May 20, 2021 I Nick Redfern

Pubs, Inns and Strange Creatures: The Bizarre Connections!

Yes, I know: that is a weird title for an article! But, the fact is there is a link between the all three of the above. Namely, that where strange creatures are seen there is often a link to pubs. At least, there is in the U.K. And I should know! In 2011, author and creature-seeker Neil Arnold noted: "Many years ago when I first began writing for Animals & Men magazine [the Center for Fortean Zoology’s in-house magazine] I mentioned to [CFZ director] Jon Downes something regarding cryptozoological pub signs. There are many St. George and the Dragon signs, and I know a few which also mention unicorns. However, one particular pub sign, which is of great interest to me is that which belongs to the Wild Man at 29 Bedford Street in Norwich. Now, most pub signs have a meaning, but the legend which pertains to the Wild Man is extremely intriguing. So the folklore states, many, many years ago a six year old boy named Peter became lost in a wood in Germany. Around six years later the boy had grown wild, and in naked form would prowl the woods, living alongside the resident animals. Eventually he was found and picked up by a traveling showman who exhibited throughout Europe."

As Neil also said: "St. Mary’s Northchurch adds more to the legend, for within its walls there is an inscription which reads: 'To the memory of Peter, known as the Wild Boy, having been found wild in the forest of Hertswold near Hanover in the year 1725. He then appeared to be about 12 years old. In the following year he was brought to England by the order of the late Queen Caroline, and the ablest masters were provided for him. But proving himself incapable of speaking, or of receiving any instruction, a comfortable provision was made for him at a farm in this parish, where he continued to the end of his inoffensive life. He died on the 22nd of February, 1785, supposed to be aged 72.'" And there the inscription ends. But why was there an association between wild Peter and the Norwich-based pub itself that led the owner to even name the inn after the slightly tragic soul? Neil provides the answer: ‘Around 1751 Peter was housed at the public house. In the past the sign would depict the unfortunate chap as a demonic character amid flickering flames. Now the pub sign shows him frequenting the forest alongside bears." Now, onto another case.

Paranormal magazine state: "It has been suggested that the Woodwose is a folk memory of some species of early hominid, a pre-Homo sapiens ape man...Perhaps a few remnants of these 'wild men' still lingered in inaccessible places when prehistoric man first hacked their way through Europe’s primeval forest. They might have been glimpsed by Neolithic settlers in the hearts of what remained of their woodland habitat..." Paranormal continue: ‘In Sproughton, in Suffolk, the Wild Man Inn was so named after a terrifying entity that attacked its builders in the 16th Century. They also cite a police report of a 'horrible uncouth creature' which had been living in woods near Salisbury in Wiltshire and attempted to carry off a farmer’s wife: this was recorded as late as 1877. I have also spoken to witnesses who may have encountered a similar man-beast in North-East Wales."

David Castleton, of The Serpent's Pen blog, says: "A benign black dog is said to have haunted a farmhouse near Lyme Regis, Dorset. The dog never caused any trouble, but one night the farmer got drunk and attacked the dog with a poker. He chased it into the attic, where the creature escaped by jumping straight through the ceiling. The farmer struck at the dog as it disappeared and – at the spot where his poker crashed down – he found a hidden hoard of gold and silver. The man used this loot to set up an inn – a bed and breakfast, called The Old Black Dog, claims to stand on its site today."

Moving on, writer Elizabeth Randall, addressing the matter of "Green Man"-type creatures in the U.K., provides the following: "‘Carved depictions of the Green Man can be found not only in churches but also in secular buildings. Plus, it is a common name for a public house, where it would appear on inn signs that, occasionally, show a full figure instead of simply a head [italics mine]. The motif can be found right across the world and is, more often than not, related to natural vegetative divinities from throughout the ages. It is first and foremost a symbol of rebirth that represents the spring cycle of growth. From Asia to Europe there are representations of the image. From the 2nd Century to the modern day the Green Man can be associated with similar beliefs."

Precisely why there seems to be a connection between inns, pubs and strange creatures is anyone's guess. Definitely a strange mystery!

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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