Neil Arnold is a good friend of mine and someone who has spent a lot of time investigating reports of one of the most controversial of all the paranormal phenomena that exist in the U.K. Namely, what has become known as the "British Bigfoot." Neil is also someone who gets out into the field and undertakes a great deal of on-site investigations. As a result, he has compiled a vast amount of data on mysterious creatures seen in the U.K., and particularly so in the county of Kent – in which Neil and his wife, Jemma, reside – and other parts of the south of England too, as will now become demonstrably clear. "The south-eastern region of England," says Neil, specifically of British wild men and Bigfoot, that Kent "...has had sporadic reports over the years. It still harbors forest area and also heavy woodland, and these woods are steeped in history and folklore and figure quite heavily with some reports. But a majority always seem to come from already eerie and mystical places, where in the past there have been ghost sightings, rumors of other strange creatures and also areas that seem to attract legends of black magic, ancient stones, white witches, pagans, etc."
With that said, let’s dig deep into Neil’s archives, which he has generously shared with me, and, as a result, with you too. From October 2010, comes the following story, written to Neil by Sally of Essex, and presented for you in unedited form: "On the 14th October I was driving home from work. It was approximately 9:30 p.m. and I turned the corner into the Ferry Lane Industrial Estate in Rainham. I was coming from the A13 end, approaching The Cherry Tree. I was about one hundred and fifty yards away from a “shape” that was manifesting before my eyes and if I’m truthful, if I’d blinked I would have missed it. From the two seconds that it was in front of me, I will try to explain what I saw. From the railings, a shape approximately the size of a large-shouldered man started to take a human form. It seemed to be made of a dark nicotine-brown smoke, the edge of the shape seemed lighter in color. Its legs looked strong in their form and the shoulders were broad. The strangest thing was the head, as it was very small in comparison to the body, arms and legs." Sally also told Neil: "‘The 'creature' minded me of the Yeti – the Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas. Then just as quick as it had manifested it seemed to be sucked back into the railings as if nothing had happened. I pondered what it might have been. A trick of the light. My headlights causing an optical illusion. The weather was clear and mild, there was no fog or other cars, or people. I have driven round that area several times since but have never seen it again…very, very strange.’
"The county of Sussex is saturated with strange beastly folklore; from reports of dragons, to 'big cats,' and from phantom bears, to even Bigfoot," Neil notes, and with a great deal of justification, too. He states: "One such tale that did the rounds a few years ago took place at Friston Park, in East Sussex. The sighting occurred near Newhaven on November 18th, 2002, at 2:30 a.m., as a Phil Hayman had parked his lorry up to stretch his legs when he spotted a large figure in the woods. The form was illuminated by a red light situated on a forestry machine in the woods. Mr. Hayman was unsettled by the presence and hurried back to his cab but still had time to shine his torch at the being as it rushed off into the darkness. Phil claimed that the creature wasn’t human because he saw no skin colour reflected in the flashlight beam, and suggested it may have been covered in hair for it was dull in color." Neil admits that the above report "probably doesn’t prove that an unknown bipedal creature haunts Sussex woodlands," but he does add that "the following encounter is one that will make you think again!"
He details it like this: "In the summer of 1948, E.J.A. Reynolds, a young boy, had a bizarre encounter whilst setting rabbit traps in a wooded area of Horsham. Whilst he was hiding in the undergrowth and keeping watch on the traps, a small man no more than two feet in height appeared a few yards away from the thicket. The being was covered in hair except for its face. Its nose was pointed and it had incredibly long arms. It did not notice the terrified youngster. The figure then turned and headed back into the woods. Even weirder, the youngster claimed to have seen the creature again a few days later. He was traveling on a bus in the area and noticed the hairy being walking across the lawn of a large garden. I have ten or eleven amazing reports from here in [the U.K. county of] Kent alone, which I couldn't believe," reveals Neil. One was from a woman I used to work with who had seen one in the woods about one hundred yards from my house - which was very, very strange - and the woman hadn't told anybody about it for thirty years. In these British Bigfoot reports, the witnesses are all seeing things with red, glowing eyes, and these reports are hard to categorize. Although people are seeing big hulking things that are covered in hair, I don’t actually think they are the same things that people are seeing in America; because I personally think that the American Bigfoot is actually flesh-and-blood."
And, now, Neil outlines a few of those cases from his files: "Wouldham is a small village in Kent which sits right next to Blue Bell Hill, which for me remains the countries weirdest village,’ explains Neil. In his opinion, here’s just one of the many reasons why Wouldham is a place to be considered definitively weird: ‘In my book [The Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Kent], I noted several bizarre tales concerning witnesses who’d seen red-eyed man-beasts and very recently a lady, who now resides in Norfolk, contacted me to say that when she was a child growing up in the ‘60s at Wouldham, her grandmother used to tell her intriguing tales. One of these was said to date back to the 1920s and her grandmother, who passed away, made notes of this. The lady said that her grandmother used to tell her about the 'hairy man' of Wouldham. A humanoid often seen in local woods by children, and certainly adults were made aware of this being. It was completely covered in hair and the story had become embedded in her psyche and was triggered again when she purchased my book The Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Kent and saw, at the front, an image of a hairy humanoid standing at Blue Bell Hill’s Kit’s Coty House, an ancient structure on the landscape."
As for what, exactly, all of this may mean, Neil offers the following: "It’s clear to me that we aren’t dealing with tales of escaped monkeys, but indeed something very much embedded in the fabric of the place, as some kind of folkloric creature which has existed for possibly centuries. It seems, as well, that the more I write about the creature, the more it stirs up. Around 1997/’98 there was a report in the local newspaper of a gorilla-type creature seen at Blue Bell Hill, and I recall scoffing at the report and believed it was simply down to media drama. Now, it seems that there is, and always has been, a strange humanoid prowling the dark lanes and thickets of a place that I’ve been obsessed with since I was a kid, [when] my dad used to take me there and terrify me with tales of the phantom hitchhiker"
In August 1975, at Walderslade, Chatham, Kent, says Neil: "A female witness named Maureen, who was eighteen at the time, was with her boyfriend, late at night, in local woods near Sherwood Avenue. They were chatting and her boyfriend decided to bend down and light a fire. As he was doing so, Maureen saw two glowing points of light just a few feet away that she took to be eyes. They belonged to a hulking, hairy creature that she could just pick out in the darkness, and it stood a couple of feet above her, making this creature around six to seven feet in height. Maureen watched the figure, but was too transfixed to alert her companion, and then, the eyes seemed to lower and the form disappeared behind the undergrowth, but she sensed it was still there, so, without trying to worry her partner, she simply asked to leave. She never spoke of the encounter for some thirty years often asking herself afterwards if she’d seen the Devil! Skepticism may arise over such matters but across the U.K. there are legends of such 'wild men,' and as you will read in other cases from Kent, such glimpses of red eyes and hulking humanoids, albeit scarce, do occur."