Sep 30, 2022 I Nick Redfern

UFOs, Strange Creatures, Alien Big Cats and the Occult: When They All Melt Into One Mystery

John Keel, the author of The Mothman Prophecies and more, was absolutely right when he said that most of the mysteries of our world were interconnected: monsters, aliens, and other strange entities. And, today, I'm going to share with you a perfect example of such an affair. Throughout the summer and fall of 1997, the skies of south Devon, England were filled with UFOs, bizarre aerial vehicles, and mystifying lights. Strange creatures - including large black cats resembling mountain-lions, flying beasts that had the appearance of huge jellyfish, and ghostly black dogs with blazing, hate-filled eyes – provoked terror in those that encountered them. Unidentified robed and hooded figures were seen prowling around the local, dark woods by moonlight, seemingly engaging in infernal, occult-driven rites and rituals. Animals were found dead, and hideously mutilated, under mysterious circumstances. Trying to make some sense of all this high-strangeness were two dedicated investigators of all things paranormal, Nigel Wright and Jon Downes. Wright is a well-known, long-time investigator of UFOs in England, while Downes is the director of the Devon-based Center for Fortean Zoology – one of the few groups that investigates reports of such anomalies as lake-monsters, Bigfoot, and the Chupacabra on a full-time basis.

Such was the sheer scale of supernatural activity that descended on ancient Devon in that specific period, Downes and Wright found themselves plunged into a dark and turbulent world, one which closely paralleled the menacing environment that threatened to swallow up John Keel, as he investigated the turbulent Point Pleasant, West Virginia Mothman reports of 1966-1967. And, in the same way that Keel had run-ins with the MIB, both Downes and Wright experienced something chillingly similar. For Downes, it was hang-up phone calls in the middle of the night, and confrontations with none other than representatives of Britain’s elite police unit, Special Branch – but for why, exactly, Downes was never told. As for Wright, well, he had the dubious pleasure of having one of our mysterious women on his tail.

(Jonathan Downes and Nigel Wright) Many thanks for use of the cover of the guys' book, The Rising of the Moon.

It’s important to note that Wright’s case occurred when his research was at its absolute height. It was research that ultimately led to the publication of a book co-written with Downes on the 1997 wave. Its title, The Rising of the Moon. Not only that: at the same time Wright was also having regressing hypnotherapy to help him understand a suspected missing time/alien abduction experience in his childhood. As an example of Wright’s research when south Devon was blighted by dark forces, consider the following. Any mention of “animal mutilations” invariably, and quite understandably too, provokes imagery of the notorious “cattle-mutilation” events that reached their peak in the southwest regions of the United States in the mid to late 1970s. On the issue of whether or not the killing and mutilation of animals on a large scale was, and perhaps still is, the work of extraterrestrials, occult groups, government personnel engaged in biological warfare experimentation, scavengers, shadowy figures with concerns about exotic viruses entering the U.S. food-chain, or a combination of all the above, the jury is very much still out. But, less well known, is that such events are not limited solely to the United States. The U.K. has been hit hard, too. One particular case stands out for truly memorable and macabre reasons, as will now become apparent. It all began on October 1, 1997, as an extract from one of Nigel Wright’s journals reveals:

“Approximately three weeks ago two young men were swimming in Otter Cove [at 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.” Meanwhile, on the top of the cliffs, equally strange things were afoot. The two young men raced for the car of a relative and breathlessly explained what had happened. Incredibly, she, too, had seen something highly unusual in precisely the same time frame on the road leading to Otter Cove. It was a strange animal that she likened to “an enormous cat.” Whatever the origin of the cat-like beast, however, she was certain of one thing: it was, to quote her, “all lit up” – almost glowing, one might say. On the following day, a dead whale was found washed upon a stretch of beach directly 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, Wright quickly 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.” Wright continues: “I quizzed the official from English Heritage, who was responsible for the disposal of the carcass. He informed me that no natural predator or boat strike would have caused this wound. As I looked at this sight, the first thing that came into my mind was how this looked just like the cattle mutilation cases of recent times.”

(Nick Redfern) 1997: A full-on weird wave of paranormal activity for Nigel Wright

Wright was also able to determine that this was not the only time that unusual lights had been seen in the vicinity of Lyme Bay: “No precise date can be given for the evening when a fishing boat encountered a strange light over Lyme Bay,” he wrote, “but, since this was told to me by the skipper of the vessel concerned, I can vouch for its authenticity. The vessel in question was five miles off Budleigh Salterton. The crew became aware of a bright, white-blue light which hovered some distance from the boat. At first they thought it was a helicopter but they heard no engine sounds, nor saw any navigation lights.” Wright was told by the captain of the vessel that the night had been “bright and clear” and that if the object had made any noise, it would certainly have been “audible for miles.” And, "The light remained stationary for about one and a half hours. Judging by the mast of their vessel, which is twenty-eight feet high, the crew estimated that the light was not much higher than that,” adds Wright. “It then very suddenly disappeared.”  The case was over. Wright’s exposure to high-strangeness was not, however. 

