Jun 10, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Animal Mutilations Across the Pond: It's Not Just a U.S. Phenomenon

Since at least 1967, reports have surfaced throughout the United States of animals – but, chiefly, cattle – slaughtered in bizarre fashion. Organs are taken and significant amounts of blood are found to be missing. In some cases, the limbs of the cattle are broken, suggesting they have been dropped to the ground from a significant height. Evidence of extreme heat, to slice into the skin of the animals, has been found at mutilation sites. Eyes are removed, tongues are sliced off, and, typically, the sexual organs are gone.  While the answers to the puzzle remain frustratingly outside of the public arena, theories abound. They include extraterrestrials, engaged in nightmarish experimentation of the genetic kind; military programs involving the testing of new bio-warfare weapons; occult-based groups that sacrifice the cattle in ritualistic fashion; and government agencies secretly monitoring the food-chain, fearful that something worse than “Mad Cow Disease” may have infected the U.S. cattle herd – and, possibly, as a result, the human population, too. Animal mutilations are a topic of UFO researchers and conspiracy theorists. It's a lesser-known fact, however, that the U.K. has been the subject of such grisly, depressing activity for a long time. And, that's what I'm going to focus on today.

I grew up in a small village in central England called Pelsall, that is a very old village, to say the least: Its origins date back to 994 A.D. But, far more important and relevant than that, Pelsall is located only about a five minute drive from the site of what, ultimately, became one of the most controversial, weird, and - some even said - paranormal-themed events of the early 20th Century. And it all focused upon a man named George Edalji. Edalji, who was the son of a priest, lived in the very nearby, old town of Great Wyrley, and was thrust into the limelight in 1903 when he was convicted, sentenced and imprisoned for maiming and mutilating horses in the area - reportedly in the dead of night, and, some believed, for reasons related to nothing less than full blown occult rite and ritual. Collectively, the horse slashing and deaths generated not only a great deal of concern at a local level, but also anger, fear, and a distinct trust of the Edalji family, who the locals had consistently frowned deeply upon ever since they moved to the area years earlier. Notably, however, such was the publicity given to the case of George Edalji, and his subsequent lengthy prison sentence, that even none other than the creator of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself - sat up and took careful notice of the case, its developments, and the outcome for Edalji. Actually, Conan Doyle did far more than just that. Fully believing that there had been a huge miscarriage of justice in the Edalji affair, he highlighted it, wrote about it, and even loudly complained to the government of the day about it - events that, combined with the work of others, ultimately led to Edalji’s early release from prison. 

(Nick Redfern) What was once the Edalji's church

Books on the subject of animal mutilations in the U.K. are rare. In fact, I'm only aware of one such book. Its title: Killers on the Moor: The Case of the Dartmoor Ponies and Beyond. The author: Mike Freebury. Here's the publisher's summary of Freebury's book: " On Easter Monday 1977, a man and his family were enjoying a walk on Dartmoor in south-west England. As they approached a small remote valley below White Tor they were horrified to come upon the twisted bodies of four Dartmoor ponies. The ponies necks and backs appeared to have been broken in what must have been a very violent attack. Worse was to come, when more dead ponies were found only a hundred yards away. In total fifteen animals were found dead and mutilated. The police and the RSPCA were called in, but despite detailed investigations were unable to give convincing accounts of what might have happened to the animals. Mike Freebury became interested in the case due to press coverage in 2000. He was to discover that horrific unexplained animal deaths and mutilations have been occurring all over the world for many years. As he became more fascinated by the phenomenon, and began to investigate incidents for himself, he somewhat reluctantly came to a startling conclusion. The mutilations appear to be a sampling programme by an extraterrestrial intelligence, and evidence is being systematically covered up and denied by government departments worldwide."

