Jul 19, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Monsters in the U.K.: There Are Many More Than Just Nessie

When we think of monsters in the U.K., it's almost certain that Nessie will come to mind. The fact is, though, that the U.K. is teeming with monsters. Yes, really. With that said, let's have a look at some of the lesser-known mysterious beasts of the United Kingdom. We'll begin with a lake monster that has nothing to do with Nessie.  Roland Watson, Nessie expert, says "...the first claimed mention of a creature in Loch Oich is by the famous Dutch cryptozoologist A. C. Oudemans in 1934 when he relates the tale of 'The Children's Pool.' This was a tale of children who saw a creature like a deformed pony appear beside a deep pool of the River Garry which feeds into Loch Oich. The children mounted the docile beast which then flew and plunged into the pool with the children to their doom. The story is believed to be from at least 1894 and though strictly this is perhaps more of a river Kelpie than a loch inhabiting Each Uisge, it is still worth a mention. Peter Costello, who related the Oudemans reference in his book In Search of Lake Monsters felt that Oudemans took the story a bit too seriously and I would agree with him as children riding to their doom was a common motif in the Water Horse genre across various lochs in the old Highlands (as related in the book The Water Horses of Loch Ness). Nevertheless, it does suggest an oral tradition of an Each Uisge in and around Loch Oich before modern times."

Moving on, how about a U.K. monster that is very similar to the Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia? Its name: the Owlman. In 1976 the dense trees surrounding Mawnan Old Church, Cornwall, England became a veritable magnet for a diabolical beast that was christened the Owlman. The majority of those that crossed paths with the creature asserted that it was human-like in both size and design, and possessed a pair of large wings, fiery red eyes, claws, and exuded an atmosphere of menace. No wonder people make parallels with Mothman. It all began during the weekend of Easter 1976, when two young girls, June and Vicky Melling, had an encounter of a truly nightmarish kind in Mawnan Woods. The girls were on holiday with their parents when they saw a gigantic, feathery “bird man” hovering over the 13th Century church. It was a story that their father, Don Melling, angrily shared with a man named Tony “Doc” Shiels. I say “angrily” because Shiels was a noted, local magician who Melling came to believe had somehow instigated the whole affair. Or as Shiels, himself, worded it: “…some trick that had badly frightened his daughters.” Shiels denied any involvement in the matter whatsoever. But that was only the start of things. In fact, occasional sightings are still made.

 Many thanks to good friend, Jon Downes, of the Center for Fortean Zoology, for the cover image of his book, The Owlman and Others.

Now, onto the Beast of Bodalog. Rhayader is the oldest town in mid-Wales. Its origins date back more than 5,000 years, and specifically to Neolithic times. Rhayader’s long legacy is also evidenced by the fact that, in 1899, a large collection of gold jewelry was found buried on the town’s Gwastedyn Hill. Archaeologists were able to date the priceless artifacts to the 5th century and link them to a princess named Rowena. She was the daughter of a local, powerful, warlord, Hengest, and someone who married a much-feared character known as High King Vortigen. Neither Hengest nor Vortigen were able to instill as much fear in the people of Rhayader as did a deadly and mysterious beast that surfaced in 1988.

It was between September and December 1988 that the town was hit by a spate of mysterious deaths. Not, thankfully, of people, but of sheep. Although several farms were targeted by the stealthy predator – and always under cover of darkness – it was the Bodalog Farm, owned by the Pugh family that suffered most of all. Over the course of several weeks, they lost close to forty sheep to the deadly intruder. Oddest of all: the sheep were not eaten, whether in whole or in part. The only evidence of the attacks were deep, penetrating bites to the sternum. That was when the conspiracy theories began to take hold. There were claims of a local police cover-up. The stories grew and grew, amid claims that “Men in Black”-style characters from “the government” were roaming around town, doing their utmost to silence those with knowledge of the attacks. Supposedly, there was good reason why the MIB wanted to stifle all the talk of the deaths: the sheep had been drained of blood, vampire-style. Inevitably, and despite the best efforts of the MIB, the British media soon latched onto the story and it made the headlines across some of the nation’s major, daily newspapers.

As the death rate increased, so did the wild rumors: there was talk of a large, black cat in the area – such as a black leopard. Of course, such animals are not native to the United Kingdom, something which only added to the mystery. Plus, no-one actually saw the big cat, if that is really what it was. It was simply a theory – but, undeniably, one that provoked a great deal of food for thought in the town’s pubs on weekend nights. With concern growing, a decision was taken to use foxhounds to try and chase the monster of the early hours. And this is when things became decidedly intriguing – and sinister, too.The dogs soon picked up on the scene – their wild behavior made that very clear. They picked up on something else, too; something that had previously been overlooked. In certain parts of the fields where the sheep had been killed, corridors of flattened ground were uncovered. They gave every indication of something not walking along the fields, but slithering along them. In mere moments, all the talk of big cats was gone. In their place were giant snakes. On top of that, and as the dogs continued to chase down the scent, they were led to the banks of the 134-mile-long River Wye, the fifth longest river in the UK. The conclusion was all but inevitable: some form of large, unknown water beast was – undercover of the night – surfacing out of the depths of the river, stealthily crossing the fields, and feeding on the blood of the unfortunate sheep.

