Aug 09, 2022 I Nick Redfern

How a "Monster" Can Be "Made" Overnight: Or, That's How it Seems!

Sometimes, it’s important to note that not all monster investigations result in the finding of an actual monster. On occasion, such accounts and tales are whipped up by the local media, eager for sensational tales of mysterious things in their very midst. That does not take away the fact something may have happened, however. Or that a strange creature may really have put in an appearance. The story I will now share with you amounts to a perfect example of all the above. April 3, 2003 was the date on which something very strange happened in a body of water in central England, near the bustling town of Cannock, Stafordshire. Known locally and unofficially as Roman View Pond, it was very soon to become famous. Or, rather, infamous. In no time at all, not only were the local media on the scene of all the crazy antics, but just about all of the U.K.’s nationwide media, too. I should stress that I know the area well, having grown up only about fifteen minutes’ drive from the pond, which is actually much bigger than its name suggests. By the time of the saga took off, however, I was already living in the United States; having moved from the U.K. in early 2001. With that all said, I will now share with you the fantastic story, as told by the Center for Fortean Zoology’s director, and good friend, Jonathan Downes, who operates out of Devon, England, and who very generously shared the following with me for inclusion in the pages of this article.

(Nick Redfern) Jon Downes, good friend, and creature-seeker

Jon said: "The affair started with an e-mail message from Nick Redfern. He may be living in Texas now; living proof that one can take the boy out of the West Midlands. But, the fact that he still keeps a finger on the pulse of the event’s of his hometown, prove that one may not be able to take the West Midlands out of the boy!  It was a story from the Wolverhampton Express and Star dated June 16, 2003, written by Faye Casey, and titled Mystery as 'croc' spotted at pool." The article read as follows: "A Staffordshire community was today trying to unravel a pool monster mystery after reported sightings of a 7ft 'crocodile' type creature rising from the deep. Police officers, RSPCA [Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] and an alligator expert from Walsall were called to the pool in Roman View, Churchbridge, Cannock, on Saturday afternoon when reports of the sighting were first made. "They searched the area and found nothing, coming to the conclusion that the creature must have been a fish or possibly a snapper turtle. But locals are not convinced and youngsters have designed their own “croc on the loose” posters to stick on lamp-posts. One man, who did not wish to named, said he called the emergency services because what he saw in the pool was not a large fish. He and members of his family had being feeding the swans when the creature emerged.

"'We were there looking at the two swans and their baby cygnets,” said the man. “And there was a commotion in the water and lots of turbulence. “It was far too big to be caused by a fish. As the creature went past I saw it had a flat head, a 5ft long body, and 2ft tail. It was not smooth and was moving in a snaking action - my initial reaction was it was a crocodile or alligator and so I called the police.” Linda Charteras, from nearby Cheslyn Hay, was also feeding the swans on Saturday afternoon. “I saw the creature first - a large pool of dirt came up. It looked as though it was after one of the cygnets. I saw its head and long nose and thought there was no way it was a fish,” she said. "Natalie Baker, who lives on nearby Nuthurst Drive, said her children and their friends had been designing the posters. “There has got to be something in it for the police and RSPCA to come out. But despite growing local interest in the creature - a group [was] out with their binoculars scanning the water last night - the RSPCA say it is highly unlikely the beast was an alligator or croc. Nick Brundrit, field chief inspector for the RSPCA, said the team kept up observations at the pool for around an hour and a half on Saturday, but there were no obvious signs of an alligator-type creature. He said the sighting was more likely to be a group of basking carp swimming together, or possibly a snapper turtle."

"Following on from the excellent preliminary fieldwork carried out by Mark Martin, the main Center for Fortean Zoology expedition finally reached Cannock in the early afternoon of 21st July. After a rendezvous at our digs, the Exeter contingent and Mark Martin drove in convoy to the pond at the end of Roman View. No matter how many times one carries out an expedition like this to finally see the location of a series of mystery animal reports for the first time. The pond where the crocodile had been reported was surprisingly wild looking; an oasis of sanity in an increasingly desolate and unattractive West Midlands Environment. Especially considering that on the far side of the pond from where we set up our temporary base camp, a new section of the M6 road was under construction. And with what looked as if it had once been virgin woodland on the hillside opposite had been flattened, in order to build a featureless and rather nasty out of town shopping centre, the ground immediately surrounding the pond looked even more inviting. A wide range of butterflies and other flying insects fluttered, hovered, and buzzed their way around the thick vegetation, which was about 800 yards long and 300 yards across and which was fringed by reeds and bull-rushes. A contemplative-looking Heron sneered down at us from a large bush at one end of the pond, and - indeed - most of the weekend there gazing down at us with a particularly supercilious manner. The pond was also home to a pair of swans and their three cygnets who cruised up and down the water like majestic galleons were and totally ignored us for the duration of our stay."

