Tuesday, 3 September 2019


In early February 2015, a huge reptile was photographed swimming in Plymouth sound, Devon; with several local people claiming to have observed the strange creature swimming half-a-mile offshore. Allan Jones, a university technician who reported the sighting had a telephoto lens with him at the time and managed to capture a number of images. He said: "At one point it was near a boat and it looked about the same length. I've never seen anything like it - the first thing that struck me was that it looked just like a huge crocodile, The first photo I took I was up by Smeaton's Tower, but then I went down towards the sea for some closer shots. The creature or object moved in circles, appeared to curve its shape and moved a considerable distance from left to right, turned and then moved back the other way. I have circled a piece of floating wood that floated up to and past it. The creature or object then turned and remained stationary. It was very strange. It must have been 20-foot long. And it was moving against the current at some points. I'd love to know what it was."

The Plymouth Crocodile - Photo by Allan Jones, 2015.

This sighting has a great degree of credibility. There are so many facets that enrol themselves as a witness to the validity of this testimony that it scarcely seems worth defending or explaining. But, in order to juxtapose this sighting against others and validate its criterion, let us examine the verbal and physical evidence as we see it. In the first instance we have multiple witnesses that viewed the creature moving against the current, saw it circling and curving its shape and therefore it could not have been an inanimate solid object. We also have a boat in the background to give it some scale and several photographs taken by a ‘university technician’ with a telephoto lens from 2 separate vantage points, that place the creature in several different locations, swimming both with and against the current, therefore proving its animate nature, for as we all know; flotsam does not possess the ability to either change its shape or actively move against the current. The portion of the creatures back that is visible in the photos has the appearance of being bumpy or pocked in a similar (but not exact) manner to that of a crocodilian, but with a strange small, sail-like spine and small rounded lizard or snake-like head, which tells of an altogether different genus for this creature than that of a member of the crocodylomorph family.

So, once again we come to this identity crisis, a taxonomic tossup, as to which order this creature belongs. If we look in to the history of the coastal area around Devon and Cornwall especially, we find many similar accounts of strange reptilian sea monsters and of course some photographic evidence as well, that may offer some familial support in reference to extending the credit of this errant and troublesome visitor to our shores and the unfortunately speculative lives of all cryptozoologists as well. Fortunately for us in this case this whole area is replete with sightings of similar beasts and strange oceanic visitors.  In 1975 we hear of a sighting of a large creature with a humped body, long neck and small head with black-brown skin like a sea lion that was witnessed near Pendennis Point, Cornwall. The creature was photographed and the photo donated anonymously to The Falmouth Packet Newspaper, the following year in 1976. The creature was given the name Morgawr, which means Sea Giant in Cornish, by self-proclaimed Wizard and alleged conjurer of these aquatic beasts, Tony 'Doc' Shiels. In point of fact the photo by Mary F is also allegedly a manufacture of this controversial ‘Wizard of the West’ and bears a striking resemblance to a photo he allegedly received from Edward Kelly, also an alleged hoaxer, of a creature in Lough Leane in County Kerry, Ireland in 1981. 

When we are faced with such indeterminate evidence and questionable character, we certainly are not able to ascertain the truth from such sources and must revert again to the unwilling and antagonistic witness and rely upon the power of trauma upon those whose memory has been shocked in to remembering an unusual encounter, as something of such an unnatural animality, that it will be emotionally burned in to the brain of those who experience it.

There have of course been many other regular witnesses over the years, but the local acceptance of a creature borne out in superstition, but also based in reality has had a mixed effect on the perceived folkloric element of the creature whose presence is said to be prefaced by a scarcity of fish and the coming of bad weather. Whether or not this is mythology mixed with experience we cannot know for sure, but historically speaking, most attributed supernatural animal powers are an interpretation of natural events viewed through the lens of superstitious culture and tradition. However, the history of British Water Monsters is replete with hoaxers and fakers and although we are in a time when cryptozoologically speaking, Bigfoot is King! and the hay day of Nessie-like reports and newspaper articles have certainly waned; our aquatic cryptids of lakes and lochs and our mystery migrants from the sea, still have the ability to steal the headlines, at least for a morning or an afternoon and very occasionally for the most bodacious of serpents, until teatime. 

Written by Andrew McGrath

The Plymouth Crocodile is an excerpt from my book - Beasts of Britain.

