Mar 13, 2021 I Nick Redfern

On the Loose: The Mysterious “Little People” of the U.K.

My previous article was on the very strange subject of mysterious, giant creatures seen roaming around the United Kingdom. It's almost inevitable that I would decide to write a follow-up article on the exact opposite phenomenon. Namely, some of the weird - and very small - humanoids of the U.K. Here we go: Centuries-old Welsh folklore, tells of the Bwbach, an approximately three foot tall, hair-covered humanoid perceived by the folk of that era as a brownie or nymph. Supposedly, like so many of similar ilk, they would undertake chores and little jobs around the homes of humans, providing they were the recipients of two things: respect and nourishment, the latter usually in the form of oats, milk and cream. And they had a deep hatred of those who avoided alcohol and led teetotal lives! Wirt Sikes was U.S. Consul to Wales, a noted expert on Welsh folklore, and the author of an acclaimed 1880 book, British Goblins. In its pages, Sikes wrote of the hairy little Bwbach that it...

" the good-natured goblin which does good turns for the tidy Welsh maid who wins its favor by a certain course of behavior recommended by long tradition. The maid having swept the kitchen, makes a good fire the last thing at night, and having put the churn, filled with cream, on the whitened hearth, with a basin of fresh cream for the Bwbach on the hob, goes to bed to await the event. In the morning she finds (if she is in luck) that the Bwbach has emptied the basin of cream, and plied the churn-dasher so well that the maid has but to give a thump or two to bring the butter in a great lump. Like the Ellyll which it so much resembles, the Bwbach does not approve of dissenters and their ways, and especially strong is its aversion to total abstainers."

In November 2008, an extremely strange story surfaced from Wanstead - a suburban area of the borough of London. According to witness testimony, a small Bigfoot-type creature was supposedly seen wandering in Epping Forest, a 2,476 hectare area of forestland which, by name at least, was first referenced in the 17th Century, but that has existed since Neolithic times and which, in the 12th Century, was designated as a Royal Forest by King Henry III. Neil Arnold describes how the distinctly odd story began: "The animal was first sighted during early November by eighteen-year-old angler Michael Kent who was fishing with his brother and father in the Hollow Ponds area of Epping Forest, on the border of Wanstead and Leytonstone. The teenager claimed that whilst walking towards his brothers, he heard a rustling in the bushes and saw the back of a dark, hairy animal around four feet in height, that scampered off into the woods." Is it possible that at least some of these creatures might be relatively small apes or monkeys? Let's look at the data.

The very idea that the green and pleasant U.K. countryside may well be playing host to hidden populations of wild baboons (one of the theories put forward for the 2008 incidents) sounds manifestly bizarre and unlikely in the extreme, which, for the most part anyway, it surely is! And, yet, sightings of baboon-like animals certainly do surface from time to time, and from across much of the entire nation. That these same sightings, of what are actually African and Arabian Old World monkeys, span centuries and are comprised of encounters with both (A) flesh and blood entities; and (B) beasts of a distinctly spectral and paranormal nature, and may have, very occasionally, been mistaken for definitive British wild men of small stature, only adds to the mystifying, monkey-based strangeness, as you will now come to firmly appreciate.

Neil Arnold has noted several old tales of a wild man variety that may actually have had their origins in encounters with out of place baboons. Neil says that: "During the reign of Queen Anne [of England, Scotland, and Ireland, from 1702-1707], it was rumored that, at Charing Cross [London], a 'wild man' was on show. The beast was said to have danced on a tight-rope, remaining perfectly balanced to the beat of the music. The creature was also said to have smoked tobacco!’" And, it was small. Very small! A baboon provoked unbridled chaos in 1856; it was an affair that was noted by the Times of July 14 under the heading of Baboon Hunt on a Ships Rigging. This three and a half foot tall specimen, Neil Arnold learned, "escaped onto the docks at Wapping on the Wednesday and was pursued by many.

The animal, had, according to the paper, been acquired by a naturalist. When the man went to collect his animal it proceeded to dart up the rigging. Several men from varying vessels began the hunt, which amused many on-lookers. The agility of the animal was clear as it effortlessly sprang and leapt out of the outstretched arms of its pursuers. After a few hours, the baboon then simply decided it had had enough and descended to a cabin, but at once startled a steward who claimed that the Devil had in fact come aboard. A sack was eventually thrown over the creature and the naturalist reclaimed it."

During the summer of 1924 in Barnet, notes Neil Arnold, a baboon escaped "from an animal dealer named Chapman and found itself right in the heart of Barnet Police Court. The baboon then proceeded to climb through a ventilation grate and make itself cozy in a cell before two keepers arrived at the location and caught it in a net." Game over! For a while, anyway. It’s not every day that you see a headline in the Times newspaper that reads like this: An escaped baboon – antics at a Crystal Palace station. And, yet, that is precisely the title of a story that appeared in the pages of the Times on September 23, 1926, and which began as follows: "An escaped baboon in the booking office of the Crystal Palace High Level (Southern Railway) Station yesterday for a time considerably enlivened the proceedings in the morning rush period. After the discreet withdrawal of the booking clerk, the monkey, a female, was for several minutes in complete possession of the office, and employed the time first in ransacking it, and then at the window attending to the wants of passengers in her own way. Before she was recaptured many passengers had missed their usual trains, and many others had traveled without tickets, intending to pay at their destinations."

And that's just the start of the little creatures of the U.K.! No doubt, some of those mysterious, little things were escapees from zoos and menageries. Other cases were - and still are - much harder to solve.

Nick Redfern
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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