Feb 14, 2023 I Nick Redfern

The Strange and Sinister Connections Between Monsters and Ancient Castles

It may sound weird, but there are more than a few cases in the U.K. of monsters connected to castles. Consider, for example, the following account of one Ralph, a monk and an abbot at Coggeshall, Essex. Recorded in the year 1200 in Chronicon Anglicanum, it describes the remarkable capture in the area of a wild man of the woods-style creature: "In the time of King Henry II, when Bartholomew de Glanville was in charge of the castle at Orford, it happened that some fishermen fishing in the sea there caught in their nets a Wildman. He was naked and was like a man in all his members, covered with hair and with a long shaggy beard. He eagerly ate whatever was brought to him, but if it was raw he pressed it between his hands until all the juice was expelled. He would not talk, even when tortured and hung up by his feet, Brought into church, he showed no sign of reverence or belief. He sought his bed at sunset and always remained there until sunrise. He was allowed to go into the sea, strongly guarded with three lines of nets, but he dived under the nets and came up again and again. Eventually he came back of his own free will. But later on he escaped and was never seen again."

Or, maybe it – or, far more likely, given the large passage of time, one of its offspring - was seen again, albeit hundreds of years later. At some point during the summer of 1968, one Morris Allen was walking along the coast near, of all places, the town of Orford when, in the distance, he saw someone squatting on the sand and leaning over something. As he got closer, Morris said, he could see that the man was dressed in what looked like an animal skin and was tearing into the flesh of a dead rabbit. The man was dirt-encrusted, with long, tangled hair and had wild, staring eyes. Morris could only watch with a mixture of fascination and horror. Suddenly the man held his head aloft and quickly looked in Morris’ direction, as if he had picked up his scent. The wild man quickly scooped up the rabbit, bounded off into the grass and was lost from sight. For Morris Allen, however, it was an event never forgotten. There's something else strange, too: the site of the castle is extremely near to where the Rendlesham Forest UFO landing event took place in December 1980. Now, to England's Chartley Castle. Now, onto our second castle.

(Nick Redfern) A castle, a hairy humanoid and the Rendlesham Forest UFO landing of 1980.

Late one evening in September 1986, Mick Dodds and his wife were driving his mother-in-law back to her place of abode, which was a small but picturesque cottage in the Staffordshire village of Stowe-by-Chartley. All was completely and utterly normal until Dodds passed by the ancient and ruined Chartley Castle that overlooks the A518 road. Constructed on land that came into the possession of the Earls of Chester as far back as the 11th Century, Chartley Castle is a stone motte-and-bailey fortress founded in the thirteenth century by Ranulph Blundeville, the then Earl of Chester. Supported by the motte are, today, the still-standing remains of a rare cylindrical keep, with the inner bailey curtain wall still strongly flanked by two huge half-round towers, a gate-house, and an angle-tower. A strong counter-scarp bank and cross-ditch divides the inner and outer baileys, with another ditch and bank encasing the whole castle. Notably, Chartley Castle is to where – on Christmas Eve, 1585 – Mary, Queen of Scots, was taken before being moved to Fotheringhay for execution on February 8 of 1586. And, according to Mick Dodds, Chartley Castle just might be home to a literal British Bigfoot...

Mick Dodds says that after dropping his mother-in-law off at her home, he and his wife began the journey back to their own abode, and what they assumed would be a stress-free, night-time drive through Staffordshire’s engaging countryside. How completely and devastatingly wrong the pair was. According to Dodds, as they drove along the road, and with Chartley Castle rapidly closing in, he was forced to violently and suddenly slam on the brakes as a huge stag ambled slowly – yet majestically, too – across the road directly in front of them. The sight of the massive beast was enough to both amaze and shock Dodds and his wife in equal amounts. But that was nothing at all compared to what supposedly happened immediately thereafter. Mick Dodds, realizing how bizarre the next aspect of his story was surely going to sound to me, apologized profusely before he even began relating the complex details. In return, I told him that no apology was necessary. Instead, I explained to him, I would much prefer to merely hear the facts, and then try and firmly evaluate them for myself. And so, Mick Dodds continued the story:

As the huge stag made its slow yet deliberate way across the road, his wife suddenly screamed at the sight of what looked like a large chimpanzee that bounded after the stag from the darkness of the field that sat to the right of their car. Halfway across the road, the chimpanzee stopped suddenly, looked directly at the terrified husband and wife and, to their utter horror and consternation, charged their vehicle – but, at the very last moment, backed away from actually causing any structural damage to the car, or physical harm to the fear-stricken pair. Dodds said that in his overwhelming panic to quickly put the vehicle into reverse gear, he stalled its engine, and then, even worse still, ended up completely flooding it as he raced to try and re-start the car. As an inevitable result, the Dodds were briefly stranded in the road with a hairy monstrosity looming wildly in front of them. For about twenty seconds the beast stared at both husband and wife, and on two other occasions again headed for their vehicle at full speed, "like it was going to attack," before finally bounding off to the left, and, so it appeared at least, in a direction that specifically followed that of the huge stag – which, by now, was seemingly long gone. The terrifying encounter was gone.

(Nick Redfern) Chartley Castle: The lair of a monster.

