Today, I'm going to share with you a very strange story that just might have its roots in nothing less than shape-shifting. In August 2001, Mike Hallowell, a very well respected researcher of numerous anomalies – mystery animal-based and otherwise - penned an article for the Center for Fortean Zoology’s in-house magazine, Animals & Men. The subject was the sighting of a large cat of unknown origins in Cleadon, which is a village located in South Tyneside in the northeast of England. The origins of the village date back more than one thousand years. The sightings of the giant cat, which were never satisfactorily resolved, began in January 1999 and attracted Mike’s attention for years. Then, during December 2009, Mike commented on a new development in the saga; although it was a development that most observers and commentators of the mystery would probably never, ever have anticipated. As Mike began, regarding the latest strand in the curious saga:
"Over a decade after the Cleadon Big Cat first strutted onto the cryptozoological stage, something has happened to resurrect it." Or, he added: "Maybe not, as it's all a bit confusing." It certainly is that, alright. With the above said and outlined, let us address the story of Mike himself, who, on December 10, 2009, told of how several days earlier he spoke with a friend and research colleague, John Triplow, who informed Mike of a website that contained "an intriguing BHM [Big Hairy Man] story, not unlike that of the infamous Beast of Bolam Lake, which I actively investigated with a CFZ team in early 2003."
What puzzled John – and that also deeply flummoxed Mike – was that this particular sighting of a large, hairy man-beast allegedly occurred right in the heart of Cleadon village, in the very same year that the large black cat was reportedly prowling, in sinister and similar fashion, around the neighborhood. As for why it so flummoxed Mike, let’s take a good and close look.
He noted, correctly, that the Borough of South Tyneside is the smallest Metropolitan Borough in the United Kingdom, and is comprised of only half-a-dozen villages and towns, a handful of farms, and, if one is brutally honest, not much else at all. Aside, that is, from one thing. And it’s a very significant thing, too. The area, Mike revealed, "also happens to be one of the hottest spots around for paranormal research, and I've written a good few books, articles and columns dealing with the wacky stuff that seems to happen here more than anywhere else I know."
As for the story of the Cleadon man-beast, Mike said that the witness in question reported seeing in the darkness of the night in question (a night, the precise date for which, has yet to be ascertained) what appeared to be a large, two-legged animal covered in a thick coat of fur, as well as a second individual – but this one undeniably human - apparently out walking their pet dog. Mike added that "it seemed more than a little odd to me that this BHM sighting should occur in the same village that had only a short while previously been the setting for the infamous Cleadon Big Cat incident. Two spectacular cryptids in the one village, only a few short years apart?’
It was a most puzzling question to be sure, and one that Mike dug into further, as he attempted to resolve the nature of what, exactly, was afoot: "My suspicions were further fuelled by the presence of someone walking a dog when the Cleadon BHM was allegedly seen. During my investigation into the Cleadon Big Cat case, the press (the Shields Gazette, January 14, 1999) reported that a woman who had been walking her huge Burmese mountain dog on Cleadon Hills believed that she – or rather her pet – may have been mistaken for the big cat. I was subsequently able to discount this, but the fact that both the Cleadon Big Cat story and the account of the Cleadon BHM included a dog-walker on Cleadon Hills at the time of each sighting again made me wonder if the two stories had been melded together."
And there was yet another similarity, too, as Mike came to realize: "‘One of the witnesses in the Cleadon Big Cat case claimed that he’d seen the animal running past his hedge, approximately fifty feet away. If one substitutes the words 'tree line' for 'hedge' and 'fifty yards' for 'fifty feet,'the two accounts are unnervingly similar." Had the two stories – one of a huge man-beast and the other of a large, exotic cat - somehow become confused and intertwined in a fashion that, to this day, is still not altogether clear? Just like the true nature of the beast, the answer to that question remains unknown. We should not ignore, however, that both beasts were one and the same - a creature that had the supernatural ability to transform into the figure of a large black cat and as a large, Bigfoot-type monster.