Jan 09, 2023 I Nick Redfern

Seriously Weird Woods and Freaky Forests: UFOs, Bigfoot, Slenderman and More

There's no doubt that woods and forests make for creepy places and particularly at night. But, some woods and forests seem to have even more strange phenomena in their midst. Let's have a look. We'll begin with the U.K.'s Clapham WoodsMartin J. Clemens says that “Located in West Sussex, England, Clapham Wood stands to the north of the small village of Clapham.  Historically, Clapham has been an archetypal English village, one that’s been around, likely, since Saxon times. Over the last 300 years, it has remained largely hidden from the outside world, except, that is, for the last four decades.” The 'four decades' comment is a very apt one. Since the early 1970s, Clapham Woods have been associated with murder, mystery, and a secret society called the Friends of Hecate. It was in 1972 that the mystery began. In June of that year, a police constable named Peter Goldsmith disappeared while walking through the woods. His body was not found for around six months, specifically on December 13. What makes this even more intriguing is the fact that two months before P.C. Goldsmith vanished, he had investigated the death of a woman who had been murdered in the very same woods. Two victims inextricably linked to one another.

Now, onto Puerto Rico's El Yunque rain-forest, a place I have been to on many occasions while searching for Chupacabras. It's a huge rain-forest; there's no doubt of it. And, there's something else, too: the Chupacabra is not only the same strange creature that lurks in the rain-forest. It’s a little known fact that the chupacabra is not the only weird beast rumored to haunt the island of Puerto Rico. Although certainly not on every occasion, but during at least two excursions to the island, I have uncovered fragmentary reports and accounts of encounters with what can only be described as Bigfoot-style creatures, as amazing, or as unlikely, as such a thing might sound. Without doubt, the most fascinating body of data on this curious issue came my way in 2013. It’s important I note, from the very outset, that many might think that talking about the Puerto Rican Bigfoot in a book about the island’s chupacabra is far too much of a stretch to make a connection. In reality, the exact opposite is the case. As will become apparent very soon, the connection is all too real and ripe for scrutiny and comment. It revolves around two things: mistaken identity and the controversial, supernatural, phenomenon of shape-shifting. That's right: Bigfoot, it seems, is a shapeshifting creature. Sightings of pterodactyle-type beasts have been seen over the rain-forest. As have huge, feathery, Thunderbird-style creatures. Human-sized bats have been seen, too. What a world of woods!

(Nick Redfern) Puerto Rico's El Yunque rain-forest, a hot-bed for monsters and strange creatures.

Now, onto the U.K.'s Cannock Chase woods. 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) On the edge of the U.K.'s Cannock Chase, where creepy creatures roam.

There are even stories of a Tulpa-type Slenderman seen prowling around on the Cannock Chase. Mike Johnson is someone who saw such a creature almost twenty years ago. His hairless head was elongated and neck spindly, and his arms reached practically past his knees; I could not discern a facial feature. The clincher that this was not normal came when several women came into view and they stopped and drank from a bottle of water: he approached her quite closely and I realized he was around three metres tall. ‘At this point I had a feeling of intense disorientation and the added walker turned to look at me and put a hand on the lady’s shoulder - this gesture seemed protective, as if to show me they were under his protection and I dare not interfere. I turned away to pick up my rucksack and approach the group, and when I looked up again I saw the original path to the German Cemetery was again in situ, with a large German Shepherd dog bounding down it, followed by a group of children and adults. The sun had returned to the west and all landmarks were again in vision. The walkers had gone and so had the landscape with them. I practically legged-it up the path to the car park and drove away. To this day I’ve never gone back.’" On top of all that, there have been sightings of Black Eyed Children on the Chase. Dogmen are seen on the Chase very often. As are UFOs. Definitely strange.

(Nick Redfern) Slenderman in the woods of England.

It's time now to take a look at Texas' Big Thicket. For many people, any mention of the words “Texas” and “the Lone Star State” provoke imagery of vast plains, cactus, tumbleweeds, and scalding hot deserts. In reality, however, the traditional image of Texas is very wide of the mark. Yes, much of West Texas is noted for its massive amounts of cotton fields. However, the desert environment that often springs to mind is far more applicable to New Mexico and Arizona. On top of that, most of east Texas is very heavily forested. Indeed, one only has to drive east out of the city of Dallas, to be in the heart of dense forest land. All of which brings us to a place called the Big Thicket, an undeniable magnet for mysterious apes and savage wild men. To demonstrate just how heavily wooded Texas is, the Big Thicket alone – which is situated not at all far from the city of Houston – is more than 80,000 acres in size. It’s dominated by near-endless numbers of oak trees, beech trees, pines, and swamps and rivers. By day, the Big Thicket looks like pretty much any other large, sprawling mass of forestland.  It’s after the sun has set, however, and darkness has fallen on the Big Thicket that things begin to change – and to a significant and creepy degree. 

