Now and again, I have written about the mystery that surrounds the so-called "Alien Big Cats" in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Most people in the field of Cryptozoology take the view that the ABCs are escaped large cats. Or, perhaps, deliberately released ones when they became too big, and too dangerous, to handle. It's important to note, however, there is an undeniable paranormal aspect to the Alien Big Cats: welcome to the world of the Were-Cats. The phenomenon of Were-Cats – people who can transform themselves into cat-like creatures, and cats that have the ability to change their forms – is widespread. Tales of the creatures can be found in such diverse locations as Europe, Asia, both South and Latin America, and Africa. I have collected a number of notable cases from the United Kingdom, where I lived until 2001. One such case, a particularly memorable and weird one, came from “James.” He is a now-retired fireman who encountered just such a creature on a bright, summer morning in 1978, and who I met in Exeter, England in the summer of 2001. At the time, James was living in Exwick, which is a town in the English county of Devon, and which is noted for its long history of encounters with Phantom Black Dogs. To what extent that is relevant is a matter of debate, but it is intriguing.
According to James, on the day in question he was out walking with his spaniel dog, Sammy, on the Haldon Hills, which provide an expansive view of the area, including the nearby city of Exeter. As James and Sammy took a pleasant walk through the hills they found themselves confronted by a very strange animal. It was Sammy who alerted James to the fact that something weird was about to go down. As they pair took their daily stroll, Sammy suddenly came to a complete halt and began to growl. It was clear she had picked up on something strange. At first, James thought that perhaps she had picked up the scent of a rabbit or a fox – although, as James admitted, Sammy had not reacted like that before when rabbits were around. In seconds, the cause of Sammy’s behavior became apparent: around fifty or sixty feet away a large black animal rose out of the deep grass. At first James assumed it was a black Labrador. It was not. In mere seconds, James realized that what was walking towards him and his faithful pet was a large black cat that resembled a mountain lion. Sammy whimpered and James’ heart thumped. When the animal reached a point around twenty feet from the terrified pair, something that provoked even more terror: the huge cat rose up onto its back legs; they were legs which appeared to physically change as it transformed from a four-legged animal to a bipedal one. But, that was not the weirdest part of the story.
As James looked on, pretty much frozen to the spot with fear, the face of the cat began to change and took on a malevolent, human-like appearance. A strange and sinister grin dominated the face, as the beast did nothing more than stand and stare at James and Sammy. James told me it was the terrible grin that finally made him realize that it was time to leave – as in immediately. As Sammy was only four months old at the time, it was easy for James to scoop her up, under his arm and get the hell off the hills. He looked back twice: on the first occasion the cat-human was standing just as it had been thirty seconds or so earlier. On the second look, however, it was gone. By James’ own admission, he and Sammy did not take another walk on the Haldon Hills for around three months. It may not be a coincidence that in 1996, Jonathan Downes – the director of the Center for Fortean Zoology – investigated a wave of sightings of a strange, large, cat-like animal on the Haldon Hills. Downes related the facts in his 2004 book, Monster Hunter. Most of the encounters occurred in the vicinity of an old pet cemetery, which housed (and still houses) the remains of numerous, beloved, long gone old friends. Downes did not solve the mystery, but he did come away from the investigation fully convinced that the Haldon Hills were home to something dangerous and predatory. James’ were-cat? Don’t bet against it.
A second case reached me in 2013 from “Jennifer,” who lives in Oregon. Jennifer’s encounter occurred in her small hometown – the name of which she prefers to keep out of the story – in the fall of 2011. It was late on a Friday night, and Jennifer had been hanging out with an old girlfriend, who she had not seen for a few months. Laughs and a few drinks were the order of the night. The laughs were, however, destined to come to a sudden, shuddering end. It was not long after midnight that Jennifer left her friend’s apartment. And although the two had not seen each other for several months, they only lived approximately a ten-minute walk from each other – the lack of contact having been due to the fact that her friend had been on a temporary work assignment in Florida. So, given the close proximity to Jennifer’s apartment, she decided to take a walk home - the quiet town hardly being a hotbed of crime or muggings.
Only a couple of minutes before she reached her own abode, Jennifer saw what she assumed was a large black dog walking towards her, on the sidewalk – an assumption identical to the experience of James, back in 1978, on the Haldon Hills. As the creature got closer, Jennifer was horrified to see it was actually a significantly-sized cat. As in the size of a jaguar. Jennifer was about to make a run for cover – but to where, at that time of night, she admitted she had no idea – when the cat suddenly stood upright, changed its appearance and ran across the road, at a phenomenal speed, and vanished into an alley on the other side of the road. Notably, Jennifer said that the cat did not lose its black color as it changed into human form – nor did it lose its cat-like head. It was, according to Jennifer, something that appeared half-human and half-cat. A definitive, supernatural, were-cat, no less.