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Mysterious “Bear-Like” Animals in the U.K.

Neil Arnold, a noted authority on monsters and a good friend, shared with me the following, which tells a story of very curious proportions: “For several decades Clapham Woods in West Sussex, [England] has been the subject of many a dark whisper and wicked rumor. Tales of ghosts, murders and black magic often emerge from the ancient woods. My favorite and certainly, creepiest story pertaining to Sussex, and there are many, concerns a sighting of a truly dreadful creature. This manifestation even made the Littlehampton Gazette, in 1975, around the autumn. Even national radio and the popular, topical BBC program Nationwide, featured the story. At the time the area was caught up in a flap of high strangeness. News-crews, journalists, UFO investigators, and paranormal enthusiasts flocked to the area, but rarely after dark.

“Two dogs had gone missing in the area, and when researchers stumbled across a footprint measuring eight-inches long and almost four-inches wide, but showing four-claw mark indentations (and a fifth claw mark towards the rear of the main pad), it was clear that something bizarre was going on. Twelve inches in front of the print, was another, almost identical print. The investigators were equipped with a Geiger counter, as well as other paraphernalia. Suddenly, the needle of the counter began to act oddly when the counter was swept over the prints, and then, from the darkness a grey pillar of mist appeared. With the main A27 road in ear shot, the researchers decided it best to head for home, but then the monster appeared. The hazy shaft of mist before them took on the form of a great bear-like creature. The apparition then faded within ten seconds.

“From then on Clapham Woods would become known for its paranormal activity. It was once rumored that a bear cult operated clandestinely in the thickets, and maybe they’d raised some kind of tulpa-like energy forever to haunt the shadows of the ‘birdless grove.’ Strange symbols, time lapses, animal sacrifice, phantom hounds, secret societies and several obscure cults: Clapham Woods is certainly one of those special places. Blue Bell Hill in Kent, and Cannock Chase in Staffordshire seem to offer similar bouts of high strangeness, whether in the form of strange animal sightings or peculiar activity and folklore. Whether by strange coincidence, the grounds of Verdley Castle, situated also in West Sussex, are supposedly haunted by a giant bear. It is alleged to have been the last bear in England.” Moving on…

Elliot O’Donnell, a renowned collector and investigator of ghost stories, told a fascinating story of a strange, ghostly, bear-like monster seen in none other than London, England’s Tower of London. O’Donnell said: “Edmund Lenthal Swifte, appointed in 1814 Keeper of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, refers in an article in Notes and Queries, 1860, to various unaccountable phenomena happening in the Tower during his residence there. He says that one night in the Jewel Office, one of the sentries was alarmed by a figure like a huge bear issuing from underneath the Jewel Room door. He thrust at it with his bayonet, which, going right through it, stuck in the doorway, whereupon he dropped in a fit, and was carried senseless to the guard-room. When on the morrow Mr. Swifte saw the soldier in the guard-room, his fellow-sentinel was also there, and the latter testified to having seen his comrade, before the alarm, quiet and active, and in full possession of his faculties. He was now, so Mr. Swifte added, changed almost beyond recognition, and died the following day.

“Mr. George Offer, in referring to this incident, alludes to queer noises having been heard at the time the figure appeared. Presuming that the sentinel was not the victim of an hallucination, the question arises as to the kind of spirit that he saw. The bear, judging by cases that have been told me, is by no means an uncommon occult phenomenon. The difficulty is how to classify it, since, upon no question appertaining to the psychic, can one dogmatize. To quote from a clever poem that appeared in the January number of the Occult Review, to pretend one knows anything definite about the immaterial world is all ‘swank.’ At the most we – Parsons, Priests, Theosophists, Christian Scientists, Psychical Research Professors – at the most can only speculate. Nothing – nothing whatsoever, beyond the bare fact that there are phenomena, unaccountable by physical laws, has as yet been discovered. All the time and energy and space that have been devoted by scientists to the investigation of spiritualism and to making tests in automatic writing are, in my opinion – and, I believe, I speak for the man in the street—hopelessly futile.

“No one, who has ever really experienced spontaneous ghostly manifestations, could for one moment believe in the genuineness of the phenomena produced at séances. They have never deceived me, and I am of the opinion spirits cannot be convoked to order, either through a so-called medium falling into a so-called trance, through table-turning, automatic writing, or anything else. If a spirit comes, it will come either voluntarily, or in obedience to some Unknown Power—and certainly neither to satisfy the curiosity of a crowd of sensation-loving men and women, nor to be analyzed by some cold, calculating, presumptuous Professor of Physics whose proper sphere is the laboratory. But to proceed. The phenomenon of the big bear, provided again it was really objective, may have been the phantasm of some prehistoric creature whose bones lie interred beneath the Tower; for we know the Valley of the Thames was infested with giant reptiles and quadrupeds of all kinds (I incline to this theory); or it may have been a Vice-Elemental, or – the phantasm of a human being who lived a purely animal life, and whose spirit would naturally take the form most closely resembling it.”

Now, let’s take a look at another intriguing story: In the summer of 2007, a falconer named Martin Whitley, of the English county of Devon, obtained a number of photographs of a very curious, black-colored, dog-like animal on the wilds of Dartmoor – where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle set his classic Sherlock Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles. As Whitley noted, it was June 9 when the strange affair went down. In his own words: “I was flying a hawk on Dartmoor with some American clients when one of them pointed out this creature. It was walking along a path about 200 yards away from us. It was black and gray and comparable in size to a miniature pony. It had very thick shoulders, a long, thick tail with a blunt end, and small round ears. Its movement appeared feline; then ‘bear-like’ sprang to mind. There was a party climbing on the Tor opposite, making a racket, but this it ignored completely.”

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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