Dec 21, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Sacrificial Rites of the Secret Type: Monsters, Conspiracies and a Dangerous Pitchfork

Filey Brigg is an impressively-sized, rocky peninsula that juts out from the coast of the Yorkshire, England town of Filey. Local folklore suggests that the rocks are actually the remains of the bones of an ancient sea dragon. Unlikely, to say the least. But, the story may have at least a basis in reality. In all likelihood, the story takes its inspiration from centuries old sightings of giant monsters of the sea that called the crashing waters off Filey Brig their home. One person who was able to attest to this was Wilkinson Herbert, a coastguard, who, in February 1934, had a traumatic, terrifying encounter with just such a sea dragon at Filey Brigg. It was – very appropriately – a dark, cloudy, and windy night when Herbert’s life was turned upside down. The first indication that something foul and supernatural was afoot came when Herbert heard the terrifying growling of what sounded like a dozen or more vicious hounds. The growling, however, was coming from something else entirely. As he looked out at the harsh, cold, waves, Herbert saw – to his terror – a large beast, around thirty feet in length and equipped with a muscular, humped back, and four legs that extended into flippers. For a heart-stopping instant, the bright, glowing eyes of the beast locked onto Herbert’s eyes. Not surprisingly, he said: “It was a most gruesome and thrilling experience. I have seen big animals abroad but nothing like this.”

(Nick Redfern) Sea-Dragons and secret groups

Further up the same stretch of coastland is the county of Tyne and Wear. And in the vicinity of the county’s South Shields is Marsden Bay, an area that is overflowing with rich tales of magic, mystery, witchcraft and supernatural, ghostly activity. Legend tells of a man named Jack Bates (a.k.a. “Jack the Blaster”) who, with his wife, Jessie, moved to the area in 1782. Instead of setting up home in the village of Marsden itself, however, the Bates family decided that they would blast a sizeable amount of rock out of Marsden Bay and create for themselves a kind of grotto-style home. It wasn’t long before local smugglers saw Jack’s cave-like environment as the ideal place to store their goods – something which led Jack to become one of their number. It was a secret, working arrangement that existed until the year of Jack the Blaster’s death, in 1792. The caves were later extended, to the point where they housed, rather astonishingly, a 15-room mansion. Today, the caves are home to the Marsden Grotto, one of the very few “cave pubs” in Europe.

Mike Hallowell is a local author-researcher who has uncovered evidence of a secret cult in the area that extends back centuries and which engages in controversial and dangerous activities. It all began with the Viking invasion of the U.K. in the 9th century and their beliefs in a violent, marauding sea monster known as the Shoney. Since the Shoney’s hunting ground ranged from the coast of England to the waters of Scandinavia, and the monster had a reputation for ferociousness, the Vikings did all they could to placate it. That, primarily, meant providing the beast with certain offerings. We’re talking, specifically, about human offerings. The process of deciding who would be the creature’s victim was a grim one: the crews of the Viking ships would draw straws and he who drew the shortest straw would be doomed to a terrible fate. He would first be bound by hand and foot. Then, unable to move, he would have his throat violently slashed. After which, the body of the unfortunate soul would be tossed into the churning waters, with the hope that the Shoney would be satisfied and would not attack the Vikings’ long-ships, as they were known. Sometimes, the bodies were never seen again. On other occasions they washed up on the shore of Marsden, hideously mutilated and savagely torn to pieces. 

(Nick Redfern) Vikings and long-necked monsters

Incredibly, however, this was not a practice strictly limited to the long gone times when the Vikings roamed and pillaged in marauding fashion. Mike Hallowell was able to determine that belief in the Shoney never actually died out. As a result, the last such sacrifice was rumored to have occurred in 1928. Hallowell’s sources also told him that the grotto’s caves regularly, and secretly, acted as morgues for the bodies of the dead that the Shoney tossed back onto the beach, following each sacrifice. And now the story becomes even more disturbing: as a dedicated researcher of the unknown, Hallowell began to dig ever deeper into the enigma of Marsden’s dragon cult and even contacted local police authorities to try and determine the truth of the matter – and of the murders too, of course. It was at the height of his research that Hallowell received a number of anonymous phone calls, sternly and darkly warning him to keep away from Marsden and its tale of a “serpent sacrifice cult,” and verbally threatening him as to what might happen if he didn’t. To his credit, Hallowell pushed on, undeterred by the Men in Black-like threats. And, although much of the data is circumstantial, Hallowell has made a strong case that such a cult still continues its dark activities – and possibly in other parts of the UK, too. 

