Jan 12, 2023 I Nick Redfern

The Strange Phenomenon of "Animal-Shaped Spirit Guardians"

In the same way that ancient Native American lore suggest the United States’ Bigfoot has unearthly origins, very much the same can be said of reports of such creatures seen in the United Kingdom. While the U.K. has a surprisingly large number of Bigfoot reports for such a small nation, it’s a fact that the sightings are not made at random. Rather, the vast majority occur in and around some of the U.K.’s most ancient and sacred stone circles. Why that may be is a question that will be answered at the very end of this chapter. First, however, let’s take a look at a number of the stand-out cases on record. Tucked away on the fringes of an old English village called Long Compton is a roughly circular formation of stones called the Rollright Stones. For just about everyone that visits the stones, the effect is very much the same: a sense of being deep in the heart of a magical realm, one saturated by matters paranormal and supernatural. It’s not surprising, then, that the Rollright Stones have attracted numerous legends to explain their presence. There’s no doubting their point of origin: the Bronze Age. As for their purpose, that’s quite another matter.

That the Rollright Stones are made up of a circle referred to as the King’s Men and a burial area that the locals call the Whispering Knights, has led to the creation of an engaging legend. It’s a legend that dates back to the first decade of the 17th century. So the enduring story goes, an evil witch – one Mother Shipton – did not take kindly to the king and his knights intruding upon her land and so, as a result, she cast an ancient, powerful spell and turned the entire party into blocks of stone. In that scenario, the Rollright Stones are the petrified remains of a long-gone army that was defeated not by bows and arrows, swords, and spears, but by malevolent hex. Now we come to the matter of monsters.

Paul Devereux is a noted expert on British-based stone circles and areas of archaeological significance, and the author of many books, including Stone Age Soundtracks: The Acoustic Archaeology of Ancient Sites. In 1977, Devereux created an ambitious program to study numerous standing stone formations in the U.K., ones which seemed to be surrounded by an excess of ultrasonic and magnetic phenomena. At the height of the investigation at the Rollright Stones, one of Devereux’s team caught a very brief view of a large, upright, shaggy-haired, animal lurking near the stones. In an instant, it was gone – something which prevented the witness from getting a good look at it. Nevertheless, he was sure it was no normal wild animal of the types that roam around the U.K., such as a fox or a deer.

(Nick Redfern) Monsters from times long gone.

Now, to a similar situation that took place in 1972. It all began with two young, Hexham, England boys (neither of them had even reached their teens at the time). They were Colin Robson and Leslie Robson. On one day in February 1972, the two lads decided to play around and dig up a bit of the backyard, as kids tend to do. On doing so they stumbled upon something undeniably amazing. It was something wholly unanticipated. It was a pair of what looked like very ancient, carved heads of stone, both of them roughly about the size of a tennis ball. One looked female, the other had a male appearance. The boys’ excitement levels practically went through the roof. As they would for a pair of boys looking for fun. Interestingly, the female-looking stone head had a creepy crone-style appearance to it. The story became even more exciting when the boys saw that it even had a hooked, witchy nose to it. The other freaky face - archaeologists and historians suggested when they were finally able to get their hands on the heads - had the hairstyle of the Celts, who were very much long gone. 

Things got really weird – totally ominous, one might say – when Leslie and Colin decided to take the two stones into the family home. That, unfortunately, proved to be a mistake; a very big mistake. And, it was a near-irreversible mistake, too. The story, and the tumultuous events that are very soon to come, weren’t going away at any time soon. It was a case of opening something akin to the legendary Pandora’s Box. No-one should be pondering doing something along those lines. The kids, though, did precisely that. Very intriguing, and relative to the theme of this book, is the fact that those small, stone heads began to move around the Robson home. Talk about creepy! And of their very own volition, too. Items in the house were inexplicably broken, and in violent fashion, too. A glass was shattered while no-one was present. Clearly, the stones had an ability to create havoc and mayhem – and to create sensational activity, just like what was seen at the Rollright Stones, as you’ll see imminently. The next development took place not at the home of the boys, but at the home of their immediate neighbors. And it all began when the other kids in the street took the stones into that neighboring home. They did so in the dead of night, of course. Such situations like this one seldom ever go down on bright and sunny days.

The next-door neighbor was a woman named Ellen Dodd. It wasn’t long after the heads were taken into her home that unbridled chaos began. And it certainly didn’t stop. Dodd was up and wide awake in the early hours of one night - with her daughter, who had a toothache – when she had a terrifying encounter with something absolutely monstrous. Both Dodd and her daughter were confronted by nothing less than what looked like a hair-covered, large werewolf. Or, in their words, “half-man, half-beast.” It’s hardly surprising that both mother and daughter were plunged into states of utter fear. Moving on to the English county of Devon, and specifically the wilds of Dartmoor – where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle set his classic Sherlock Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles – there are the thought-provoking words of a woman named Theo Brown, a noted historian, author and devotee of Devon legend and lore. Back in the 1940s, a colleague of Brown encountered something very strange at the site of an ancient, Neolithic stone circle on Dartmoor called Lustleigh Cleave, which is estimated to have been constructed around 580 A.D.

