Jan 20, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Wild People in the Countryside: Feral and Fierce

My previous article was on the subject of the British Bigfoot. It addressed the clearly paranormal side of the phenomenon. There is, however, another angle to all of this, something that kind of complicates the situation: that as well as the British Bigfoot, there is also the British wild man, wild woman and wild child. Indeed, there are more than a few stories of people turning feral and, sometimes, covered in hair. They seem, though, to be separate from the Bigfoot-type beast. With that said, let's look at the history of the British wild-man. Tabitca Cope, author of the excellent cryptozoological novel, Dark Ness, says of the Woodwose that it "…is a savage, naked man decked out in leaves and boughs or moss and ivy, carrying a huge club. He has been reportedly seen in England since 14th Century and up to the 16th Century and has been described as a large bearded man whose entire body was covered in curly hair. Historians theorized that the wodewose may have been some ancestor of man, and during the periods of its existence, had learned to fashion tools from wood. Similar stories of large hairy ape-men are found in the Pacific Northwest, Europe, Canada, Mexico, Belize, Guiana, Ecuador, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, parts of Africa, and of course the Himalayas."

Unlike the classic Bigfoot of the Pacific northwest regions of the United States, or the Abominable Snowman of the frozen Himalayas, the Woodwose was – despite its oft-reported abundance of body hair - far more human-like in its appearance and nature; something that has led to deep speculation that the legends of such creatures might very well have had their origins in sightings of so-called feral people: human-beings who, either by choice or unfortunate circumstances, lived solitary lives, deep in the heart of the woods and, as a by-product, descended into states of definitive savagery. Then there is the astounding theory that, possibly, the tales of the Woodwose were born out of occasional sightings of pockets of ancient humans, such as Neanderthals, or people of the Neolithic era, who, rather incredibly, may have survived long after conventional wisdom and science tells us they became utterly extinct or absorbed.

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(Nick Redfern) This green thing is a mock-up!

Still on the matter of strange-looking people living wild in Suffolk and, in the process, provoking myths and tales of enigmatic feral-style entities, I feel duty bound to reference the famous story of the green children of Woolpit (which is also associated with the even more renowned tale of the Babes in the Wood), a village situated between the towns of Bury St. Edmunds and Stowmarket. So the tale goes, back in the 12th Century, a young girl and boy, of strangely green-hued skin, appeared in Woolpit one day, claiming to have come from a magical place called St. Martin’s Land, which existed in an atmosphere of permanent twilight, and where the people lived underground, on nothing but green beans. While the story has been relegated by many to the realms of mere myth and folklore, it may not be just that. It might, actually, be much more.

According to the old legend, the two children remained in Woolpit and were ultimately baptized by the villagers, who accepted them as their very own. And although the boy ultimately grew sickly and eventually died, the girl did not. She thrived and finally lost her green-tinged skin to normal colored skin of healthy appearance. She also, somewhat in defiance of the disapproving attitudes of certain members of the village, became, as it was amusingly termed back then, according to the legend, ‘rather loose and wanton in her conduct." There's no doubt that these were a pair of kids who had been roaming for a long time. That both wild children were reportedly green-skinned and lived underground in a mysterious locale, has led many to disregard the tale out of hand as one of fairy-based, mythological proportions and nothing else whatsoever. That may not actually have been the case, however. The pair may have been suffering from a condition called Hypochromic Anaemia, in which the sufferer – as a result of a very poor diet that, in part, affects the colour of the red blood-cells – can develop skin of a noticeably green shade.

(Nick Redfern)

Finally, I cannot resist noting that Dorset, England borders the county of Somerset, which has also been the location of wild man-type reports that – in view of the very close proximity to Dorset – may have some degree of bearing on the Woodwose legends that have for so long populated the area. The Somerset reports come from Jon Downes, who states that: "Many years ago, the area around what is now an abandoned mine at Smitham Hill, in Somerset, was linked to tales of strange beasts seen watching the miners. Sometimes on returning to work in the morning, the men would find that carts and equipment had been pushed over and thrown around during the night."

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(Nick Redfern) Jon Downes on the road

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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