It was also while he was hot on the trail of the Devon events of 1997 that Nigel Wright uncovered a fascinating story concerning the Men in Black. He decided to spend a day looking through the newspaper archives of the Exeter Public Library, in an effort to determine if there had been other waves of paranormal activity in the area, in years long gone. It was while doing so that Wright stumbled on the May 21, 1909 edition of England’s Exmouth Journal newspaper. Titled "Invasion Scares – Queer Stories from Humberside," the article reads as follows: “A strange story was told to the Yorkshire Post, Grimsby correspondent by workmen from Killingholm near Immingham new dock works on Tuesday night. They declared that they were seated at noon on the roadside at Killingholm, when a large motor car drove up and two men alighted who walked to the bank on which the workmen were seated and asked if any airships had been recently seen near. The workmen replied: ‘No’, whereupon the motorists asked the distance between Killingholm and Spurn, and whether any mines were laid in the Humber between the two places. The workmen referred their interrogators to a coastguard, saying he would be able to answer them. It does not matter,’ replied the motorists, and, after enquiring the way to the nearest refreshment house, they jumped into their car and drove quickly away.”

This is typical behavior of the Men in Black, pulling up in a car, asking questions about unusual aerial vehicles, and driving off again – except for the fact that it’s a rarity to find pre-1947 reports of such activity. It may well have been Wright’s persistent digging into such matters, and specifically into the matter of the MIB, that led to a dreaded knock on the door. In this case, however, the visitor was a WIW: a Woman in White. In 2015, Nigel told me: “It was right when we were in the middle of that huge UFO wave, and I had gone to an evening meeting of Jon’s Exeter Strange Phenomena research group. And my wife, Sue, was in the flat we lived in, in Exmouth. There was a knock at the door, Sue went to answer it. And when she opened the door, there stood a lady in all white. It was a lovely, sunny, early evening, and the woman was dressed in a long, white coat, white trousers, white headscarf with a little bit of a black fringe poking through, and huge black sunglasses that wrapped right around, and very pasty-looking skin. Which was rather weird, to say the least, with it being hot and sunny.

“Sue said something like, ‘Hello can I help you?’ And she asked if I was there. Sue said, ‘No, he’s out at the moment. The woman then said, and I’m working from memory now, of what Sue told me when I got home that night: ‘This thing he is doing with UFOs, tell him to stop it, right away!’ Sue asked why, and this woman didn’t say another thing – at all. She just stared for a moment, then turned and walked down towards the gate. Then something strange happened: the road we lived on was a long, dead straight road, about 150 to 200 yards in each direction. As the woman went down the path, Sue turned to pick up our youngster, who was crying, and when she turned back again, about ten seconds later, there was no sign of her in either direction. Sue went to the road and looked both ways and there was no-one, for as far as Sue could see. She had just vanished. It was very odd because just the night before this all happened, I had a hypnotic regression done on a blocked experience from when I was a kid, in which I think I was taken on-board a UFO. And, I actually discussed all this at Jon’s meeting – which would have been the same time the woman was visiting the house. That warning to keep off sounds terribly familiar, doesn’t it?” Yes, it most certainly does.

(Nick Redfern) Jonathan Downes on expedition

It was an event that Nigel Wright still cannot banish from his mind, almost two decades later. Such is the lasting, traumatic effect that these sinister characters have on those whose lives they intrude upon. And, it must be noted, Wright’s visitor – or, rather, his wife’s visitor – sounds incredibly like Truman Bethurum’s 1950s-era Aura Rhanes. Not only that, there are others who, like Nigel Wright, had abduction experiences earlier in life and who caught the attention of the Women in Black. One of those was a man named Dan Seldin. A factory worker from Cleveland, Ohio, Seldin, in 1985, contacted the late Budd Hopkins – a noted abduction researcher and the author of Missing Time – about an experience which occurred in 1969. It all went down when he, Seldin, was out in nearby Cleveland woods with several friends. Vague memories of a huge object hanging in the sky, a blinding light that lit up the trees, and a vanished period of about an hour of time, were the staple parts of the story. Clearly, something significant occurred, but what? Two months after contacting Hopkins, Seldin visited him in New York, where hypnosis was used to try and secure yet more data from Seldin’s subconscious. It was a session that worked – almost too well. A traumatic story surfaced of Seldin being taken on-board a UFO by a group of small, “frightening-looking” creatures, and then being subjected to distressing medical procedures, including the collection of samples of Seldin’s sperm. Other, earlier accounts surfaced, too, suggesting that Seldin was very possibly a lifelong abductee. But particularly fascinating was a “dream” that Seldin had just a couple of months before he and Hopkins met.

As Seldin told the story to Hopkins, he was in bed in the early hours and suddenly found himself wide awake. Standing in the thick shadows, at a distance of around twenty feet, was a trio of large-headed, emotionless humanoids with black eyes and dressed all in black. Then, as if out of nowhere, the face of a human-looking woman loomed into view. It was a chilling sight for Seldin. The malevolent looking she-hag had long, black hair - which swung, or blew, wildly in Seldin’s face. In addition, she had dark eyes, and, rather oddly, no teeth. Seldin was terrified, but he admitted that although the woman gave off an air of “evil,” she “looks pretty, too. Her eyes make her look evil. Ugly eyes. They were pretty horrendous eyes, all black and shiny. Blacker than hell.” As Seldin stared upwards at the woman, and frozen to the core with fear, she mounted him and he soon ejaculated. Interestingly, Seldin suspected the black-haired and black-eyed woman was far from pleased with the result – something which, he suggested, may have been because he had had a vasectomy, post-the 1969 encounter, effectively rendering him sterile.

Clearly, when we put all of these cases together, it does indeed demonstrate that Cryptozoology, Ufology, magic, the occult, animal mutilations and much more are indeed a part of something joined together and much bigger. Keel was right.

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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