been the same beast of lore. In December 2015, a terrified witness came forward with her own experience of coming across a hulking, wolf-like creature near a manmade storm drain canal called Barmston Drain, near the town of Beverley, in Hull, which lies adjacent to a sprawling woodland called the Yorkshire Wolds. The woman said that the estimated 8-foot-tall creature was massive and muscular, and that she saw it go from a four-legged gait to walking upright on two legs. She would tell The Express:

It was stood upright one moment. The next it was down on all fours running like a dog. I was terrified. It bounded along on all fours, then stopped and reared up on to its back legs, before running down the embankment towards the water. It vaulted 30ft over to the other side and vanished up the embankment and over a wall into some allotments.

Other people began seeing the same beast in the vicinity of the drain over the coming months, including a few reports that are rather wild. In one account a couple walking through the wooded area by the drain on a leisurely stroll were terrified to see a tall, hairy humanoid beast with a snouted face and powerful tail crouched over what appeared to be a dead German Shepherd dog, which is was apparently in the process of eating. When it noticed it was being watched, it purportedly picked the carcass up in its powerful jaws and ran off with its prey, jumping over an 8-foot fence in the process. In another report, a woman delivering pizzas was startled to notice a huge, muscular “dog-like creature covered in cream and gray” fur and with an expressive, human-like face following her car walking along menacingly on two legs. Yet another account came from a pair of witnesses who saw a huge, dog-like creature “eating something fluffy” by the side of the road. The witness would say of the encounter:

We were driving along outside the national trust property, there are lots of open fields around there, when suddenly, I spotted something in the road ahead. It was getting dark, but I saw its eyes reflect in my headlights. We stopped the car, and it was just standing there. We’d heard rumours about an escaped panther in the area, but we’d thought it was a load of nonsense. But when I saw this animal with my own eyes, I was stunned. It was enormous, far too big for a fox or a dog. It was petrifying. It looked like it was on steroids. It must have weighed about 9 stone – about the same as a slim adult. It looked right at us and walked up to the car. It then lowered the front of its body and looked like it was going to pounce. Some of my mates have said they don’t believe me, but we came face to face with this thing. We know what we saw.

There would be at least 6 further reports from people claiming to have seen an actual werewolf roaming the vicinity of the drain, gaining widespread newspaper coverage, and local folklorist and historian Mike Covell would say of some of these accounts:

Since the first article was published in the Mail, I have had calls from papers and websites all over the world. There has been a plethora of sighting in the past few weeks. One man was crossing Fountain Road Bridge when he saw what he could only describe as a huge dog with very dark, matted hair near the allotments at the side of Barmston Drain. And a married couple saw a large canine in Stepney Lane, where it chased the witness and his friends as the rode home one evening. Another sighting took place on Reform Street, where they witnessed the creature jump over a wall topped with barbed wire.

Covell went to far as to organize actual a “werewolf hunt” along Barmston Drain with some other locals, armed with cameras in case they came across the brute, without success. In the meantime, Local Labour councillor Steve Wilson offered to collect the sightings and report them to the Hull Council, and for the entirety of 2015 and 2016 Hull was featured widely in the news as ground zero for werewolf strangeness before the accounts tapered off. Despite the high profile of these reports and talk of bloodthirsty wolfmen, some of the local residents have sort of laughed the whole things off. One 80-year-old resident who has lived in the area his entire life told the Daily Mail:

I used to go swimming in the drain when I was about seven. We used to call it ‘Leccy’ because it was the water source for the local power station. The power station would heat up the water, meaning you could swim in it all year round. The water level was a lot higher than it is now. I wouldn’t like to take a dip in it now though! There’s no such thing as this werewolf though. I have never seen anything.

So is was there ever an Old Stinker lurking about the Yorkshire countryside, and did it or something like it survive into the modern day to rear its head again? That depends on who you ask. For the ones who have seen it, they are adamant that it is all true, while others write it off as misidentifications of dogs or other wildlife, or even pure hoaxes and tall tales. Whatever the case may be, the werewolf legend in Hull seems to be very much alive today.