Dec 11, 2022 I Nick Redfern

The Alien Big Cat (ABC) Phenomenon: There's a Paranormal Aspect to the Mystery

During the early part of 1998, the British Government’s House of Commons held a fascinating and arguably near-unique debate on the existence – or otherwise – of a particular breed of mystery animal that is widely rumored, and even accepted by many, to inhabit the confines of the British Isles: the so-called Alien Big Cats, or ABCs, as they have become infamously known. It scarcely needs mentioning that the United Kingdom is not home to an indigenous species of large cat, usually black in color. Nevertheless, for decades amazing and controversial stories have circulated from all across the nation of sightings of large, predatory cats that savagely feed on both livestock and wild animals and that terrify, intrigue and amaze the local populace in the process. And, of course, the popular media loves them, one and all. As history has demonstrated, there now exists a very large and credible body of data in support of the notion that the British Isles do have within their midst a healthy and thriving population of presently unidentified large cats – such as the infamous Beast of Bodmin and the Beast of Exmoor that so hysterically dominated the nation’s newspapers back in the early-to-mid 1980s. But never mind just the 1980s – reports continue to thrive to this very day.

There is, however, an aspect of the ABC mystery that doesn’t always get the coverage it should: the strange connection to the mysterious Men in Black and “government officials” that, allegedly, at least, are intent on keeping any and all hard evidence of the existence of the beasts under wraps and out of the hands of the public and the media. It might seem strange that there could be a cover-up of the ABC phenomenon in the United Kingdom, when the media is practically reporting on them – somewhere in the land – at least a couple of times per week. There is, however, a vast chasm between (A) the press titillating and exciting their readers with tales of large, predatory cats on the loose and (B) actually presenting hard evidence of such creatures in the nation’s midst. The stories of the big cats of the U.K. undeniably entertain and intrigue the British public. That, however, is very different to – hypothetically – someone finding a dead mountain lion by the side of the road and the story then becoming a stark and serious one of potential man-eating proportions. Clearly, we don’t see evidence of sinister, black-garbed characters popping up, and silencing witnesses, every time an ABC is seen in the UK. But, they have surfaced on more than a few occasions when claims are made about ABC corpses being found or seen - by the side of a country road, for instance.

(U.S. Government)This photo was taken by an employee of the U.S. Government. That means the photo is in the public domain

Most cryptozoologists suggest the animals are escapees from private menageries, circuses, and the descendants of animals that, back in 1976, were let loose into the wilds of the country after the U.K. government changed the laws surrounding the keeping of wild animals. Their memorable names include the Beast of Bodmin, the Surrey Puma, the Chase Panther, the Warrington Lion, and the Beast of Exmoor. Whenever and wherever they are seen, savage mutilations and killings are the norm. Not everyone is quite so sure that the ABCs are what they appear to be, however. Top of the list is Merrily Harpur. She is the author of Mystery Big Cats - which happens to be one of my favorite books. It's definitely in my Top Ten. Merrily takes the view that the Alien Big Cats may well have supernatural origins, and she just might be right. Encounters with the ABCs very often occur in graveyards, in cemeteries, in the vicinity of stone circles, in ancient burial grounds, and at sites of archaeological and historical significance. Even in Crop Circles. Merrily’'s book is a publication that is all things: informative, insightful, thought-provoking, and written by someone who has a keen appreciation, awareness and knowledge of her subject matter; as well as a fine understanding of British folklore, history, mythology, and the complex mysteries inherent in the conundrum that has come to be known as the British Big Cat. Mystery Big Cats is essential reading for anyone wanting to develop a good understanding of the subject, and what may very possibly lie at its heart.

