During the early part of 1998, the British Government’s House of Commons held a fascinating and arguably near-unique debate on the existence – or otherwise – of a particular breed of mysterious animal that is widely rumored, and even accepted by many, to inhabit the confines of the United Kingdom: the so-called Alien Big Cats, or ABCs, as they have become infamously known. It scarcely needs mentioning that the U.K. is not home to an indigenous species of large cat. Nevertheless, for decades amazing stories have circulated from all across the nation of sightings of large, predatory cats that savagely feed on both livestock and wild animals and that terrify, intrigue and amaze the local populace in the process. And, of course, the media loves them, one and all. As history has demonstrated, there now exists a very large and credible body of data in support of the notion that the U.K. does have within its midst a healthy and thriving population of presently unidentified large cats – such as the infamous Beast of Bodmin and the Beast of Exmoor that so hysterically dominated the nation’s newspapers and TV news back in the early-to-mid 1980s. But never mind just the 1980s – reports continue to thrive to this very day. And, there's the presence of nothing less than the Women in Black.
It might seem strange that there could be a cover-up of the ABC phenomenon in the U.K., when the media is practically reporting on them – somewhere in the land – on a regular basis. But, there’s a vast chasm between (A) the press titillating and exciting their readers with tales of large, predatory cats on the loose and (B) actually presenting hard evidence of such creatures in the nation’s midst. The stories of the big cats of the U.K. undeniably entertain and intrigue the British public. That, however, is very different to – hypothetically – someone finding a dead mountain lion by the side of the road and the story then becoming a stark and serious one of potential man-eating proportions. Clearly, we don’t see evidence of sinister, black-garbed women popping up, and silencing witnesses, every time an ABC is seen in the U.K. But, they have surfaced on more than a few occasions, and particularly so when claims are made about ABC corpses being found or seen (by the side of a country road, for instance). Merrily Harpur’s book, Mystery Big Cats, includes a number of cases that suggest the British Government’s DEFRA – the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – may have played a role in confiscating the evidence that large, unknown cats really are prowling around the landscape of the United Kingdom. Other reports, however, have distinct paranormal overtones to them – and many of them come from a 26-square-mile area of woodland and heathland in central England called the Cannock Chase. As you will now see.
Eileen Allen says that she caught sight of a "big black panther," as she described it, while she was visiting the Cannock Chase woods in the latter part of 1996. The overwhelming shock of seeing the immense beast lurking near one of the head-stones in a local cemetery, and staring intently in Allen’s direction, was nothing compared to the absolute terror that struck her when the creature suddenly vanished – and I do mean literally vanished. We’re talking about into thin-air - amid a sound that Allen described as "like an electricity cracking noise." Unsurprisingly, Allen did not hang around and quickly left the cemetery. To this very day, she has never returned; nor does she have any plans to do so in the future, either. Who can blame her for that? She also believes that a series of anonymous, hang-up phone calls she received in the early hours - and which begun the very night after her encounter occurred, and which continued for several days - were somehow connected to her sighting. Bob Parker experienced something very similar in the woods barely a quarter of a mile or so from the cemetery in late 2000, while walking his dog on one particular Sunday morning. In this case, a large black cat came hurtling violently through the heather, skidded onto the pathway that Parker was following, and bounded off, apparently not at all bothered or concerned by the presence of either Parker or his little Corgi dog, Paddy. Seeing a big cat was astounding enough in itself; but what happened next was just downright bizarre.
Parker says that: "Me and the dog just froze solid. I couldn’t believe it; could not believe it. But when [the cat] got about fifty feet from us, it literally sort of dived at the ground. It sort of took a leap up and almost dive-bombed the path, and went right through and vanished, just like that. I know exactly how it sounds, so don’t tell me. But that’s exactly what happened: it was like it just melted into the path." Equally as strange, but for very different reasons, is the story of Sally Ward. She claims that back in the late-1960s, while she and her husband were walking across the Cannock Chase, not too far from the green and pleasant Milford, on what was a wintry and very foggy morning, they almost literally stumbled upon what she described as "a black panther; a real one" that was sitting "bolt-upright" on an open stretch of ground to their left, and approximately thirty feet from them. But that was not the strangest spectacle, however. Also stood upright around the huge beast was what Ward described as: "…seven or eight other cats. But normal cats: pet cats." She was sure that the smaller animals were not “big-cat kittens,” but were “the sort of cats anyone would own. I don’t know anything about panthers and lions and tigers, but I know a normal cat when I see one.” Rather strangely, all of the smaller cats were staring, in almost hypnotic fashion and in complete silence, at the large black cat, as if utterly transfixed by its proud stance and powerful, muscular presence.
The Ward’s, perhaps quite naturally, felt very ill at ease with the whole surreal and eerie situation, and both slowly and cautiously continued past the group, and then raced down to their car, which they had parked in Milford. Ward’s husband was, at first at least, fully intent on reporting the encounter to the local police; but after Mrs. Ward pleaded otherwise, they decided to remain silent – aside from quietly confiding in various friends over the years and decades. To this day, Sally Ward stands by her story with total, firm conviction: "No-one will ever tell me there isn’t something funny about black panthers in England." I fully agree with Sally!