February 14, 1945 was the date of a still-unresolved murder in rural England which bore all the hallmarks of death at the hands of a secret society. Some suggested a band of witches were the culprits, and others a secret sect of druids. The victim was a farm-worker, 74-year-old Charles Walton, found dead with nothing less than a pitchfork stick out of his chest. He was a resident of a small, picturesque village in Warwickshire, England called Lower Quinton. Walton had lived in the village all his life, in a pleasant old cottage that stood across from the local church. It was a scene not unlike what one might expect to see on Downton Abbey or in the pages of a Jane Austen novel. Until, that is, murder, mayhem, and a secret cult came to Lower Quinton. So far as can be ascertained, no-one in the village had a grudge against Walton: he was known to all of the locals. He was an affable but quiet sort, and – somewhat intriguingly – had the ability to entice wild birds to eat seeds from his hands. He was also said to have the power to reduce a wild, aggressive dog to a man’s best friend simply by speaking to it. On top of that, he had expert knowledge of local folklore and legend. Rumors suggest that perhaps Walton’s slightly uncanny “powers” had ensured him a place in a secret witchcraft cult, one which he ultimately fell out of favor with, and, as a result, paid the ultimate price. Namely, his life.

What is known for sure is that on the day in question – Valentine’s Day, no less – Walton was busily trimming hedges on what was known as Hillground: a large field at the foot of the Meon Hill. His tools were a hook and a pitchfork. It was while working on the hedges that someone stealthily intervened and took Walton’s life – and in savage fashion. When his body was stumbled on by a shocked local, all hell broke loose in the small village. He was lying dead on the grassy ground, with the pitchfork pinning him to the ground, and the hook having pierced his throat in savage and violent fashion. On top of that, a large cross had been cut into his chest. It should be noted that Meon Hill has, for centuries, been associated with supernatural activity: sightings of blazing-eyed black dogs – not unlike the terrible beast in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles – have been reported. Satan himself is said to have kicked a large rock from the top of the hill to the bottom of it, with the intention of flattening Evesham Abbey. Such was the strange and sinister nature of Walton’s death that the investigation wasn’t just left in the hands of the local “bobbies.” None other than Scotland Yard’s finest detectives were soon on the case. And they weren’t just on the case; they took over the entire investigation, under the control of Detective Inspector Robert Fabian. Despite an extensive investigation, and suspicions that the guilty party was a man named Albert Potter – who was employing Walton on the day he met his grisly end - the matter was never resolved to the satisfaction of the police and the mystery remained precisely that: a mystery. 

It’s worth noting, however, that Detective Inspector Fabian later said of his investigation of the affair: “One of my most memorable murder cases was at the village of Lower Quinton, near the stone Druid circle of the Whispering Knights. There a man had been killed by a reproduction of a Druidical ceremony on St. Valentine’s Eve.” He also offered the following, memorable words: “I advise anybody who is tempted at any time to venture into Black Magic, witchcraft, Shamanism – call it what you will – to remember Charles Walton and to think of his death, which was clearly the ghastly climax of a pagan rite. There is no stronger argument for keeping as far away as possible from the villains with their swords, incense and mumbo-jumbo. It is prudence on which your future peace of mind and even your life could depend.” It should also be noted that within Lower Quinton, the village folk are still very reluctant to speak about the decades-old affair. Tony Smith, the landlord of the village’s College Arms pub, told the BBC: “I can’t talk to you about that. After 17 years of running this place I know there are some things we don’t talk about. Talking about it would upset people and there’s no sense in alienating people in a small village like this. There are no relatives of Charles Walton left in the village and people that might have known what happened are all dead or gone.”

