Now and again, I'm asked what it was that got me into the worlds of Cryptozoology, Ufology, the paranormal, the occult and much more of a high-strangeness nature. Well, today, I'll share those origins with you. During the early 1950s my dad, Frank Redfern, like all young men of his age at that time, had to serve three years of National Service (or the Draft, as it was known in the United States). And, having a passion for aircraft, he chose to join the Royal Air Force. During his three years in the RAF, and before returning to his regular job as a carpenter, which he held until his retirement at the age of sixty-five, he was trained in the field of, and worked on, radar. It was towards the end of his service that my dad was involved in several radar-based UFO encounters, all of which occurred at the height of a September 1952 NATO operation, called Exercise Mainbrace.
On each occasion, fast moving objects of unknown origin were tracked on the radar-screens, fighter planes were scrambled, and the ominous and official stamp of secrecy came firmly down on just about everyone and everything. Certainly, my dad didn’t tell me about this most weird affair until I was in my very early teens. It was an event that got me deeply interested in UFOs, and set me on a path to seek out the truth concerning all things saucer-shaped and flying. And it’s a strange and conspiracy-filled path that I’m still on today. And, arguably, those September 1952 events left a deep and lasting impression on my dad, too, since – if asked - he is still willing to talk about them to this very day. Now, let's take a look at the second thing that got me going.
When I was barely four or five years old, my parents took me on a week’s holiday to Scotland. And, if you’re going to go to Scotland, well, you just have to visit Loch Ness, which is precisely what we did. Although I have now been to the loch on many occasions, the first time is the one I have never forgotten. Granted, and hardly surprisingly given my young age at the time, my memories of that long-gone day are very brief and deeply fragmentary, but I do recall standing on the shore and staring out, wondering if there really was a monster - or monsters - in those dark waters. I may not have really known it back then, but that holiday got me hooked on, and captivated by, the strange realm of sinister beasts. And, now, it's time for the third thing that got me interested in the world of the weird.
Now, we come to number three: I grew up in a small village in central England called Pelsall, which is a very old village, to say the least: Its origins date back to 994 A.D. But, far more important and relevant than that, Pelsall is located only about a five minute drive from the site of what, ultimately, became one of the most controversial, weird, and - some even said - paranormal-themed events of the early 20th Century. And it all focused upon a man named George Edalji. Edalji, who was the son of a priest, lived in the very nearby, old town of Great Wyrley, and was thrust into the limelight in 1903 when he was convicted, sentenced and imprisoned for maiming and mutilating horses in the area - reportedly in the dead of night, and, some believed, for reasons related to nothing less than full blown occult rite and ritual. Collectively, the horse slashing and deaths generated not only a great deal of concern at a local level, but also anger, fear, and a distinct trust of the Edalji family, who the locals had consistently frowned deeply upon ever since they moved to the area years earlier.
(Nick Redfern, 2016)
Notably, however, such was the publicity given to the case of George Edalji, and his subsequent lengthy prison sentence, that even none other than the creator of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself - sat up and took careful notice of the case, its developments, and the outcome for Edalji. Actually, Conan Doyle did far more than just that. Fully believing that there had been a huge miscarriage of justice in the Edalji affair, he highlighted it, wrote about it, and even loudly complained to the government of the day about it - events that, combined with the work of others, ultimately led to Edalji’s early release from prison.
But, for me, growing up practically on the doorstep of where all of the old bloodthirsty carnage occurred decades earlier, what I found fascinating - even as a kid - were the weirder aspects of the matter. And, I hasten to add, there were a great deal of them, too. Stories did the rounds locally for years suggesting that not only was Edalji not the culprit, but that the attacker wasn't even human! A giant, monstrous bird; a large ape trained via hypnosis, no less; and an equally-well-trained group of wild boar were all suggested as being viable candidates for the attacks. Needless to say, however, just like the matter of what happened at Roswell, New Mexico in the summer of 1947, who killed JFK, and the identity of Jack the Ripper, so the mysterious saga of George Edalji and the mutilated horses remains exactly that: a mystery. And, I have to admit that I do like a mystery! And it was those three "things" that led me to where I am now.