Oct 16, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Do Strange and Dangerous "Hairy Little People" Hide Away in Our World?

A high plateau bordered by the Trent Valley to the north and the West Midlands to the south, the huge and picturesque Cannock Chase has been an integral feature of the Staffordshire landscape for generations. Following an initial invasion of Britain in A.D. 43, Roman forces advanced to the south to what is now the town of Cannock and along a route that would become known as Watling Street, a major, and historic, Roman road. The surrounding countryside was very heavily wooded even back then, as is demonstrated by the Romans’ name for the area: Letocetum, or the Grey Woods. In 1872, John Marius Wilson said of the Cannock Chase, in his Gazetteer of England and Wales, that the ‘...ancient forest…extends to the vicinity of Bednal, Lichfield, and the Trent, with an area of about 25,000 acres; and was anciently a hunting-ground of the Mercian and the Norman kings. It long was covered with wood; but is now bleak, moorish, and wild; yet is so rich in coal and ironstone as to have been much encroached upon both for mining and for cultivation. Large portions of it present the attractions of a hill country; and some spots have ancient standing-stones, supposed to be Druidical.’

(Nick Redfern) Only a quarter of a mile from where Elaine and Barry lived at the time

There's no doubt at all that the Cannock Chase is what is known in paranormal angles as a "window area." That's to say, a place that is filled with multiple different times of creatures, rather than just one. The Cannock Chase is a place I know very well. Of the very few 9-to-5 jobs I have ever had in my life, I didn’t really mind the one I did in the mid-1980s. I was out of the boss’s hair, driving around, making deliveries to the painters and decorators of Staffordshire and the West Midlands. Practically every day, my long and winding route took me to the large and sprawling Staffordshre woodland known as the Cannock Chase. While out driving across the Chase, and soaking in the glorious majesty of those huge and mighty trees, my mind often wandered back with much affection to those long gone days and nights as a monster-obsessed child; and, perhaps inevitably, to those exciting stories of the strange creatures that were said to inhabit the thick woods of the Cannock Chase. Indeed, even way back in the mid-1970s, as I very well knew, seemingly magical tales were quietly told by the local folk of the area of sightings of big-cats, of wild boar, and even of the occasional wallaby or several on the loose deep within the dense, expansive woods.

That's not at all, though. Over the decades, people have seen werewolf-type creatures roaming around a nearby cemetery on the Cannock Chase. Not so many years ago, a local man reported seeing what can only be termed a "flying humanoid, " soaring over the skies of those dense woods. In the early 2000s a huge snake was seen slithering through the woods. No-one knew where that came from. People claim to have seen Black Eyed Children and a Tulpa-version of the Slenderman on the Chase. And, how about alleged underground, primitive humans? In other words, the Cannock Chase is indeed a window area. All ofthe above is designed to demonstrate the absolute weirdness of the Chase. But, there is one particular story that, for me, stands out: it focuses on nothing less than a pack of "trolls" on the woods. Or, rather, that's how the witnesses called them. So, let's begin.

It was in the early hours of a winter’s morning in 1975 when Barry and Elaine, a married couple then in their late twenties and with two small children at the time, were driving towards their then-Slitting Mill, Staffordshire home after attending a Christmas party with friends and family in the nearby town of Penkridge. It should be noted that Penkridge is in the heart of the UFO-infested Cannock Chase woods, which surface in several of the accounts related in the pages of this book. As the pair headed towards the small village (its population today, four centuries after its initial foundations were laid, is still less than three hundred), their car’s engine began to splutter and, to their consternation and concern, completely died. Having managed to carefully coast the car to the side of the road, Barry proceeded to quickly open the bonnet and took a look at the engine – “even though I’m mainly useless at mechanical stuff,” he states. There did not appear to be any loose-wires, the radiator was certainly not over-heated, and a check of the car’s fuses did not provide any indication of what might be the problem. But, as the family was less than half a mile or so from home at that point, Barry made a quick and decisive decision, as he explained: 

(Nick Redfern) Not the real deal, but a cool model

“We had a picnic blanket in the boot [of the car] and I got it out. I got back into the car and I said to Elaine something like: ‘Let’s cover you up and the kids with the blanket.’ They were in the back sleeping and [were] only four and six at the time. So I said to [Elaine]: ‘You stay with them, and I’ll run back home and get your car, pick the three of you up, and then we’ll leave my car here, and we can get someone out from a garage to look at it tomorrow.’” At that point, however, their plans were thrown into complete and utter disarray. According to Barry, Elaine let out a loud scream, terrified by the sight of a small figure that ran across the road in front of them at a high rate of speed. She takes up the story: “I just about saw it at the last second, and then another one followed it, and then a third one. The best way I can describe them to you is like a hairy troll or something like that. We had some moonlight and they were like little men, but with hunchbacks and big, hooked noses and not a stitch on them at all. Not a stitch, at all; just hair all over them. I’d say they were all four-feet-tallish, and when the third one crossed by us, you could see them at the edge of the trees – wary, or something, anyway.”

