Oct 19, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Mysterious Bears on the Rampage: Not What They Seem to be...

You might find it strange that bears could fall into the class of Cryptozoology. But...some bears are not what they appear to be. As you'll see today. Neil Arnold, a noted authority on monsters, shared with me the following, which tells a story of very curious proportions: “For several decades Clapham Woods in West Sussex, [England] has been the subject of many a dark whisper and wicked rumor. Tales of ghosts, murders and black magic often emerge from the ancient woods. “My favorite and certainly, creepiest story pertaining to Sussex, and there are many, concerns a sighting of a truly dreadful creature. This manifestation even made the Littlehampton Gazette, in 1975, around the autumn. Even national radio and the popular, topical BBC program Nationwide, featured the story. At the time the area was caught up in a flap of high strangeness. News-crews, journalists, UFO investigators, and paranormal enthusiasts flocked to the area, but rarely after dark." Neil, a good friend to me, continued:

“Two dogs had gone missing in the area, and when researchers stumbled across a footprint measuring eight-inches long and almost four-inches wide, but showing four-claw mark indentations (and a fifth claw mark towards the rear of the main pad), it was clear that something bizarre was going on. Twelve inches in front of the print, was another, almost identical print. The investigators were equipped with a Geiger counter, as well as other paraphernalia. Suddenly, the needle of the counter began to act oddly when the counter was swept over the prints, and then, from the darkness a grey pillar of mist appeared. With the main A27 road in ear shot, the researchers decided it best to head for home, but then the monster appeared. The hazy shaft of mist before them took on the form of a great bear-like creature. The apparition then faded within ten seconds. From then on Clapham Woods would become known for its paranormal activity. It was once rumored that a bear cult operated clandestinely in the thickets, and maybe they’d raised some kind of tulpa-like energy forever to haunt the shadows of the ‘birdless grove." Neil continued:

(Nick Redfern) "Mystery bear" expert Neil Arnold with Nick Redfern

“Strange symbols, time lapses, animal sacrifice, phantom hounds, secret societies and several obscure cults: Clapham Woods is certainly one of those special places. Blue Bell Hill in Kent, and Cannock Chase in Staffordshire seem to offer similar bouts of high strangeness, whether in the form of strange animal sightings or peculiar activity and folklore. Whether by strange coincidence, the grounds of Verdley Castle, situated also in West Sussex, are supposedly haunted by a giant bear. It is alleged to have been the last bear in England.” There is, however, more to come. Moving on...

The following was said of one Nathaniel Neakok..."the mighty hunter of polar bears, has quit scoffing at reports about the great Kinik being seen in this northernmost region of North America,” reported the Idaho Falls, Idaho Post-Register, on May 15, 1958. The story continued: “A Kinik is the name Eskimos give to a bear they say is too big to come out of the water. Its size varies with the individual story. But all agree he is a monster of great size and strength and appetite. Several weeks ago, Neakok laughed so loudly when told Raymond Lalayauk had reported seeing a 30-foot bear that is hearty guffaws echoed and re-echoed across the great, frozen polar wastes. But Neakok isn’t laughing anymore. He has seen a Kinik with his very own eyes. This Kinik, Neakok says, was grayish white and only its head was visible as it swam through the water. It was so large he did not attempt to shot it." That's quite a story of a bear!

Now, onto another case: Elliot O’Donnell, a renowned collector and investigator of ghost stories, told a fascinating story of a strange, ghostly, bear-like monster seen in none other than London, England’s Tower of London. O’Donnell said: “Edmund Lenthal Swifte, appointed in 1814 Keeper of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, refers in an article in Notes and Queries, 1860, to various unaccountable phenomena happening in the Tower during his residence there. He says that one night in the Jewel Office, one of the sentries was alarmed by a figure like a huge bear issuing from underneath the Jewel Room door. He thrust at it with his bayonet, which, going right through it, stuck in the doorway, whereupon he dropped in a fit, and was carried senseless to the guard-room. When on the morrow Mr. Swifte saw the soldier in the guard-room, his fellow-sentinel was also there, and the latter testified to having seen his comrade, before the alarm, quiet and active, and in full possession of his faculties. He was now, so Mr. Swifte added, changed almost beyond recognition, and died the following day.

(Nick Redfern) Could there be giant-sized bears hidden away?

“Mr. George Offer, in referring to this incident, alludes to queer noises having been heard at the time the figure appeared. Presuming that the sentinel was not the victim of an hallucination, the question arises as to the kind of spirit that he saw. The bear, judging by cases that have been told me, is by no means an uncommon occult phenomenon. The difficulty is how to classify it, since, upon no question appertaining to the psychic, can one dogmatize. To quote from a clever poem that appeared in the January number of the Occult Review, to pretend one knows anything definite about the immaterial world is all ‘swank.’ At the most we - Parsons, Priests, Theosophists, Christian Scientists, Psychical Research Professors - at the most can only speculate. Nothing - nothing whatsoever, beyond the bare fact that there are phenomena, unaccountable by physical laws, has as yet been discovered. All the time and energy and space that have been devoted by scientists to the investigation of spiritualism and to making tests in automatic writing are, in my opinion - and, I believe, I speak for the man in the street—hopelessly futile. 