(Nick Redfern) Mike Freebury and his book, Killers on the Moor

The primary focus of the book is a strange and very sinister affair from 1977, when a number of ponies were found dead on the wilds of Dartmoor, England - hence the title of the book. It's a story that often does the rounds in UK Forteana. In all probability, it will never go away. Freebury writes in an entertaining style, and he captures the eerie nature of Dartmoor well. He is also someone for whom the E.T. angle is the only one that makes sense when it comes to the bizarre mutilations and deaths. Killers on the Moor is a very thought-provoking read and is filled with hitherto unknown cases, as well as somewhat well-known ones which are revisited. As the story progresses, we see it encompass the likes of black helicopters, crop circles, alleged "messages" from aliens, government conspiracies, strange creatures, and a great deal more. This is a story of a man who personally dug deep into the puzzle and reached his own alien-themed conclusion as a result. In other words, whether you agree with Freebury's conclusions or not, his book is not based around armchair research: the story makes it clear that nearly all of his work was undertaken in the field, so to speak. Moving on...

On the afternoon of a spring day in 1992, Jon Downes, the director of the British-based Center for Fortean Zoology and a renowned seeker of unknown animals, was deep in conversation with a police officer from Middlemoor Police Station in the English city of Exeter. The subject of the conversation was the so-called “big cat” sightings (such as the notorious Beast of Bodmin, Beast of Dartmoor, and Beast of Exmoor) that have been reported throughout the British counties of Devon and Cornwall for decades. Was Jonathan Downes aware, the officer inquired, that there had occurred at nearby Newquay Zoo in the late 1970s a series of grisly mutilations of animals under extremely strange circumstances? Downes replied that, no, he was not. Fortunately, however, the officer was able to put Downes in touch with the one man in a position to discuss the facts: the head keeper at the zoo at the time in question. And here’s where things began to get distinctly odd. Downes wasted no time in tracking the man down. Elderly and in failing health, he confirmed to Downes the basics of the story: very strange deaths had occurred at the zoo, and wallabies, swans and geese had been beheaded. But more significantly, their corpses had been totally drained of blood…

“There was no blood left in the animals at all,” Downes was informed by the keeper, who added, “I had the area UFO compositor – or whatever he called himself – come down, and the suggestion was that it was beings from outer space who came down and needed the blood – or whatever else it was that they drew out of those animals – to survive. It never developed any further than that. I believe that he got a radiation count in the wallaby paddock at that time.” Was the culprit ever located? “No,” was the reply from Jonathan Downes’ source, who added: “But the same thing was happening all over the world. I can tell you that.” Downes advised me that the zookeeper was not an adherent of the extra-terrestrial hypothesis; rather, he suspected black magic and a witch-coven. As he conceded, however, there was also talk of “big cats” in the area – a theory later bolstered by the discovery of large, tell-tale paw-prints. At that stage the conversation was terminated. Downes, however, felt that the man was keeping something back and resolved to address the matter further at a later date. Regrettably, he did not get the chance. Forty-eight hours later, the man was dead. Although the death seems to have only been as a result of the man’s failing health, to this day Downes finds this whole saga particularly strange.

One particular case stands out for truly memorable and macabre reasons, as will now become apparent. It all began on 1 October 1997, as a good friend of mine, Nigel Wright, then of the Exeter Strange Phenomena Research Group, and the co-author with Jon Downes of the book The Rising of the Moon, reveals: "Approximately three weeks ago two young men were swimming in Otter Cove [Lyme Bay, Exmouth, England]. As darkness drew in, they decided to make for the shore and change to go home. As they got changed, one of them looked out to sea. He saw what he described as a 'greenish' light under the surface. He called to the other young man and they both watched as this light 'rose' to the surface of the water. The next thing they knew there was a very bright light shining into their faces. They turned the scene and fled." On the following day, a dead whale was found washed upon the beach below the cliffs. This did not appear to have been merely a tragic accident, however. On receiving reports that a whale had been found in precisely the area that anomalous lights and a strange creature were seen, Nigel Wright launched an investigation.

"The first thing that struck me as I looked on at this scene," recalls Wright, "was how perfect the carcass was. There was no decay or huge chunks torn from it. Then, as I wandered around it, I noticed that there was only one external wound: in the area of the genitals a round incision, the size of a large dinner plate, was cut right into the internal organs of the mammal. The sides of this incision were perfectly formed, as if some giant apple corer had been inserted and twisted around. From the wound hung some of the internal organs." The mystery continued. All of the above makes it very clear that animal mutilations in the U.K. have multiple sources and multiple agendas.

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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