(Nick Redfern) Richard Freeman of the Center for Fortean Zoology

"From CFZ HQ in Exeter came me, Richard Freeman (who had only been back in the country for four days after his first expedition to Sumatra), Graham Inglis, John Fuller, and Nigel Wright (on his first CFZ expedition for some years). We were joined by the aforementioned Mark Martin, Peter Channon (from the Exeter Strange Phenomena group), Chris Mullins (from Beastwatch UK), Neil Goodwin (from Mercury Newspapers), and Wilf Wharton (the CFZ Wiltshire representative who was soon to be immigrating to the Antipodes).  Much to my amazement, everybody turned up roughly on time, and we gave three short briefings: one from me, giving a general overview of the events; one from Mark who provided additional background data; and the third from Richard, who cautioned on the do’s and don’ts of handling crocodiles. I split the available personnel into three field groups. There was the Boat-Team (Mark and Graham); The Away-Team (Richard, Wilf, Chris, Neil and Peter); and the Shore-Team (me, John and Nigel). The initial idea was that the Boat-Team would spend Monday and Tuesday carrying out intensive sonar sweeps of the lake, with the intention of determining the depth any large fish or errant crocodilians. In the meantime, the Shore-Team would scour the shoreline in search of signs of a large beast and also to determine the entry and exit points of the pond."

Sadly, there was no monster. What was almost certainly seen, however, was a poor dumped snapping turtle - a creature you see in the wilds of the U.K. Most of the team thought that the animal had been dumped by someone who couldn't take control of it anymore. And, I agree. Jon Downes adds: "Richard and I have been members of what I like to call the 'UK Animal Mafia' for some years. This is a weird sort of freemasonry that consists of people on the fringes of the pet trade, the zoo trade, and the professional zoology trade. These people - even when it would seem that they have completely opposing agendas - often co-operate to a surprising extent. One of the foremost members of the Zoo Mafia in the Midlands had warned us about the activities of a particularly unscrupulous reptile dealer who was – allegedly, at least - operating in the Cannock area. Nigel and I left the shore party and the boat party doing its own respective things and went undercover. It was surprisingly easy to track this fellow down. He had left a trail of debts a mile long; and whenever we went we couldn't find anybody who would say a good word about him. We found the shop where he had once operated a business, which - according to one of our informants - had been closed down on animal welfare grounds." And there's more:

 "We spoke to his erstwhile landlord and found that when he closed he had left large sums of money owing. We found that he had then set up business under another name in another part of town, but this too had gone the way of all flesh. After two failed businesses, we discovered that the person question had most recently been sighted working part-time for a pizza delivery company, and selling the remnants of his stock through small ads in the local paper. Although we cannot prove it, we were convinced that this discovery had essentially solved the provenance of the Cannock crocodile. It was obvious that somebody had been dumping exotic reptiles in the district. Only a couple of days before we arrived, the Wolverhampton Express and Star had carried a story about a large common snapping-turtle which had been captured in a local brook.

"The newspaper report claimed that the turtle - named “Lucky” - by the RSPCA inspector who captured him could have been over 20 years old and had “probably lived most of his life in the wild”, having inspected the brook in question, and furthermore knowing that when snapping turtles achieve the size of the specimen fished out of this tiny brook in Staffordshire they are very sedentary creatures, who on the whole sit on the bottom of a stream waiting for something to swim into the open mouths, I feel it is far more likely that 'Lucky' was dumped into the stream in question within the last few weeks. “Feeling rather pleased with ourselves, for having completed what we regarded as a rather tidy piece of detective work, we returned to the lake." The "monster" hunt was over. But a lesson was learned: cryptozoology is a fascinating subject to dig into.

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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