“No one, who has ever really experienced spontaneous ghostly manifestations, could for one moment believe in the genuineness of the phenomena produced at séances. They have never deceived me, and I am of the opinion spirits cannot be convoked to order, either through a so-called medium falling into a so-called trance, through table-turning, automatic writing, or anything else. If a spirit comes, it will come either voluntarily, or in obedience to some Unknown Power—and certainly neither to satisfy the curiosity of a crowd of sensation-loving men and women, nor to be analyzed by some cold, calculating, presumptuous Professor of Physics whose proper sphere is the laboratory. “But to proceed. The phenomenon of the big bear, provided again it was really objective, may have been the phantasm of some prehistoric creature whose bones lie interred beneath the Tower; for we know the Valley of the Thames was infested with giant reptiles and quadrupeds of all kinds (I incline to this theory); or it may have been a Vice-Elemental, or - the phantasm of a human being who lived a purely animal life, and whose spirit would naturally take the form most closely resembling it.”

Taking things to another, alternative level, I have heard some people suggesting that some tales of massive bears in Scotland were derived from another somewhat supernatural creature. The so-called "Big Gray Man of Ben Macdhui: A large and mysterious mountain in a Scottish range called the Cairngorms, Ben Macdhui is said to be the lair of a sinister, lumbering, Bigfoot-like creature known as the Big Gray Man (BGM). Legends of its existence date back centuries, and they show no signs of stopping. Although definitively animal-like in both nature and appearance, the Big Gray Man reputedly possesses paranormal powers that allow it to plunge the unwary traveler into states of terror and panic. A form of monster-based mind-control, one might be justified in suggesting. Without doubt, the foremost expert on the BGM is anomalies expert, Andy Roberts. Andy has noted that witnesses to the creepy phenomenon describe how they have heard heavy footsteps on the fog-shrouded mountain, felt a distinct sensation of a threatening presence, and experienced an overwhelming feeling of unbridled terror. The experience is graphic enough to compel witnesses to flee – in fear of their lives – and, in some cases, to run wildly and in crazed, fear-filled fashion for miles. Taking into consideration the fact that encounters almost exclusively take place on rocky, dangerous ground, and often in weather conditions involving mist and snow, Andy stresses that “we should not underestimate the power of the experience.”

(Nick Redfern) Monsters on the mountains: legends created by bears?

As far as can be determined, the first encounter of any real note with the BGM occurred in 1791. The witness was a poet and shepherd named James Hogg. He reported seeing a massive figure on Ben Macdhui, which appeared to manifest out of a strange halo. Says Andy: “As he watched the halo which had formed around him due to the combination of sunshine and mist he suddenly noticed a huge, looming figure. It was vaguely human in shape and he imagined it to be the devil. Hogg fled in terror, not stopping until he reached fellow shepherds.” Then, from 1831, we have the following from Sir Thomas Dick Lauder. In his own words: “On descending from the top (of Ben Mac Dhui) at about half-past three P.M., an interesting optical appearance presented itself to our view. We had turned towards the east, and the sun shone on our backs, when we saw a very bright rainbow described on the mist before us. The bow, of beautifully distinct prismatic colors, formed about two-thirds of a circle, the extremities of which appeared to rest on the lower portion of the mountain. In the center of this incomplete circle there was described a luminous disc, surrounded by the prismatic colors displayed in concentric rings. On the disc itself, each of the party (three in number), as they stood about fifty yards apart, saw his own figure most distinctly delineated, although those of the other two were invisible to him. The representation appeared of the natural size, and the outline of the whole person of the spectator was most correctly portrayed. To prove that the shadow seen by each individual was that of himself, we resorted to various gestures, such as waving our hats, flapping our plaids, &c., all which motions were exactly followed by the airy figure.”

Moving onto the 20th century, in 1921, the Cairngorm Club Journal reported that a recent letter-writer “…called attention to a myth prevalent in Upper Deeside to the effect that a big spectral figure has been seen at various times during the last five years walking about on the tops of the Cairngorms. When approached, so the story goes, the figure disappears.” Andy Roberts reveals a further layer of the puzzle: “In 1924, Dr. Ernest A. Baker’s book, The Highlands with Rope and Rucksack, appeared. Here, Baker relates the experience of a friend whose job took him into the mountains, a deer stalker or perhaps a shepherd. Alone on Ben Macdhui one day he became aware of a terrifying presence which Afleck Gray [the author of the book, The Big Gray Man of Ben Macdhui] recounts, ‘disturbed him in a manner which was beyond his experience.’ Gray makes the point that this was no ordinary fear but something so powerful that Baker’s friend fled from Ben Macdhui, the terror only subsiding when he reached low ground. Baker also reports how one mountain climber had told him that he would under no circumstances spend any time on Ben Macdhui alone, even in daylight.” It's a mystery, to a degree, that is still around.

And, finally: On January 6, 1954, the Lumberton, North Carolina, Robesonian newspaper published a sensational article titled “Vampire Strikes At Woman; Police Chief Warns Parents.” It began in startling style: “Worried parents kept a close eye on their children today as a strange ‘vampire’ beast continued to roam the countryside.” Indeed, sightings and killings had been going on since December 29 and plunged the good folk of the small town of Bladenboro, North Carolina into states of fear and outrage. Although many eye-witnesses described the animal as looking like a black leopard, there were some who said it was more akin to a sleek-looking bear. Adding to the confusion, the tracks of the creature were said to be dog-like, rather than feline in appearance. It was a creepy conundrum, to be sure. The most terrifying aspect of the story, however, was the claim of both the newspaper and the witnesses that the creature “sucks blood from its victims.” After all this, who says bears shoudn't be in the category of Cryptozoology!

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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