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Terror on a Scottish Mountain: A Sinister Entity?

A couple of days ago I wrote an article here at Mysterious Universe titled “Inexplicable Panic When Encountering Strange Creatures.” One of those “creatures” was the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdhui – a strange phenomenon that has been incorrectly referred to by many as a “British Bigfoot.” It’s not. And it never has been. Yes, there is a mystery to be solved; there’s little doubt of that. But, the equivalent of the Bigfoot of the United States? Not a chance. With that in mind, I thought I would expand on what we know about the Big Grey Man – and, more importantly, what the witnesses said of their encounters with the BGM. Andy Roberts, a noted expert on the BGM, said: “In 1791 poet James Hogg, known as the Ettrick Shepherd, described seeing a huge figure on Ben Macdhui whilst tending his sheep. As he watched the halo which had formed around him due to the combination of sunshine and mist he suddenly noticed a huge, looming figure. It was vaguely human in shape and he imagined it to be the devil. Hogg fled in terror, not stopping until he reached fellow shepherds. The next day he saw the same figure under similar climatic conditions.”

Hogg himself said it was “…at least thirty feet high and equally proportioned, and very near me. I was actually struck powerless with astonishment and terror. My first resolution was, if I could keep the power of my limbs, to run home and hide myself below the blankets with the Bible beneath my head.” Moving on: The Cairngorm Club Journal for 1921 noted the eye-opening contents of a then recent letter sent to the Aberdeen Free Press in which the writer, “….called attention to a myth prevalent in Upper Deeside to the effect that a big spectral figure has been seen at various times during the last five years walking about on the tops of the Cairngorms. When approached, so the story goes, the figure disappears. Moreover, it has got a name – ‘Ferlie More,’ to wit.”

Cairngorms National Park

Professor Norman Collie’s 1891 encounter is worth noting. The account from Collie, that appeared in the Press and Journal and in the pages of the Cairngorm Club Journal, runs as follows. It makes for undeniable, atmospheric reading, regardless of how one personally interprets the many and varied complexities present in both the BGM legend and Collie’s own telling of his experience: “I was returning from the cairn on the summit in a mist when I began to think I heard something else than merely the noise of my own footsteps. For every few steps I took I heard a crunch, and then another crunch as if someone was walking after me but taking steps three or four times the length of my own. I said to myself: This is all nonsense. I listened and heard it again but could see nothing in the mist. As I walked on and the eerie crunch, crunch, sounded behind me I was seized with terror and took to my heels, staggering blindly among the boulders for four or five miles nearly down to Rothiemurchus Forest. Whatever you make of it I do not know, but there is something very queer about the top of Ben Macdhui and I will not go back there by myself I know.”

The Scots Magazine reported on the story of one Alexander Tewnion, who had his own experience with the BGM phenomenon during the Second World War, specifically in 1943. He told the magazine, in the form of a letter: “Of all the experiences that have come my way, one stands out above all others in its strangeness. This was when I shot the Fear Liath Mor, the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdhui. It happened like this. In October 1943 I spent a ten day leave climbing alone in the Cairngorms. Rations were short then, and I carried a revolver and ammunition to shoot any hares or ptarmigan that came my way. One afternoon, just as I reached the summit cairn of Ben Macdhui, mist swirled across the Lairig Ghru and enveloped the mountain. The atmosphere became dark and oppressive, a fierce, bitter wind whisked among the boulders, and, fearing a storm was imminent, I took hurriedly to the Coire Etchachan path. Above Loch Etchachan the path angles easily downhill. I was swinging along at about five miles an hour when an odd sound echoed through the mist – a loud footstep, it seemed. Then another, and another. Spaced at long intervals!’”

Cairgorms

His story continued: “I am not unduly imaginative, but my thoughts flashed instantly to the well-known story of Professor Norman Collie and the Fear Liath Mor. Then I felt the reassuring weight of the loaded revolver in my pocket. Grasping the butt I peered about in the mist, here rent and tattered by eddies of wind. A strange shape loomed up, receded, came charging at me! Without hesitation I whipped out the revolver and fired three times at the figure. When it still came on I turned and hared down the path, reaching Glen Derry in a time I have never bettered since. You may ask, was it really the Fear Liath Mor? Frankly, I think it was. Many times since then I have traversed Macdhui in mist, bivouacked on it in the open, camped near its summit for days on end on different occasions – often alone, and always with an easy mind. For on that day I am convinced I shot the only Fear Liath Mor my imagination will ever see.”

These are just a few of the many reports of encounters with the Big Grey Man. You will recall that the BGM was described as being “thirty feet high” and “spectral.” Clearly, this is not a Scottish equivalent of the American Bigfoot or the Yeti of the Himalayas. We’re dealing with something that is far more mysterious – and, for those who have encountered the thing, far more terrifying, too. The final words go to the writers at The Spooky Isles website: “More down-to-earth speculation centers upon the meteorological phenomenon known as the ‘Brocken Specter,’ a rare event during which a spectator can see their own elongated shadow cast against clouds, mist or fog, sometimes accompanied by a rainbow-like halo known as a ‘Glorie.’ While the Brocken Specter theory goes some way to explaining the long-legged, tall grey figures that have been sighted, it doesn’t tackle the other aspects of the reports, such as the weird, disembodied footsteps and the strange emotions.”

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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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