But what could the creature have been? Certainly, there are no large snakes roaming around the UK. Yet, the flattened areas of field suggested a beast somewhere around twelve-to-fifteen feet long had indeed been slithering around. Richard Freeman, of the England-based Center for Fortean Zoology, took a lot of interest in the case when it surfaced. He said of the snake theory: “Britain’s only venomous snake, the adder, Vipera berus, is far too small to have killed the sheep. This case begs many odd questions: why would an animal go to all the trouble of wasting venom and energy killing so many sheep, then not eat any? If it was a large, exotic, venomous snake that had escaped from captivity, how did it cope with October in Wales?” Richard’s question was – and still is – an important one, as snakes require warm climates in which to survive and thrive. There is nothing warm about mid-Wales in October! Perhaps aware that it was being hunted down, the creature ceased its violent killing spree in early December 1988, and Rhayader finally returned to normality and there were collective sighs of relief all around town. Decades later, the mystery of what that water-borne monstrosity was remains precisely that: a mystery.

(Nick Redfern) Cryptozoologist Richard Freeman took a deep interest in the "Beast of Bodalog"

What about a lake monster that doesn't have a long neck or flippers? In other words, something very different to the Loch Ness Monster,, even though it's in the U.K. Deep in the heart of North Wales there exists a large expanse of water called Lake Bala. You may say, well, there’s nothing particularly strange about that. You would be correct. Lake Bala is not out of the ordinary, in the slightest. But what is rumored to dwell in its dark depths most assuredly is out of the ordinary. It’s the domain of a violent lake monster called Teggie. Or, is the story born out of secret, military experiments? It all very much depends on who you ask and who you believe. Before we get to the matter of Teggie, it’s worth noting that within Lake Bala there lurks a creature called the Gwyniad. It can hardly be termed a monster, as it’s just a small fish. But there is one issue concerning the Gwyniad that does have a bearing upon the matter of Teggie. The Gwyniad is a fish that dates back to the prehistoric era and is found in Lake Bala and nowhere else – at all. This has, quite naturally, given rise to a thought-provoking question: what else of a prehistoric nature might be in Lake Bala? And how big might it grow? The questions are intriguing. The answers are even more so.

Whereas sightings of the Loch Ness Monster date back more than 1,500 years, Lake Bala’s resident unknown beast has only been reported for just over a century. Some locals, who claim to have seen the Teggies at close quarters, say the creatures resemble huge, violent, northern pike. They are ferocious fish that can easily grow to four feet in length; occasionally five; and, rumor has it, even six. If, however, the Teggies are northern pike, then they would have to be true giants, since witnesses claim that the creatures they encountered were in the order of ten to fifteen feet. No-one, surely, needs telling that a too close encounter with such a creature would result in a swift and bloody death – but not for a Teggie, though. Then there are the equally baffling reports of a reptilian monster that vaguely resembles a crocodile. Such a scenario is unlikely, as a colony of crocodiles would stand little chance of adapting to, and surviving, a harsh North Wales’ winter – never mind untold numbers of centuries of such winters. The best scenario? Probably, giant-sized, savage pike. But, that still makes them monsters!

And, finally: in August 2010, English author, good friend, and seeker of all things weird, Elizabeth Randall, said that according to a sensational article that appeared in the pages of the British Daily Mail newspaper that same month, “…a picture has been circulating on the Internet purporting to show a sea monster that, so far seems to have eluded identification. It was seen off Saltern Cove, Devon, U.K., and has been dubbed by many as a ‘new Nessie.’ The image appears to show a greenish-brown, long-necked ‘something,’ with a reptilian-like head, that was trailing a shoal of fish just 30 yards offshore. According to reports the fish beached themselves just a few seconds later.” Elizabeth continued that: “The photo was sent to the Marine Conservation Society, who have still to decide exactly what it is. Although theories range from a sea serpent to a salt water crocodile. The lady who took the photograph at first thought that it might be a turtle but the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says that not only do turtles not chase fish, but the description doesn’t fit.”

Meanwhile, of this very same affair, Jonathan Downes of the Center for Fortean Zoology, who is an expert on reports of strange and unknown animals, said: “Me? I think it is a basking shark; I think that what appears to be its back is its tail, and the ‘head’ is the tip of its nose, but golly, wouldn’t I love to be proved wrong!” Others suggested that nothing more than a turtle was possibly the culprit. Photographs that were taken by one of the witnesses, Gill Pearce, however, clearly demonstrated that the neck of the creature was much too long for it to be that of a regular turtle. Pearce took the photos on July 27, and subsequently reported the details of the encounter to the Marine Conservation Society; a spokesperson for whom, Claire Fischer, told the press:

(Nick Redfern)

“Gill Pearce spotted the creature about 20 meters from the bay at Saltern Cove, near Goodrington. It was observed at about 15.30 on 27 July but by the time she had got her camera it had moved further out. She spotted it following a shoal of fish which beached themselves in Saltern Cove. The creature remained in the sea, then went out again and followed the shoal - this indicates it's not a turtle as they only eat jellyfish. We would love to know if other people have seen anything like this in the same area and can help clear up the mystery.” It’s possible that what was seen was Morgawr, a sea-serpent-style beast that has been reportedly seen for decades in and around Falmouth Bay, Cornwall, England - which, very notably, is situated only one county away from where this latest incident occurred. Variously described as looking like a giant serpent, a monstrous eel, or even a supposedly extinct plesiosaur,

Morgawr was first viewed in September 1975 by two witnesses who claimed to have seen a humped animal with “stumpy horns” and with bristles that ran along the length of its long neck, and which apparently had a conger-eel in its huge mouth. A whole wave of startling encounters with the creature allegedly occurred during the period 1975-76, and such reports continue to surface sporadically from time to time and from this very same location. Did Morgawr possibly decide to take a trip along the coast for a brief vacation and to entertain the nation’s media? Maybe so! And, of course, there are the U.K.'s many "Alien Big Cats," but I'll keep those for another day.

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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