The idea that the U.K.'s Big Cats are all escapees from private zoos and traveling circuses, is very much an article of faith. Indeed, Merrily’s research reveals how, upon rigorous scrutiny, and as a catch-all theory, the scenario quickly falls down. So what are these mysterious beasts then, and where did they come from? Theories pertaining to indigenous Big Cats are discussed by Merrily, as are the parallels (and the differences) between the Big Cats and the Phantom Black Dogs of British folklore. Although some students of the phenomenon have made a connection between the two - with the Big Cat being seen as the modern day equivalent of the Black Dog - the evidence is highly controversial, and the similarities tenuous. Nevertheless, people are clearly seeing something. And Merrily makes this very obvious, too. It is to the reader's advantage that Merrily is a skilled writer - the result of which is that even though the book relates the details of numerous Big Cat encounters spanning countless decades, her style is neither boring nor repetitive.

This is made all the more apparent when Merrily digs deep into problematic issues surrounding (A) physical evidence for the presence of flesh-and-blood creatures in our midst; (B) photographic and film-based data; (C) the intriguing ability of the beasts to avoid capture or killing; and (D) why, curiously, so many of these animals are seen time and again near specific locations. So, what is it that people are seeing? Well, this is where Merrily's research really comes to the fore. It would not be fair of me to reveal to those that wish to read Mystery Big Cats for themselves all of the intricacies of Merrily's theory. I can say, however, that this book will likely polarize readers into one of two camps: those that see merit in the theory, and those that are determined to look elsewhere. I'm definitely in the first camp. I will also say that Merrily's theories move into the world of ancient British folklore, and the nature of what reality is (or is not!), how we perceive that same reality, and what the presence of the Big Cats really means to us as a species. This is a truly excellent piece of work that does not shy away from controversy - and, to me, that is a good thing. Merrily has produced a first-class piece of work that will enlighten, entertain, and lead to much musing and pondering with respect to her conclusions.

Merrily suggests the ABCs are very likely Daimons. At the Urban Dictionary we are told of these supernatural entities: “Daimon is the Greek derivative for the term demon. In this sense the term ‘demon’ means ‘replete with knowledge.’ The ancient Greeks thought there were good and bad demons called ‘eudemons’ and ‘cacodemons.’ The term ‘daimon’ means ‘divine power,’ ‘fate’ or ‘god.’ Daimons, in Greek mythology, included deified heroes. They were considered intermediary spirits between men and the gods. Good daimons were considered to be guardian spirits, giving guidance and protection to the ones they watched over. Bad daimons led people astray.” Merrily says of this angle of the subject: "If ABCs are a variety of native British daimon, they have emerged into a landscape brimful of these intermediate beings: pixies, gnomes, boggarts, Herne the Hunter, elves, lake monsters, ‘white ladies,’ wyrms, and so on.” Now, we come to the most significant – and relevant – portion of the saga of the Alien Big Cats of the United Kingdom. It’s their curious link to the Men in Black.

(Nick Redfern) When there's a link between the ABCs and the Men in Black

A careful study of Merrily Harpur’s investigations – and mine, too - makes it very clear that although the ABC-M.I.B. connection is not one that surfaces on a regular basis, it’s certainly not unknown. Merrily notes that some of the stories lead back to an arm of the U.K. government: DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Those DEFRA-connected cases suggest within the heart of government there are deep concerns about the ABC mystery – something that has resulted in secret attempts to hide the facts from the public and the media. Of this particular angle, Merrily reveals the following: “There are sporadic claims that this has happened, but they are usually very foaf-loric indeed [Foaf meaning ‘friend of a friend’]. Typical is a report from Gloucestershire where the informant was told that his uncle’s neighbor allegedly ran over a large black cat near Horsley. The animal was said to have been killed in the incident and the man’s car was badly damaged. ‘Police and the Environment Agency’ apparently came and roped off the area and took away the body.”

