Dec 06, 2022 I Nick Redfern

A Trio of the Weirdest Creatures in the Field of Monster-Hunting: "Bizarre" is a Good Word!

One might be forgiven for thinking that sightings of large, winged monsters only ever occur in the skies over large forests and jungles, and above remote mountains. Not so. In fact, far from it. In 1984, just such an unearthly beast was seen soaring over the capital city of the United Kingdom: London! The specific location was Brentford, a town situated within west London. The day on which all hell broke loose was hardly of the kind one might expect to associate with a monster. There were no dark and stormy skies, no thunder and lightning, and no howling winds. Instead, there was nothing but a warm, pleasant, sunny day in March. The man who kicked off the firestorm of controversy was Kevin Chippendale, who, at the time, was walking along Brentford’s Braemer Road. As he did so, Chippendale’s attention was drawn to something strange in the sky. It was some sort of large, flying animal. Not the kind of thing you see every day, to be sure. And in a decidedly synchronistic fashion, it all went down in the skies directly above a local pub called The Griffin. It was the imagery of a legendary griffin of ancient mythology that Chippendale most associated with the thing he briefly encountered. It was winged, fork-tailed, and sported mean-looking talons and a dog-like muzzle. Chippendale could do nothing but stare in awe. And in shock and terror, too.

Stories of so-called griffins date back millennia, to the times of the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Persians. In the 14th century, Sir John Mandeville wrote of griffins: “Some men say that they have the body upward as an eagle and beneath as a lion; and truly they say sooth that they be of that shape. But one griffin hath the body more great and is more strong than eight lions, of such lions as be on this half, and more great and stronger than an hundred eagles such as we have amongst us. For one griffin there will bear, flying to his nest, a great horse, if he may find him at the point, or two oxen yoked together as they go at the plough. For he hath his talons so long and so large and great upon his feet, as though they were horns of great oxen or of bugles or of kine, so that men make cups of them to drink of. And of their ribs and of the pens of their wings, men make bows, full strong, to shoot with arrows and quarrels.”

Almost a year later after his extraordinary encounter, specifically in February 1985, Chippendale saw the creature yet again. Others saw the monster, too. They included a psychologist named John Olsen – who encountered the beast while jogging near the River Thames - and a woman named Angela Keyhoe, who saw the griffin squatting in ominous and beady-eyed fashion atop the town’s Waterman Carts Center. Both the local and national media – television and newspapers – were soon onto the story, and major coverage was afforded the mystery. Then, like so many cryptid-based incidents, the weird wave of the winged thing came to a sudden end. It’s worth noting, however, that despite the incredible nature of the affair, this is far from being the only occasion upon which a griffin has been encountered in the UK. Elliott O’Donnell was an enthusiastic collector and disseminator of data on all manner of wonders, including ghosts, demons, and strange creatures. He was also someone who crossed paths with the English griffin. He said, of a strange story that dated back to the 17th century: 

(Nick Redfern) These creatures are beyond strange

“Mr. John Luck, a farmer from Raveley, set out on horseback one morning to the annual fair at Whittlesea. On the way he met a friend, with whom he had a drink at a wayside inn. After drinking somewhat heavily Mr. Luck became very merry, and perceiving that his friend was getting restless and desirous of continuing on his way to the fair, he said, ‘Let the devil take him who goeth out of this house today.’ “The more he drank, the merrier he grew. Forgetful of his rash saying, he called for his horse and set out for the fair. The fresh air seemed to have a sobering effect, for he had not travelled very far before he remembered what he had said. He was naturally superstitious and became so perturbed that he lost his bearings. He was endeavoring to find the way home – it was getting dusk and far too late to go to the fair – when he espied ‘two grim creatures before him in the likeness of griffins.’ “They handled him roughly, took him up in the air, stripped him, and then dropped him, a sad spectacle, all gory, in a farm yard just outside the town of Doddington. There he was found lying upon some harrows. He was picked up and carried to a house, which belonged to a neighboring gentleman. When he had recovered sufficiently to talk, he related what had happened to him. Before long he ‘grew into a frenzy,’ so desperate that the inmates of the house were afraid to stay in the room with him. 

“Convinced that Luck was under evil influences, they sent for the clergyman of the town. No sooner had the clergyman entered the house than Luck, howling like a demon, rushed at him and would have torn him to pieces, had not the servants of the house come to his rescue. They succeeded with great difficulty in overcoming Luck and tying him to the bed. No one was allowed to enter his room, the door of which was locked.” Neil Arnold, who has carefully studied the affair of the Brentford Griffin, notes: “O’ Donnell goes on to describe how Mr. Luck, the next morning, was found dead in his bed. His body a crooked, broken mess, black with bruises, neck snapped, and tongue hanging from his chasm of a mouth. His face an expression of utmost dread. Many believed that the griffin monsters were sent by Satan and had succeeded in their quest.” Bizarre for sure! Now, onto an equally weird creature.

