Dec 14, 2021 I Nick Redfern

When a “Strange Creature” is Really Just Someone With a Rare Medical Condition

It's a fact that more than a few cases of strange creatures can be solved. And, that's what I'm going to do today. We'll start with what is known as the "Monster of Glamis." Situated just west of Forfar, Scotland, Glamis Castle is referred to by Shakespeare in Macbeth; Macbeth of its title having killed King Duncan there in 1040. And it is also at the castle where assassins murdered King Malcolm II in 1034. In addition, Glamis Castle was the childhood home of both Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother, and the birthplace of Princess Margaret. And then there is the castle’s very own monster. Jonathan Downes, the director of the British-based Center for Fortean Zoology – one of the few full-time groups dedicated to the search for unknown creatures - notes that: "...the castle is the site of a well-known and semi legendary beast known as the Monster of Glamis. It’s said that the creature was supposed to have been the hideously deformed heir to the Bowes-Lyon family and who was, according to popular rumor, born in about 1800, and died as recently as 1921." Jon digs further into the puzzle: "Legend has it that the monster was supposed to look like an enormous flabby egg, having no neck and only minute arms and legs but possessed incredible strength and had an air of evil about it. Certainly, there is a family secret concerning the monster, which is only told to the male heir of the Bowes-Lyon family when they attain majority."

(Nick Redfern)

Jon continues: "But according to the author Peter Underwood, who has looked into this case, the present Lord Strathmore knows nothing about the monster, presumably because the creature has long been dead, but he always felt that there was a corpse or coffin bricked up behind the walls." According to folklore and oral tradition, the existence of the terrifying creature was allegedly known to only four men at any given time, namely the Earl of Strathmore, his direct heir, the family’s lawyer, and the broker of the estate. At the age of twenty-one each succeeding heir was told the truth of the terrible secret and shown the rightful – and horrendously deformed – Earl, and succeeding family lawyers and brokers were also informed of the family’s shocking secret. As no Countess of Strathmore was ever told the story, however, one Lady Strathmore, having indirectly heard of such tales, quietly approached the then broker, a certain Mr. Ralston, who flatly refused to reveal the secret and who would only say by way of a reply, 'It is fortunate you do not know the truth for if you did you would never be happy.'" In all probability, we're talking about someone with a tragic condition and not some kind of monster. Such is how legends can be altered and manipulated.

Now, there is the issue of the hairy "wild men" that roamed around the U.K. centuries ago. In all probability they were not surviving Neanderthals (an interesting and engaging theory, that I've heard several times, but that is 99.9 percent impossible). And, they weren't some kind of ancient Bigfoot. The answer is far more likely to be found in the medical condition of Hypertrichosis. Health Line provides us with a summary of the condition: "Hypertrichosis, also known as werewolf syndrome, is a condition characterized by excessive hair growth anywhere on a person’s body. It can affect both women and men, but it’s extremely rare. The abnormal hair growth may cover the face and body or occur in small patches. Hypertrichosis can appear at birth or develop over time...It first appears as normal lanugo, the fine hair found on a baby, at birth. But instead of disappearing during subsequent weeks, the soft fine hair continues to grow in various places on the baby’s body."

Let us now take a look at the story of the "Green Children" of Woolpit. History of Yesterday say: "During the 12th century, the village of Woolpit was an agriculturally productive and densely populated part of rural England. One day, Woolpit’s villagers saw two children, a boy and a girl, emerging from the wolf-trapping pits. They had green skin, spoke an unknown language, and were dressed in strange clothing. Both children, who were later discovered to be siblings, were taken to the home of Sir Richard de Calne, about six miles away from Woolpit." As time went by, the girl lost her green color, but the boy died. I've been mystified for years as to why people think there is something strange, or bizarre, about all of this. There is no need to suggest that the two kids were aliens, time-travelers, or strange humanoids. Read on: The pair was almost certainly suffering from a condition called Hypochromic Anemia, in which the sufferer – as a result of a very poor diet that, in part, affects the color of the red blood-cells – can develop skin of a noticeably green shade. In support of this scenario, Hypochromic Anemia was once known as Chlorosis, a word formulated in the early 1600s by a Montpellier professor of medicine named Jean Varandal. And why did Varandal choose such a name? Simple: It came from the Greek word Chloris, meaning greenish-yellow or pale green. We aren't quite finished, though. Back to Jon Downes, who says the following:

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(Nick Redfern) Me and Jon Downes looking for a real monster

"I believe that all over the world, at various times – including Britain – there have been people that have regressed back through the layers of society and civilization. In some cases of so-called feral children, they have been found with a fine down of hair all over their bodies. This is something that is quite well known, and is something that can appear in conditions like Anorexia, or where, for whatever reason, a person is very malnourished. They start to develop fine hair on their bodies, under certain circumstances." Jon is correct in his words. The hair in question is known as Lanugo Hair. On occasion, when anorexics descend into definitive starvation mode, they may start to develop fine, white hair – typically on their face, back, chest and legs. The reason why it develops is actually quite simple.

As starvation increases to severely dangerous degrees, and as the body starts to lose its precious and much needed supplies of fat, which help insulate the body from the cold, it reacts by provoking the production of Lanugo Hair, as a means to try and compensate and offer the body some degree of warmth. Back to Jon: "I think it is quite possible that you may have had situations where individuals – in earlier centuries and in Britain and elsewhere – may have been cast out of their village. Maybe they were just mentally ill, but the people of their village were in fear of them, so they were banished to the woods or whatever." As this demonstrates, there is nothing - at all - mysterious about the Green Children of Woolpit. They were most likely poor victims of their time, of prejudices, and of myths and legends that changed over time. No monsters or strange creatures here today. Just tragic tales and tragic victims. All human.

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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