Now, let’s take a look at one of incidents of the ABC type I have personally investigated. It's the incredible story of Maureen Abbott. Her story dates back to the 1950s. Although the encounter was over in a flash, Maureen saw enough to realize something wild and potentially dangerous roamed the U.K.; something that – in her case – dwelled far below the surface of the city of London. When I first met Maureen and we chatted about her experience, she was adamant what she had seen was “a black panther.” It should be noted that, in reality, so-called “black panthers” are actually melanistic large cats such as cougars and leopards, whose bodies contain an over-abundance of dark pigmentation. Maureen told me the strange – even sinister - affair all went down on a cold, wintery evening in the mid-1950s: “I think it was 1954, but could’ve been 1955; one of them, anyway” explained Maureen. Most amazing of all was the location: none other than the Bakerloo Line of the London Underground rail-system. Tube History provides background on the line:

“The Bakerloo opened in 1906 as the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway. However, the route has its origins in a series of proposed railways dating back to 1891. The railway became a subsidiary to the Underground Electric Railway Companies of London (UECL) in 1902 and was quickly developed from there, the original railway ran between Baker Street and Waterloo, with extensions to Elephant and Castle and an extension with the North West London Railway (NWLR) to Watford Junction. The railway obtained a branch from the Metropolitan Railway in the 1930s, which now operates as the Jubilee line from 1979. The Bakerloo line remains a vital part of the London Underground network, spanning 23.2km (14.5 miles) and with 25 stations along its route.”

Maureen said she was heading home after visiting her mother, while her sister looked after her baby for the day. As for the ABC, it was racing along a stretch of the old tunnel at a very fast speed. Not only that: as the creature passed by, on the tracks, its eyes very briefly locked with Maureen’s. She said something very strange, but also eye-opening and illuminating, when she addressed this part of the story. “I thought its eyes were human, not a cat. They looked like that. I know cats are clever, but there seemed more.” The weirdness continued. When the cat was gone, Maureen suddenly realized she was the only person on the particular stretch of the line where she encountered the huge cat. And, everything was eerily silent. Too silent, in fact. “Like deafness” were the words Maureen used. She expanded by saying there was a hard to define dream-like quality to the incident, too. This all sounds very much like a phenomenon the UFO investigator Jenny Randles coined: “The Oz Factor.” 

(Nick Redfern) The "Woman in Black" connection

HowStuffWorks says of this curious situation:  “In [her book] UFO Reality…British ufologist Jenny Randles noted that some UFO witnesses experience a ‘sensation of being isolated, or transported from the real world into a different environmental framework…I call this the ‘Oz Factor,’ after the fairytale land of Oz.’” Just like everyone who experiences the Oz Factor, Maureen has never forgotten that brief, curious encounter below London. The tale, however, is not quite over. Indeed, I’ve left the most significant portion of it to the very last. A couple of days later, there was a knock on the front-door of Maureen’s home. At the time – “sometime in the morning” - her husband, Ron, was at work and she was looking after their baby. Maureen opened the door and was confronted by a woman dressed in black. Notably, Maureen said the woman “didn’t look very well.” I asked Maureen to explain what she meant by that and she replied: “Very thin” and “white.” The woman announced herself as a government official and said she wanted to speak with Maureen about her encounter. Maureen was so shocked by the woman’s words she failed to ask the W.I.B. how she even knew of her sighting of the Alien Big Cat. 

Having invited the woman in, Maureen made them cups of tea, and they sat in the living-room as the W.I.B. asked a couple of questions about the encounter. In fact, the questions were exactly two: one was to ascertain who Maureen had told of her encounter. As it transpired, Maureen had only told Ron of the experience, which appeared to please the woman, who just about managed a slight, forced smile. The woman also asked if there had been any unusual odors in the family home in the aftermath of the event. There hadn’t. With that, the woman stood up, thanked Maureen for her help, opened the door, and vanished into the street. There was nothing hostile or intimidating about it all: it was just very strange. One final thing - and for reasons Maureen couldn’t really understand - after the woman left Maureen had a sudden, overwhelming need to clean the house. ‘Something wasn’t right,” were the only words Maureen would say. I tried to get Maureen to expand on those three, enigmatic words, but she wouldn’t go any further. It was the only part of the interview that became awkward. It led me to suspect there was something else that - even after all those years - Maureen was reluctant to disclose. To this very day, I still don’t know what it was that made Maureen so uneasy. Only that something did.    

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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