 At that point things became very hazy indeed, says Barry: “We both know from memory they came forwards, towards us, very slowly to us, and I’ve thought since they were interested in us or wanted to know who we were. They came very slowly, and it was a bit like we were being hunted, to me. Elaine was hysterical; and with the kids with us, I wasn’t far-off, either. “But that’s all we remember. The next, it’s all gone; nothing. Neither of us remembers seeing them go, and the next thing it was about two o’clock and the car started fine, then. It felt like something had happened to us, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on, you know what I mean? But the memory thing is the biggest problem, even now. What was it? I did have a dream later about them surrounding the car, but that’s it, really. But they were there and we did see them, right up by the Stone House [Note: A reference to a large, old abode – locally well-known - that sits on the edge of the village of Slitting Mill and that dates back to 1584, two centuries prior to the emergence of the village in the 1700s].”

Barry states that, to this day, and now both in their late-sixties, both he and Elaine still feel very uneasy about the loss of memory they both experienced back in 1975, but he is keen to affirm that: “I know, and we know, we both saw them. The kids don’t remember a thing, thank god. They were horrible little things. All that hair: Trolls, goblins, something. But they were there and they were real.” Neither Barry nor Elaine have ever experienced any further such incidents or encounters with the unknown, but they have never forgotten those disturbing events deep in the heart of Slitting Mill on a chilly, winter night all those years ago. Now, let's swing across to New York and a similar story. And an identical name.

What do you do when a complete stranger tells you they have seen a very odd-looking animal roaming around the fringes of New York’s Central Park? Well, you listen carefully to what the witness has to say, and you do your best to come to some meaningful conclusion. That is what I attempted to do some years ago when I was on the receiving end of an email from another man named Barry – not to be confused with the Barry above, although the coincidence is interesting - who claimed to have seen an extremely strange, small, humanoid beast in the park, itself, back in 1997. Of course, the date of the case meant that the trail had long since gone cold. But, that didn’t stop me from at least taking the time to sit down with the witness while he was on a managerial training-course in Waco, Texas (which is only a relatively short drive from my Arlington, Texas home).

Barry’s story was certainly one of the weirdest I have ever heard; however, I learned a long time ago that the world of cryptozoology and monster-hunting can be a very strange and surreal one. And, for that reason, I always try and give everyone a fair hearing (unless they’re an obvious nut) – which is precisely what I did with Barry. Barry told me that on the day in question – which was a sunny weekday in either June or July 1997 – he was strolling through the park. All was utterly normal until he approached one particularly tree- and bush-shrouded area. He was shocked to the core when, out of nowhere, an unknown animal burst wildly through the foliage. Barry claimed to me that the creature was man-like in shape and covered in hair of a distinctly rusty color – but, unlike the towering Bigfoot of the west-coast, it was little more than three-feet in height. Mini-Foot might have been a far better term to use, I mused, as I listened to the very odd tale. Barry could only watch with a mixture of shock and awe as the diminutive man-beast charged across the path in front of him at a distance of no more than about twenty feet, came to a screeching halt for a couple of seconds, stared intently into his eyes, and then headed off at high speed again, before finally vanishing beneath a small bridge inside the perimeter of the park, no less.

(Nick Redfern)

Barry was clearly very embarrassed about discussing his sighting – even more than a few years later. And, as a person who was clearly intelligent, coherent and presentable, he acutely realized how strange his story sounded, too. I had to agree; however, I also had to realize that Barry had absolutely nothing to gain at all by relating the details of his experience of the highly unusual kind. In fact, one could argue that if Barry’s full name was revealed at the time he just might have had a great deal to lose. He still might. I asked Barry to relate the details for me again. He did so, and I carefully took notes, ensuring that we finally had every aspect of the story accounted for. He admitted that the facts were scant; aside, that is, from his unswerving position that for a few, brief moments in the summer of 1997 he saw a small, hairy, man-like beast scurrying across the grass of Central Park. As I admitted to Barry, there was really very little that I could do, aside from carefully logging the details of the tale in my data-base, and seeing if anything else of a similar nature ever surfaced. Unsurprisingly, it most assuredly has not; not even remotely. Barry’s was just one of those very odd, fringe cases that, from time to time, perplex those of us who choose to dig into the world of monsters and strange creatures.

From the Cannock Chase to the United States: Trolls on the rampage? Maybe!

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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