Much of the high-strangeness of the Bigfoot variety is focused in the vicinity of a six-mile-long stretch of fairly primitive road that runs through the woods and which is called Bragg Road. While that’s the road’s official title, it also has an unofficial name, too: Ghost Light Road. It takes its curious name from the fact that, for centuries, people have reported seeing, strange, eerie, floating balls of light flitting around the woods – balls of light that vary from the size of approximately a tennis ball to a soccer ball. And, it’s against this weird background that the Big Thicket Bigfoot dwells. No-one had done more research into the strange creatures of the Big Thicket than Rob Riggs, the author of a 2001 book, appropriately titled In the Big Thicket. Riggs, a journalist and the former publisher of a series of award-winning newspapers in Texas, has uncovered a massive amount of data and witness testimony demonstrating that wild, monstrous things inhabit the darkest regions of the Big Thicket. As with so many other encounters across the United States, the phenomenon of the Big Thicket man-beast existed before the term “Bigfoot” was coined. 

(Nick Redfern) Texas' Big Thicket, another place where mysteries grow.

I cannot resist noting that Dorset, England borders the county of Somerset, which has also been the location of wild man-type reports that – in view of the very close proximity to Dorset – may have some degree of bearing on the Woodwose legends that have for so long populated the area. The Somerset reports come from Jon Downes, who states that: "Many years ago, the area around what is now an abandoned mine at Smitham Hill, in Somerset, was linked to tales of strange beasts seen watching the miners. Sometimes on returning to work in the morning, the men would find that carts and equipment had been pushed over and thrown around during the night." Jon elaborates further, but on matters of a far more modern day nature: ‘These things, whatever they were, are still seen in that area today; or, at least, as late as November 1993. This is an exact quote taken from a witness whose case is in my files:

“I was on a walk through the woods, when I heard a twig snap. I thought nothing of it and continued on. Suddenly the dogs became very agitated and ran off home. At this point I became aware of a foul smell, like a wet dog and a soft breathing sound. I started to run, but after only a few feet, I tripped and fell. I decided to turn and meet my pursuer only to see a large, about seven feet tall, dark brown, hairy, ape-like man. It just stood, about ten feet away, staring at me. It had intelligent looking eyes and occasionally tilted its head as if to find out what I was. After about twenty seconds it moved off into the forest.”’ Perhaps, somewhere deep within the wilder parts of southern England, the Woodwose still lives on, totally oblivious to what such an extraordinary revelation, if proved, would provoke in the scientific and zoological communities.

Any mention of the mysterious locale that is Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk inevitably conjures up strange and surreal images of the famous, alleged UFO landing within the forest in the latter part of December 1980 – a startling event witnessed by numerous United States Air Force personnel stationed at a nearby military base, Royal Air Force Bentwaters. The bizarre affair has been the subject of a considerable number of books, numerous televisions shows, several investigations by military and governmental bodies, and unrelenting deep debate. Reports of strange lights, of small alien-like creatures seen deep within the heart of the woods, and of high-level cover-ups and sinister conspiracies, are all key ingredients of the case that has, for many, justifiably become known as the "British Roswell." More than three decades on, the events in question continue to provoke intense debate and controversy, with some believing that extraterrestrials really did land on British soil on that fateful night, or as some believe, across the course of several nights.It's important to note, though, that the forest is also home to a creature called the Shug-Monkey, a hairy thing that is an ape-like thing.

(Nick Redfern) From Rendlesham Forest and UFOs to bizarre beasts.

Others hold the view that everything can be attributed to mistaken identity (of a nearby lighthouse, no less!), while some prefer the theory that a dark and dubious military experiment, and subsequent disastrous mishap, may have been to blame for all of the fuss. More than thirty years on, the debate continues to rage, and doubtless it will continue to rage for many more years to come. As for the forest itself, it covers an area that is around 1,500 hectares in size and can be found in Suffolk’s coastal belt known as the Sandlings. It is comprised of large, coniferous trees, as well as heath land and wet land areas, and is home to the badger, the fox, the red deer, the roe deer and the fallow deer. According to some people, however, Rendlesham Forest is home to far weirder things, too. It's very clear that numerous types of creatures and monsters roam around our planet, but the vast majority focus on certain, specific woods, such as El Yunque, Cannock Chase and the Big Thicket. Are we dealing with so-called "window areas" that allow creatures into our reality? I believe we are.

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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