(Nick Redfern) Where there are stone formations there are strange creatures.

The story provided to Brown was that the person in question stumbled upon “a family of ‘cave men,’ either naked and covered in hair or wrapped in the shaggy pelts of some wild animal, shambling around the stone circle at the top of the cleave.” A particularly notable account of an encounter with a bizarre beast near the site of a stone circle comes from the files of investigative author, Merrily Harpur. In fact, the site was not just near a stone circle, but close to the definitive stone circle of all: Stonehenge. It was in the fall of 2002 when a man named George Price – at the time serving with the British Army – had a bizarre encounter on a huge expanse of English wilderness called Salisbury Plain, which is also home to Stonehenge. It was on the plain that Price, taking part in Army training manoeuvres at the time, caught sight of an immense creature of ape-like proportions and appearance and sporting a coat similar to that of an orang-utan. As the military closed in, the beast wasted no time in exiting the area at high speed and vanishing into the undergrowth. That the monster should have been encountered near to one of the world’s most famous, sacred sites – one that dates back to approximately 3,100 BC – is surely no coincidence.

Then there is the curious tale of a man named W.E. Thorner. Late one night, on the remote Scottish island of Hoy in the early 1940s, Thorner was stunned by a bizarre sight: a band of hairy people engaged in a wild dance near the edge of a large cliff. Thorner said: “These creatures were small in stature, but they did not have long noses nor did they appear kindly in demeanour. They possessed round faces, sallow in complexion, with long, dark, bedraggled hair. As they danced about, seeming to throw themselves over the cliff edge, I felt that I was a witness to some ritual dance of a tribe of primitive men. It is difficult to describe in a few words my feelings at this juncture or my bewilderment. The whole sequence could have lasted about three minutes until I was able to leave the cliff edge.” Still on the topic of unknown, hairy, humanoid animals seen in the U.K. – and ones seen in the direct vicinity of ancient, historical sites – cryptozoologist Neil Arnold told me the following: “I’ve always wondered what type of manifestation these U.K. ‘wild men’ could be. In the autumn of 2011 a psychic lady who I know as a friend and who I trust - I don't often have any interests in psychics - accompanied me to Blue Bell Hill, which is a very haunted village in Kent, a few miles short of the town of Maidstone. I knew of several obscure ‘man-beast’ reports in the area which she knew nothing about. I took her to one particular spot, near some ancient stones, hoping she'd pick up a ghostly presence and she said she felt nothing whatsoever, but she did state quite categorically that a few years previous, around 2003 she'd had a bizarre encounter in the area one night.”

Arnold continued: “She had visited Kit’s Coty House - a set of stones - with a group of fellow psychics. Her friends were over on one side of the field which harbours the stones and she was in another area when she noticed someone walking towards her a few hundred yards away. The figure seemed to be striding rather aggressively and was coming from the direction of a thicket which runs alongside the field.  The woman, whose name is Corriene, said Arnold, “stated that from a distance the figure appeared huge in build and covered in hair and she sensed it was not ‘real’ but gave off an air of malevolence. The figure marched towards her and she could see it had long hair and a beard, covering most of its face. The hulking figure was taller than six feet and appeared to have a loin cloth around its waist and furred boots. No-one else saw this figure, but I was intrigued as I knew that in the past several witnesses had come forward to say they’d seen similar figures in woods within miles of Blue Bell Hill.” Neil told me this set him on an intriguing and alternative pathway: “I began to wonder if people had seen, from a distance, some type of ghostly primitive man - long hair, bearded, muscular, animal fur around the waist - who, from several hundred yards away, or in ill light, may have looked as if he was covered in hair. Blue Bell Hill and much of Kent is steeped in history - so maybe people were seeing some type of Neolithic hunter. Corriene was intrigued by what I said and then, rather startled, mentioned that on another occasion while in the area of the stones she’d seen several of these people who she felt were not aggressive, and although armed with spears were simply guarding the area and stooping low in the bushes, curious as to what they were seeing.”

(Nick Redfern) Dogmen and Tulpas.

All of this brings us to an important question: why, in the U.K., do so many ancient sites play host to nightmarish, hairy animals of unknown origin and type? The late Linda Godfrey, who penned a number of excellent books on unknown animals, such as The Beast of Bray Road and The Michigan Dogman, has formulated a theory in her home country of the United States that might just as easily apply to what is afoot in the U.K. It revolves a creature both feared and revered by Native Americans: the Skinwalker. Linda referred to them as “entities created by magic ritual that look like animals but are really spirit doubles of the shaman that either go out from the physical body or envelope it like a supernatural costume.” Linda added that Skinwalkers are akin to Tibetan beliefs in what are known as Tulpas, or thought-forms: creations of the human mind that have the ability to leap out of the brain and take on a degree of reality. In essence, a Tulpa is a creation of the human mind, but one which can be projected externally and given a semblance of quasi-independent life in our 3-D world. Godfrey also says: “I can tell you that Native Americans from various locations have indicated to me that these things absolutely exist, as do zoomorphic (animal-shaped) spirit guardians made to watch over sacred grounds.”

“Animal-shaped spirit guardians,” brought into our world to protect areas deemed sacred to the ancients. A fascinating phenomenon.

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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