Anomalies researcher and writer Mike Dash says: “Few creatures have struck more terror into more hearts for longer than the basilisk, a monster feared for centuries throughout Europe and North Africa. Like many ancient marvels, it was a bizarre hybrid: a crested snake that hatched from an egg laid by a rooster and incubated by a toad.” Tales of the Basilisk really came to the fore in 79AD, in the pages of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. It states of the beast that: “It is produced in the province of Cyrene, being not more than twelve fingers in length. It has a white spot on the head, strongly resembling a sort of a diadem. When it hisses, all the other serpents fly from it: and it does not advance its body, like the others, by a succession of folds, but moves along upright and erect upon the middle. It destroys all shrubs, not only by its contact, but those even that it has breathed upon; it burns up all the grass, too, and breaks the stones, so tremendous is its noxious influence. It was formerly a general belief that if a man on horseback killed one of these animals with a spear, the poison would run up the weapon and kill, not only the rider, but the horse, as well. To this dreadful monster the effluvium of the weasel is fatal, a thing that has been tried with success, for kings have often desired to see its body when killed; so true is it that it has pleased Nature that there should be nothing without its antidote. The animal is thrown into the hole of the basilisk, which is easily known from the soil around it being infected. The weasel destroys the basilisk by its odor, but dies itself in this struggle of nature against its own self.”

(Nick Redfern) Old or new beasts, people claim to have seen them

None other than Leonardo da Vinci told a very similar story. He said that the monster “…is found in the province of Cyrenaica and is not more than 12 fingers long. It has on its head a white spot after the fashion of a diadem. It scares all serpents with its whistling. It resembles a snake, but does not move by wriggling but from the center forwards to the right. It is said that one of these, being killed with a spear by one who was on horse-back, and its venom flowing on the spear, not only the man but the horse also died. It spoils the wheat and not only that which it touches, but where it breathes the grass dries and the stones are split.” Without doubt the most notable account of the Basilisk comes from the Polish city of Warsaw and dates from 1587. Midori Snyder says of this case that it revolved around “a terrifying encounter and eventual capture of a Basilisk hiding in the cellar of a house who is suspected of bringing the plague.” So the old story went:

“The 5-year-old daughter of a knifesmith named Machaeropaeus had disappeared in a mysterious way, together with another little girl. The wife of Machaeropaeus went looking for them, along with the nursemaid. When the nursemaid looked into the underground cellar of a house that had fallen into ruins 30 years earlier, she observed the children lying motionless down there, without responding to the shouting of the two women. When the maid was too hoarse to shout anymore, she courageously went down the stairs to find out what had happened to the children. Before the eyes of her mistress, she sank to the floor beside them, and did not move. The wife of Machaeropaeus wisely did not follow her into the cellar, but ran back to spread the word about this strange and mysterious business. The rumor spread like wildfire throughout Warsaw. Many people thought the air felt unusually thick to breathe and suspected that a basilisk was hiding in the cellar.” Now, let's turn our attentions to something half-goat. Yes, I did say that!

In the very early hours of one particularly fateful morning in the hot and sticky summer of 1969, six petrified residents of the Texan city of Fort Worth raced for the safety of their local police-station and related a controversial and amazing story. John Reichart, his wife, and two other couples were parked at Lake Worth – and, yes, it was indeed at the stroke of midnight - when a truly vile and monstrous-looking creature came storming out of the thick branches of a large, nearby tree. Reportedly covered in a coat that seemed to be comprised of both scales and fur, it slammed with a crashing bang onto the hood of the Reichart’s car and even tried to grab hold of the not-surprisingly-terrified Mrs. Reichart, before racing off into the pitch-black night and the camouflage of the dense, surrounding trees. The solitary evidence of its dark and foreboding presence was a deep, foot-and-a-half-long scratch along the side of the Reichart’s vehicle.

(Nick Redfern) Nick Redfern at Lake Worth, Texas: the site of the Goat-Man in the 1960s

While this specific event rapidly, and unsurprisingly, generated deep media interest, and was actually taken extremely seriously by the Fort Worth police – as prime evidence of this, no less than four police-cars quickly headed to the scene of the Reichart’s encounter – it was most certainly not the first occasion upon which Fort Worth officialdom had become the recipient of ominous accounts of diabolical beasts roaming around Lake Worth. Indeed, until the Reichart’s story hit the newspapers, it was a little-known fact that for approximately two months the police had been clandestinely investigating reports of a distinctly weird beast that was said to be spooking the locals on a disturbingly regular basis. While some of the officers concluded that at least some of the sightings might have been the work of local kids, running around in ape costumes, others were not quite so sure that fakery was a dominating factor, and took the Reichart’s story to heart. For example, Patrolman James S. McGee conceded that the report John Reichart filed with the Fort Worth constabulary was treated very seriously, as a result of the fact that: “those people were really scared.”

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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