When we think of water-based creatures of the unknown type, we tend to think of massive animals living in equally massive lakes. There are, for example, the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland, Ogopogo and Champ. What we don’t often think of are much smaller, unidentified animals seen inland and in quite small bodies of water. And that’s the theme of today’s article. Thomas “Tommy” Tyson lived for many years in Glasgow, Scotland and, in the 1970s, regularly commuted to the county of Staffordshire, England on business. It was at some point in the hot summer of 1976 that he had a remarkable encounter on the Cannock Chase woods – with what he says was a giant snake – or possibly a monstrous eel. Unfortunately, Tyson cannot recall the exact location where the incident occurred, but he can state with certainty that it was a small pool – no more than twenty feet by thirty – that existed at the time, and that he believes was “not far from [the village of] Slitting Mill.”
Tyson states that he had parked his car, a Ford Cortina, on a makeshift car-park that was adjacent to the pool and was munching on his sandwiches and reading a newspaper. “It was a stifling day. I remember swigging something to drink and having a bite when there was something moving right on the bank [of the pool].” Tyson states that he was startled to see a creature that he estimated to be around fifteen feet long slowly surface from the water and that then proceeded to “bask”’ on the banks of the pool. “It sort of wriggled,” said Tyson, “like its whole body seemed to sort of shake or wobble [as it] moved.” Tyson states that the animal had a serpent-like head and oily colored skin. Its body was “thick” and it seemed unconcerned by his presence. “‘I know it saw me – or saw the car, definitely – because it looked right in this direction and then just went back to what it was up to: laying there.”
But what was most puzzling to Tyson was the fact that the animal seemed to have “flippers near the front – or little feet or something.” Tyson concedes that the animal may have had similar “flipper”or “‘feet” at its rear, but he explains that the “back-end never came right out of the water; like it was trying to keep itself cool.” Tyson watched astonished – and not a little concerned – for at least twenty minutes, after which the animal slid back into the pond: “I wondered how a small pond like that might feed an animal that big for food. But what about the feet or flippers? Does that mean it might have been able to go from pool to pool for fish and things?”
Such a possibility may not be too extreme. For those who consider the possibility of huge serpents or giant eels on the loose in central England to be just too extreme, take note of the following, published in the Birmingham Evening Mail newspaper in January 2003. It may cause you to re-evaluate your opinion: “Walkers, joggers and cyclists have been pounding a towpath in Edgbaston unaware of a near 15ft. Burmese Python lurking in the depths just feet away below the water. The oversized serpent, capable of killing a child, has been fished out of the Rotten Park Road canal in Edgbaston by the RSPCA [the U.K.’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] yesterday. It was spotted by a terrified passer-by. It was not clear how long the snake had been living there, but experts said it hadn’t been dead for too long.
“RSPCA Inspector Rob Hartley, based at the rescue centre in Barnes Hill, said: “It’s like something out of a horror movie. This thing is massive; we’ve never seen one this big before. It’s a monster. We’ve measured it at fourteen and a half feet and up to fourteen inches wide. It probably weighs at least eleven stone. It could kill a child by wrapping itself around it and suffocating it. We don’t know whether it simply got too big for someone to look after and they let it go free or it escaped.” The newspaper added: “Inspector Hartley said that the snake’s size indicated it had been well kept by whomever, even though it would have devoured around twenty-four dead mice or day-old chicks a day. He said the Burmese Pythons were relatively common pets, but usually only reached about six feet in captivity.” Similarly, rumors abound in “monster-hunting” circles of the sighting of a very large eel seen in a Birmingham canal in the 1980s.
As this case shows, there seems no reason to doubt the possibility that the dark waters of the Cannock Chase may be home to creatures of an undoubtedly deadly nature.