A Mrs. Wakelon, who ran the village store, was equally reluctant to say much to the BBC: “People don’t talk about it; it’s a closed subject. Those that know about it are gone, except one who’s in hospital and another that’s in a nursing home. All the others have gone or passed away.” The manager of the local post office – who was only willing to be referred to by the BBC as Joyce – spoke in a similar vein and tones: “No one will talk to you about it. The family have all gone now, anyway. There are none of the Walton family left here now. I have no answers to your questions.” Death by pitchfork, rumors of a witchcraft cult, and a village still living in uneasy and closed-mouth fashion. The memories of the murder of Charles Walton shows no signs of fading away anytime soon. Now, moving on: the summer of 1969 was a strange period in the quest for the truth behind the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. It was a decidedly alternative period, too, given that information surfaced on a secret “dragon cult” operating in the vicinity of the huge loch. In early June, three American students paid a visit to Loch Ness. The purpose of their visit was to visit Boleskine House, an old hunting lodge (which burned down in 2015) that had once been owned by one of the key players in the world of secret societies. We’re talking about none other than Aleister Crowley

It was while walking around a centuries-old cemetery that stands close to where Boleskine House stood, they came across a strangely decorated piece of cloth; a tapestry, one might say. It was roughly four-feet by five-feet and was wrapped a large sea-snail shell. It was covered in artwork of snakes and words that were soon shown to have been written in Turkish. One of the words translated as “serpent,” which was a most apt description for the beast of Loch Ness. Rather notably, Turkey has its very own lake monster, one which is said to dwell in the waters of Lake Van. But there was more to come: the tapestry found by the three students was adorned with images of lotus flowers. In ancient Chinese folklore, dragons had a particular taste for lotus flowers – to the extent that in lakes where dragons were said to reside, the people of China would leave such flowers on the shores, as a means to appease the violent beasts. Of the several other people who had the opportunity to see and examine the tapestry in June 1969 – in fact, only mere hours after it was found - one was a near-full-time Nessie-seeker named Frederick “Ted” Holiday. He couldn’t fail to make a connection between the Loch Ness Monster and the dragon- and serpent-based imagery. On top of that, the matter of the lotus flowers led Holiday to conclude that all of this was evidence of some kind of clandestine “dragon cult” operating in the area. That Holiday knew all too well that Aleister Crowley was linked to all manner of secret societies was yet another reason that led Holiday to suspect the presence of a dragon cult in the area. As he began to dig even further into the story, Holiday uncovered rumors of alleged human sacrifice in the wooded areas surrounding Loch Ness, as well as attempts by the secret group to try and “invoke” supernatural serpents from the dark waters of the loch.

(Nick Redfern) Two great beasts at Loch Ness: Aleister Crowley and the Loch Ness Monster(s)

The mysterious group in question, Holiday believed, was said to worship Tiamat, a terrifying Babylonian snake-goddess, or sea-dragon, who was revered as much as she was feared – and chiefly because of her murderous, homicidal ways. She mated with Abzu, the god of freshwater, to create a number of supernatural offspring, all of dragon- and serpent-like appearance. Then there were the dreaded Scorpion Men, equally hideous offspring of Tiamat that were, as their name suggests, a horrific combination of man and giant arachnids. So the legend goes, Abzu planned to secretly kill his children, but was thwarted from doing so when they rose up and slayed him instead. Likewise, Tiamat was ultimately slaughtered – by the god of storms, the four-eyed giant known as Marduk. If, however, one knew the ways of the ancients, one could still call upon the power and essence of Tiamat – despite her death – as a means to achieve power, wealth, influence, and sex. Such rituals were definitively Faustian in nature, however (as they almost always are), and the conjurer had to take great heed when summoning the spirit-form of Tiamat, lest violent, deadly forces might be unleashed. It was highly possible, thought Holiday, that the monsters seen at Loch Ness were manifestations of Tiamat, in some latter day incarnation, and specifically provoked to manifest by that aforementioned cult. Nothing was ever conclusively proved, but the entire situation left a bad taste in Holiday’s mouth, made him deeply worried for his own safety, and eventually convinced him that the legendary creature of Loch Ness was itself supernatural in nature. Secret societies, death , murder, the "Great Beast" himself, and a deadly and dangerous goddess: it's a story that's hard to beat!

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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