Some paranormal encounters really stretch the limits of the weird. Lying out on the south eastern coast of the Isle of Wight, in the UK, is the peaceful seaside resort town of Sandown. Known for its numerous sandy beaches, sweeping seaside cliffs, Victorian style pier, golf course, stunning natural scenery, and an old-fashioned cozy high street filled with Victorian style shops and restaurants, it is a popular tourist destination, but what most people here may not be aware of is that this sleepy seaside town was once the location for one of the most completely flat-out bizarre paranormal encounters there is.
In May of 1973, a 7-year-old girl known only as “Fey” was with a friend of similar age on vacation at Sandown with their families. As they were out playing in the area of Lake Common, they allegedly heard an odd sound like “the wail of an ambulance siren” reverberating through the air from somewhere nearby. The two kids went off to investigate, coming to the edge of the Sandown golf course, where they deduced that the wailing was coming from the swampy woods beyond. The strange wailing continued to echo through the area, and the curious children continued their search for its source. At this point they were not scared, merely curious, but this would change when they reached a footbridge within the woods beyond the golf course. As they reached the bridge, the wailing abruptly stopped to send silence crashing down upon them, and as it did they noticed something very eerie. A report in the January/February 1973 edition of the journal of the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA) would say of what happened next:
A blue gloved hand appeared from under the bridge and a strange figure emerged. He was nearly seven feet tall and had no neck — for his head appeared to be wedged straight onto his shoulders. He wore a yellow, pointed hat, which interlocked with the red collar of a green tunic. A round, black knob was affixed to the top of his hat and ‘wooden’ antennae were attached either side. The face had triangular markings for eyes, a brown square of a nose and motionless yellow lips. Other round markings were on his paper-white cheeks and a fringe of red hair fell onto his forehead. ‘Wooden slats’ protruded from his sleeves and from below his white trousers. The figure fumbled with a book, dropped it in the water, then splashed about to retrieve it. The two then watched the figure enter a metallic hut — similar to those used on building sites except that it had no windows. It moved along with a strange hopping motion with knees raised high.
The children would later basically describe him as looking sort of like a creepy robotic clown. Although the children were startled, their curiosity was too strong to allow them to run away, and they instead approached closer to this weird little hut in the woods. As they did, the wailing sound began again, and the figure reappeared with a “black-knobbed microphone” to say into it “Hello, are you still there?,” the voice sounding as if it had been spoken from right beside them. The children were now starting to back away, the fear creeping into them, and perhaps sensing that they were scared of his voice-throwing microphone, the bizarre entity took out a notebook and scrawled into it a message, which it held up for them to see and which read, “Hello, I am all colours Sam.” This seems to have been enough to reassure the kids, who stopped backing away and warily walked closer to the entity.
They asked “Sam” why his clothes were so worn out, and he said that they were the only clothes he owned, his voice once again seeming to materialize from right next to their ears, and oddly his mouth never moved when he spoke. They asked him if he was a man, and he said “Well not really, but I am in an odd sort of way.” When they pushed further and asked just what he was, he cryptically replied, “You know.” Sam also told them that there were more like him, that he had another base on the mainland, and that he was afraid of humans because he had been attacked before. The entity then invited the children to come inside his hut, which for most would be creepy enough to call it a day, but they took him up on the offer and went inside to find it to be rather cozy, with an eclectic array of wooden furniture, an electric space heater, and a second level above them. On the table was a plateful of berries, which Sam claimed were his main food source.
It was here in this strange little hovel where Sam would finally remove his odd hat and produced a berry, which he stuck into a rounded white ear, only to have it suddenly appear in his eye socket and then appear within his mouth with a couple of flicks of his head, like some kind of magic trick. This delighted the children, and now they were fully calmed down, eventually staying in the hut for around an hour before saying goodbye and heading back home. When the girl told her father, rather than outright dismiss it he would actually go to the area to investigate, partly out of concern that there was perhaps some weirdo dressed as a clown lurking out there. Interestingly, the father had had experiences with UFOs in the area in the past, so it was perhaps because of this that he was not so willing to outright dismiss the story, and even thought that they might be connected. Unfortunately, there was no trace of Sam or his weird hut, and no one else in the area had seen anything like what was described, although the children were adamant that the metal dwelling had been right there and that their story was completely true. Despite not finding anything, the father was unwilling to write it all off, and would later say:
I get the impression that Fay was somehow taken into a bubble of alien reality created by this strange personage… he told them he had just made the hut. Also, Fay told me that while they were talking to this ‘ghost’, two workmen nearby were repairing a post. They paid no attention to the weird charade — as though they could not see it.
The so-called “Sandown Clown” has not been seen since, and it is all so completely surreal that it is tough to know just how to classify this case. What was Sam? Was he an alien, a ghost, some interdimensional interloper, a shared hallucination, a sicko in a freaky clown outfit, or what? Some have suggested that the children may have eaten some berries out in the woods that had been psychotropic and caused them to hallucinate, and there is even the possibility they just made it all up. One very weird theory was that he was a type of Man in Black figure there in response to the father’s UFOs sightings. One article on the site The Curious Archive says of this idea:
This is absurd and I’m only throwing the idea out there because this story can’t get any weirder than it already is. To put it simply, Men in Black are often put into two categories: the first is FBI-like agents in black suits with stern expressions and a ‘we mean business’ attitude, the second is a similarly dressed human with strange mannerisms and something off-putting about their appearance. Both types have been ‘reported’ to show up if a person has witnessed or is investigating UFOs. Now Fey herself wasn’t said to have witnessed a UFO, but her father had apparently been dealing with them following him around for the past few years. Could Sam have been there to ask Fey questions about her father? To compare Sam to an infamous Man in Black sighting, we can look back to 11 September 1976 when a Man in Black supposedly visited Dr Herbert Hopkins, family physician, in his home in Maine, USA. At the time of the visit, Hopkins was conducting research on a UFO incident. In 1978 he reflected on the incident and Man in Black on NBC radio:
“This character was as bald as an egg. He didn’t even have eyebrows or eyelashes. It looked like he had smooth, plastic skin — like a doll except that it was a dead-white color… His lips were a brilliant ruby red, and he spoke in an expressionless, monotone, scanning speech. He constructed no phrases and sentences — just a sequence of words evenly spaced. His voice was completely passive with no inflection or intonation, as if you were hearing it from a machine that could talk. Then I could see that his mouth was a perfectly straight slit. Apparently, he did not have what we call lips, so the lipstick was put on as a decoy — his mouth was more like a ventriloquist’s dummy.”
Sound somewhat familiar? Whether we believe anyone in this crazy story, it is interesting how the strange appearance and way of speaking are so similar between Fey’s encounter with Sam and Hopkins’ experience with the Man in Black. While not exactly similar, especially with the clothing, there is enough there to raise a few eyebrows. It’s also worth highlight that most of the conversation between Sam and the children wasn’t disclosed, including whatever was discussed during the half hour visit in his shack (other than his weird berry trick). Could he have been enquiring about what her father had seen? This is, of course, entirely speculative and based on nothing but my own enjoyment of these stories, so take from it what you will.
Just what in the world was going on here? It is one of those cases that it so incredibly strange that it can do nothing more than hover about among the fringe reports of high strangeness. What was this entity, if it ever even existed at all? Was it some sort of cryptid, an alien, or something altogether more bizarre? Or was it just a simple hoax pulled off by some imaginative kids? There is no way to know, and in the meantime the case of the Sandown Clown remains one of the weirder reports there is.