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Friday, 30 August 2019


I was sadly unsurprised by the cult-like, defensive response to a recent blog I published, asking the question, 'Is Cryptozoology a Cult?' In this blog I merely painted cryptozoology as being a faith outside of the mainstream religion (science), in which followers often show a zealous desire to believe, over the more practical, yet less fulfilling desire, to critique.
'Patty and friends, traditional handmade,
forest furniture line'

After reading peoples responses and reactions over a variety of topical cryptozoology pages, I was reluctantly able to split my detractors into two neat camps:

1. People who read the blog, but were unable to see the irony in mounting such a faith-based defence to my charge

2. People who did not read the blog, but again commented from a position of 'defending the faith', as it were!

Now, I have spoken to many witnesses and researchers over the years and I do believe that many of the sightings and evidence they report are real. Yet, I think that in our current cryptozoology climate, the demand for evidence has become much greater than the available supply, and that, for the most part, people are clutching at straws. This can be seen in the common tendency people have to become defensive when one happens to shine a light on the hole in their world!

The propensity we have to attribute bushcraft to bigfoot and bow waves to dragons is only matched in its absurdity by our seeking blurry faces in bushes and blaming the big man for our missing apples!

For example, I was once shown some commercially packaged bigfoot hair, a friend had purchased online for $5; that was 'DNA tested' and '100% certified' and I was reminded of a visit I paid to a catholic gift shop in Jerusalem, where they were selling 'fingernails of Christ'. I remember looking at the wall of relics and thinking, "What a miracle that Our Lord managed to make his nail clippings stretch so far... like the feeding of the 5000, only with... fingernails???"

These wicker men, these stick fanciers, hot on the trail of forest fall and baby bushcrafters, like Black Friday anarchists, seeking out a killer deal on 'Patty and friends, traditional handmade, forest furniture line'; cannot be reasoned with or dissuaded from their happy hunt. They are joined by a mob, formerly contented with seeing shapes in cumolo, who now pedal a new form of cryptozoological charlatanry, not unlike the tailors in the 'Emperors New Clothes'; wherein, only the wise and gifted can see the cryptid creatures hiding in plain sight, in their blurred and muddy photos!"

We must remember that the one thing that all rare creatures have in common, is that they are rarely seen! In the case of cryptozoology, this is in itself a prima facie principle, that cannot be opposed, unless, through the discovery of evidence to the contrary, it is proven false! This means that a significant percentage of the 'evidence' (both anecdotal and physical) that has flooded the market, cannot be genuine and is, in fact, our very own form of 'cryptocurrency', used to grease the wheels with likes and shares. 

It is this fact that causes me the most concern, when observing the leniency in rules and criteria that we employ, to test the faith of our beloved disciples, in their witness of this hidden world. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2019


CULT: A small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous. : a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much... 

Cryptozoology is a strange obsession in that, the further one delves into the community of its adherents, the harder it becomes to believe in the authenticity of the genre as a true scientific discipline.

One only has to trawl through a small social media sampling to become somewhat overcome with portal pushers, paredoiliaphiles, stick sign readers and woo enthusiasts, who are often being unfairly encouraged by over-imaginative enablers, through the medium of likes and shares.

For me, my so-called foray into career cryptozoology has been disheartening at times and most significantly, a 'test of faith', of my belief in the possible existence of some of these yet to be discovered beasts. Yes, I said it, 'faith!' The word itself seems to sound like a death knell to my happy hobby. For, if faith it is, then we are truly lost; for anything corporeal that requires faith in order to exist, surely cannot be real?

Of course, I do not denigrate the efforts of those scientifically engaged in the enterprise of zoological prospecting, and I know that there are many out there, who have risked reputations and friendships to pursue this passion. But, this genre, in its generality, it would seem, is contaminated with hope and yet, wantonly devoid of detachment.

Too many of us, myself included, have 'believed' without counting the cost of the burden of proof, or contemplated how we should build this house from the foundations, up! Setting up schools of citizen scientists and sending them off into the wild, like eager automatons; programmed and ready to collect, collate and not contaminate, evidence of these elusive animals!

So, as I go further down the rabbit hole, my secret passion for psychology emerges, and asks me to assess our mental moxie and evaluate our fragile state - before its too late! 

I am left reflecting on a question that I cannot seem to shake - is Cryptozoology a cult?

Written by Andrew McGrath

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