Onto number three: Reports of hairy wild men absolutely abound throughout the English county of Staffordshire, but there is one area of the county that seems to attract a great deal more than its fair share of such activity. Its name is deeply familiar to one and all throughout the area as Castle Ring. Located near to the village of Cannock Wood, Castle Ring is an Iron Age structure commonly known as a Hill Fort. It is 801 feet above sea level, and its main ditch and bank enclosure is fourteen feet high and, at its widest point, 853 feet across. It has to be admitted that very little is known about the mysterious and long-forgotten people who built Castle Ring, except to say that they were already in residence at the time of the Roman invasion of A.D. 43 and remained there until approximately A.D. 50. Some suggest that the initial foundations of Castle Ring may even have been laid as early as 500 B.C. Moreover, historians suggest that the creators of Castle Ring might have represented a powerful body of people that held firm sway over certain other parts of Staffordshire, as well as significant portions of both Shropshire and Cheshire at the time in question.

While its enigmatic builders exited our world millennia ago, and left us with very little solid knowledge of who they were or what they actually represented, Castle Ring can claim to play host to far stranger entities, including Mothman-type creatures, UFOs and hairy wild men. On May 1, 2004, Alec Williams was driving passed the car-park that sits at the base of Castle Ring when he witnessed a hair-covered, man-like entity lumber across the road and into the trees. A shocked Williams stated that the sighting lasted barely a few seconds, but that he was able to make out its amazing form: "It was about seven feet tall, with short, shiny, dark brown hair, a large head and had eyes that glowed bright red." Interestingly, Williams stated that as he slowed his vehicle down, he witnessed something akin to a camera flash coming from the depths of the woods and heard a cry that he described as ‘someone going “Hoo.”’

(Nick Redfern) Castle Ring: a place of magic, mystery and monsters.

Neil Arnold, a long time writer, says: "There is nothing like a chilling ghost story,’ adding that ‘one of my favourite ghoulish tales comes via Reverend Archdeacon St. John D. Seymour, and concerns a bizarre entity once said to have haunted an Irish castle." The story, Neil notes, "...‘is mentioned in True Ghost Stories by Marchioness Townshend and Maude Ffoulkes, who comment that 'the truth of this story was vouched for to Mr. Reginald Span by the Vicar of the Anglican Church, Arizona, as it happened to some friends of his when they once rented a picturesque castle in the South of Ireland.'" So the very weird saga goes, late one particular night, many years ago, a certain ‘Mrs. A’ was sitting alone in one of the castle’s bedrooms, awaiting the return of her husband. Suddenly, there was the distinct and unmistakeable sound of one of the doors banging in the corridor outside the room. More disturbingly, footsteps could be heard, too. Someone or something was creeping around the old castle. Grabbing a lit candle, Mrs. A carefully and slowly opened the door and, to her eternal horror, saw a darkened, shadowy form heading towards the staircase. Evidently, the entity realized its presence had been noticed, and it turned to face the by now fear-stricken Mrs. A. It was at this point that her terror was elevated to stratospheric proportions: the thing was apparitional in nature, and possessed the head of a man, but the body of a mighty, hair-covered ape. For a moment or several, it glared malevolently at Mrs. A, before vanishing into nothingness. Moving on...

Situated just west of Forfar, Glamis Castle is referred to by Shakespeare in Macbeth; Macbeth of its title having killed Duncan there in 1040. And it is also at the castle where assassins murdered King Malcolm II in 1034. In addition, Glamis Castle was the childhood home of both Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother, and the birthplace of Princess Margaret. And then there is the castle’s very own monster. Jon Downes, of the Center for Fortean Zoology notes that "..the castle is, of course, the site of yet another, well known and semi legendary beast known as the Monster of Glamis. It’s said that the creature was supposed to have been the hideously deformed heir to the Bowes-Lyon family and who was, according to popular rumour, born in about 1800, and died as recently as 1921." Jon digs further into the puzzle: "Legend has it that the monster was supposed to look like an enormous flabby egg, having no neck and only minute arms and legs but possessed incredible strength and had an air of evil about it. Certainly, there is a family secret concerning the monster, which is only told to the male heir of the Bowes-Lyon family when they attain majority. But according to the author Peter Underwood, who looked into this case, the present Lord Strathmore knows nothing about the monster, presumably because the creature has long been dead, but he always felt that there was a corpse or coffin bricked up behind the walls."

(Nick Redfern) Glamis Castle: A mystery never solved.

There is another other matter worth noting too that may be of deep significance: according to James Wentworth Day, an author who extensively researched and wrote about the legend, the creature of the castle was "hairy as a doormat." According to folklore and oral tradition, the existence of the creature was allegedly known to only four men at any given time, namely the Earl of Strathmore, his direct heir, the family’s lawyer, and the broker of the estate. At the age of twenty-one each succeeding heir was told the terrible secret and shown the rightful – and horrendously deformed – Earl, and succeeding family lawyers and brokers were also informed of the family’s shocking secret. As no Countess of Strathmore was ever told the story, however, one Lady Strathmore, having indirectly heard of such rumours, quietly approached the then broker, a certain Mr. Ralston, who flatly refused to reveal the secret and who would only say by way of a reply, "It is fortunate you do not know the truth for if you did you would never be happy."

And what are we to make of the spectral ape of Dundonald Castle, Scotland? Situated atop a large hill that overlooks northern Kilmarnock, the castle’s origins can be traced back to the 1100s, when one Walter, the High Steward of King David I, constructed a wooden fort high on the hill. Then, a century later, a far more formidable and sturdy structure was built, and Dundonald Castle steadily began to take shape. During the Wars of Independence with England in the fourteenth century, much of the castle was decimated, and razed to the ground. It was, however, rebuilt according to the wishes of King Robert II, and still remains standing centuries later. But that is not all. A remarkable and terrifying encounter with a spectral ape took place near the castle in 1994. The witness was a woman named Josephine Aldridge who encountered a huge, gorilla-like animal on the hill that, after being in sight for a few moments, faded away into nothingness - just like so many other British Bigfoot. Monsters and castles: without doubt they're strange connections.

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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