When it comes to water-based monsters, most people think of lake monsters and sea serpents. Today, however, I’m going to focus on creatures that lurk in another body of water. Namely, canals. As for what, exactly, a canal is, there’s the following from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA: “A canal is a human-made waterway that allows boats and ships to pass from one body to another. With that said, let’s take a look at a few bodies of water that fall into this particular category. I’ll begin with the U.K.’s Shropshire Union Canal. It is a dark, cold, and wind-swept night in early 1879. The location: the fringes of a centuries-old little village in central England: Ranton. A man is crossing a large, stone bridge that spans an ancient canal. His only company on that night is a faithful horse, which is dutifully pulling behind it a battered, aged, wooden cart. After a busy day spent moving furniture, the man is tired, hungry and thirsty. He decides to make a welcome stop at the village’s pleasant inn, for a pint or two of beer and a hot meal.
Unfortunately, and before he can do so, fate intervenes. And it does so in just about the most traumatic and horrific way possible. The man is barely halfway across the bridge when, suddenly, out of the thick bushes and trees that surround the bridge, and which dominate the canal, a large, chimpanzee-like beast – sporting wild, glowing eyes – leaps out of the darkness and charges in his direction. For a moment, he is paralyzed to the spot; gripped by overwhelming cold fear. At the very last moment, however, the infernal monster swerves to one side and makes a mighty leap aboard the cart, terrifying the poor horse in the process. Man and horse race to the pub. Since then, there have been dozens of reports of the hairy thing that prowls around the Shropshire Union Canal.
Now, let’s tackle another beast: In April 2016, a very strange story surfaced out of the north of England. And to the extent that not just the local media, but the national media, too, were busy chasing down the strange and sinister story of what has become known as the “Werewolf of Hull,” reportedly an eight-foot-tall, hair-covered monster. The case was, however, notable for the fact that several of the witnesses claimed the beast shape-shifted from a terrible, foul monster into the form of a black-cloaked old witch. Most of the reports surfaced in and around the vicinity of what is called the Beverley and Barmston Drain, a land drainage operation, the origins of which date back to the latter part of the 1800s. A tunnel that carries the drain can be found below an old bridge on Beverley Beck, a canal in East Riding, Yorkshire, England – a location where a number of the encounters with the hair-covered thing have taken place. The bridge connection is an important one that should not be overlooked. In her 2006 book, Mystery Big Cats, author Merrily Harpur provides the following words on what she terms “liminal Zones: “These are the transitional zones between one area and another – the kind of no-man’s-land traditionally regarded as magical.” Harpur’s research has shown that such zones include streams, gates, canals, churchyards and bridges.
As is the case with practically every investigator of the unknown, occasionally I am on the receiving end of stories, tales and accounts that sound great, but where the person relating the data insists on either complete or partial anonymity. Of course, such tales can be very interesting indeed; but, equally, they can be extremely frustrating, too. Primarily, this is because at the end of the day, without hard evidence that the person really is who they claim to be, very little can be done with the story in terms of investigating it and/or validating it, aside from keeping it on file, and hoping that by making it public – as I’m doing now – it may encourage others to come forward. And the strange story that follows is a classic example. It comes from a man who claims to be a retired British police constable, who has personal knowledge of a story of truly monstrous proportions, and which focuses on dark goings-on after sunset in the British city of Birmingham in the late 1970s and early 1980s. For what it’s worth, here’s the tale.
According to the man, who identified himself only by the surname of Sykes, while serving in the British Police Force (service that, he said, began in 1977 and ended in 1988), he heard two tales from colleagues of giant eels seen in the winding canals that run through the city of Birmingham – both of which occurred, he thought, around 1979 or 1980. In both cases, the witnesses had reported seeing very large creatures – the first, amazingly, around twenty feet in length, and both “very dark” in color. Needless to say, if the physical details described in the first encounter were not exaggerations on the part of the witness, then it was without shadow of a doubt, a definitive monster.