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The Strange Mystery of the Hexham Wolf

Throughout history there have been those stories in which something sinister and deadly has come to town to run amok. Strange beasts, phantoms, ghosts, demons, or whatever the case may be, these entities have touched down to cause a good amount of trouble and even death, before passing along into the mists of time. One such case involves a quaint rural countryside in England speckled with quiet hamlets, which for a time was prowled by some bloodthirsty beast from a nightmare.

It was October of the year 1904, the rural farming area of Hexhamshire, around the village of Allendale, not far from the thriving town of Hexham, Northumberland, England, had a very strange and vicious visitor. In this land of rolling green hills and placid farms, farmers were beginning to claim that something had viciously attacked and mauled or killed their sheep, sometimes devouring parts of the animals but sometimes seeming to have killed them just for sport. The damage done to the carcasses was examined, and it was determined that the culprit was likely a large dog or a wolf, which would have been strange since the area had had no wild wolves in centuries. Nevertheless, something continued to kill sheep at a prodigious rate, to the point that 3 to 5 animals a night were dying and farmers were taking to housing them indoors at night to protect them from whatever was marauding out there through the gloom. In the meantime, there were reports trickling in of witnesses seeing a massive wolf with dark coloration prowling about the countryside, and the panic was such that a wolf hunting committee was put together, called the Hexham Wolf Committee.

The Hexham countryside

It would come to the attention of authorities that a Captain Bain of Shotley Bridge had kept wolves, of which one had gone missing, and although he insisted that the escaped animal was only 4 months old, and thus too young and small to really pose any serious threat, this nevertheless became the main culprit for all of the myriad sheep killings. There were many wolf hunts organized during this time, and in December of that year a hunting party tracked what they called a very large and imposing wolf after it had carried out a “mass slaughter of sheep,” but it escaped, only to return to its kill later and drag one of the bodies away. A renewed search was launched, and although wolf tracks were found, the beast could not again be located, even as sightings of a very large wolf continued to startle locals in the vicinity. Oddly, reports of the thing’s appearance seemed to be inconsistent, with some saying it was black, others saying it was tan, and still others speaking of something that looked more like a large big cat. Considering the different descriptions, it was soon being suggested that more than one of the bloodthirsty beasts was on the loose, which only further stoked hysteria.

The wolf committee took to sending out seasoned teams of Haydon hunting hounds to try and hunt down the wolf, but they were never able to pick up a solid trail, even when brought to the site of a sheep killing, and it was perplexing to all involved. There was even a seasoned big shot big game hunter by the name of Mr. W Briddick brought in, and although he managed to see the animal and even get it in his sights on occasion, it remained rather frustratingly elusive. In the meantime, on December 29, two local hunters claimed to have cornered the beast, but said it had then leapt over a high wall to elude them, and another report describes a group of children and a mother confronting it to scare it away by yelling at it. It would not be until late December that any headway was made in the strange mystery at all.

On December 29, 1904, the carcass of a large grey male wolf was found in two pieces, flung around 40 yards from a mainline railway on the way to Carlisle and apparently having been cleaved in half by an incoming train. At first the ones who found it simply buried it, as they had not known the significance of the discovery, but the carcass was later dug up and shown to the Wolf Committee and Captain Bain, who was adamant that this was not his wolf and was much too large. It would be surmised that this was a different wolf, but where had it come from and was it the animal responsible for killing so many sheep? No one knew. However, the killings would seemingly stop after that, and the story sort of what has become the “Hexham Wolf” or also the “Allendale Wolf” disappeared from the news to fade into history. Yet, things would only get more bizarre in later years.

The body of the mystery wolf

In 1971, two brothers by the names of Colin and Leslie Robson dug up two bizarre little stone heads about the size of tennis balls in their garden in Hexham, which besides being of unidentified origins and mysterious in purpose, supposedly were orbited by quite a lot of strangeness. Besides numerous instances of poltergeist activity reported in the boys’ home after the discovery, there were also some rather ominous incidents. One evening, the boys claimed that they saw a “half-man/half-beast” enter their bedroom, after which it supposedly casually padded off to vanish into the night. Even more sensational was the report given by an expert in Celtic artefacts by the name of Dr. Anne Ross, who acquired the stone heads for analysis and soon after had her own frightening encounter. She claims that she woke up one night from a vivid nightmare, only to see looming in the doorway of her room a beastly, hulking monstrosity. She would say of this:

It was about six feet high, slightly stooping, and it was black, against the white door, and it was half animal and half man. The upper part, I would have said, was a wolf, and the lower part was human and, I would have again said, that it was covered with a kind of black, very dark fur. It went out and I just saw it clearly, and then it disappeared, and something made me run after it, a thing I wouldn’t normally have done, but I felt compelled to run after it. I got out of bed and I ran, and I could hear it going down the stairs, then it disappeared towards the back of the house.

This creature would also allegedly be seen fleeing the home by Ross’ own daughter shortly after. Ross came to the conclusion that what are now called the “Hexham Heads” were cursed, and promptly got rid of them. Amazingly, there were a few other scattered reports of “werewolves” in the area at the time, and it has been speculated whether those heads were in some way connected to the Hexham wolf scare of the same area decades previous. Unfortunately, no one knows where the heads got off to and they have just sort of disappeared into history, so we are left to wonder. It has all become a rather odd historical mystery and oddity, and it leaves many questions. What was the Hexham wolf? Was this an out of place wolf, and if so where did it come from? Was it a surviving specimen of the long extinct British wolf? Was it mere hysteria and misidentification? Or was it perhaps something all together stranger, and was there some connection to the Hexham heads? We will probably never know for sure.