Any mention of the mysterious locale that is Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk inevitably conjures up strange and surreal images of the famous, alleged UFO landing within the forest in the latter part of December 1980 – a startling event witnessed by numerous United States Air Force personnel stationed at a nearby military base, Royal Air Force Bentwaters. The bizarre affair has been the subject of a considerable number of books, numerous televisions shows, several investigations by military and governmental bodies, and unrelenting deep debate. Reports of strange lights, of small alien-like creatures seen deep within the heart of the woods, and of high-level cover-ups and sinister conspiracies, are all key ingredients of the case that has, for many, justifiably become known as “the British Roswell.” More than three decades on, the events in question continue to provoke intense debate and controversy, with some believing that extraterrestrials really did land on British soil on that fateful night, or as some believe, across the course of several nights. Others hold the view that everything can be attributed to mistaken identity (of a nearby lighthouse, no less!), while some prefer the theory that a dark and dubious military experiment, and subsequent disastrous mishap, may have been to blame for all of the fuss. More than thirty years on, the debate continues to rage, and doubtless it will continue to rage for many more years to come.
As for the forest itself, it covers an area that is around 1,500 hectares in size and can be found in Suffolk’s coastal belt known as the Sandlings. It is comprised of large, coniferous trees, as well as heath land and wet land areas, and is home to the badger, the fox, the red deer, the roe deer and the fallow deer. According to some people, however, Rendlesham Forest is home to far weirder things, too. Even a monster. Rendlesham Forest, as well as the Suffolk locales of West Wratting and Balsham, is reportedly home to something equally as strange – maybe even far more so – than a vehicle and creatures from another world. It is a beast that, locally, has come to be known as the Shug Monkey. Described as being a bizarre combination of giant dog, muscular bear, and large ape, the creature is said to take its name from either (A) an old English word – scucca – which means demon, and which, as we have seen already, also has a link to the naming of Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire; or (B) an old east-coast term – shucky – that translates, into modern day terminology, as hairy or shaggy. Maybe the name is even born out of a curious melding of both terms. But, whatever the true nature of the name applied to the foul, hairy entity, its presence in the woods of Suffolk is enough to strike deep terror into the hearts of those souls unfortunate enough to have crossed its path – which is something to which Sam Holland can most definitely attest.
Shortly after New Year’s Day in 1956, Holland was walking through the Suffolk countryside with his spaniel dog, Harry, when he was horrified to see a bizarre-looking creature come looming out of the trees some forty feet in front of him. It walked upon four huge, muscular legs – “like a lion’s” – and its thick fur coat was both black and glossy. Incredibly, said Holland, the animal was easily ten feet in length, and so could not be considered anything even remotely resembling a domestic animal, or a known wild beast of the British Isles. Holland, in a panicked state, thought for a moment that perhaps the animal was an exotic big cat that had escaped from a zoo or private estate; that is until it turned in his direction and he was finally able to see its terrible, frowning face. Likening it to that of nothing less than a silver-back gorilla, Holland said that the monstrous creature possessed a huge neck, intelligent-looking eyes, widely flaring nostrils, and immense, powerful jaws of a bone-crushing nature. For a moment or two, the animal looked intently at Holland and his whimpering little dog. Then, seemingly having lost any and all interest in the pair, the gorilla-faced nightmare simply continued on its way and into the depths of the surrounding undergrowth. Holland would later explain that the creature looked like a strange combination of ape, dog, bear, lion and rhinoceros. An absolute chimera of the highest order, one might be very inclined to say.
Needless to say, the British Isles are not home to any such animal that even remotely resembles the beast that Sam Holland said he stumbled upon all those years ago. In fact, it’s fair to say that nowhere on the entire planet does such a creature dwell. Yet, Holland was adamant that his description of the monstrous entity and his recollections of the day in question are utterly accurate in each and every respect. To his last day, Holland believed that whatever the true nature of the beast he had the distinct misfortune to run into more than half a century ago, it was unquestionably paranormal rather than physical in origin. But from where, precisely, he admittedly has no idea whatsoever.