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Friday, 18 May 2018

DOGMAN - REBRANDING THE WEREWOLF


Alongside Bigfoot there is often talk of another hairy creature, bipedal in nature, man-like in form and of a similarly large stature; but with a fanged, dog-like or wolf-like head. These reports are generally rarer than Bigfoot reports both in the U.K. and the U.S. but share a striking similarity with one another, by eyewitnesses as far apart as Wales and Wisconsin. 
Art by Michael Snackson 

As one might imagine, the theories as to the identity of these creatures certainly do attract a few strange, weird and wonderful explanations. Some of them lucid and some of them ludicrous!

For myself, I always believe that the answer to most cryptid sightings is a natural one. If the creature is described as being animal-like, then it probably is an animal, even if the attributes it portrays seem somewhat superficially supernatural. For example, a creature whose eyes seem to glow without the aid of artificial light may in fact possess some form of bioluminescence instead of  'hellfire' and a witness who describes feeling an intense feeling of dread or fear before sighting some unusual creature, (Bigfoot/Dogman etc.) could have been affected by a type of infrasound, similar to that allegedly used by tigers.


Sightings of the Dogman, or as it has been traditionally known, the Werewolf; are the kind that I would have laughed at a couple of years ago, whilst simultaneously being a believer in Lake Monsters and Bigfoot. This is because the possibility of an upright, bipedal Wolf-Man had seemed improbable, almost too supernatural to me; a fanciful faerie tale, to scare kids straight and keep them out of the woods! It was a mystery too obtuse, too difficult to fit in to my 'natural animal' explanation and unlike the other cryptids I have pursued, its history lay deeply embedded in the paranormal, a beast of myth and legend, or some pastoral parable of good and evil, to warn parishioners away from sinful conduct with a tale of beastly transformation.

After researching this phenomenon extensively in the UK, I was intrigued by an article that appeared in the Hull Daily Mail about a creature called the 'Werewolf of Hull', or the 'Beast of Barmston Drain' as it is also known; a bipedal Wolf-Like creature that is said to stalk the Yorkshire Wolds, and which was sighted several times in May and August of 2016, by numerous independent witnesses, who all provided similarly eerie descriptions of this mysterious animal.

Ol' Stinker the Beast of Barmston Drain 
A woman who sighted the 'potential werewolf' in December 2016 said "It was stood upright one moment. The next it was down on all fours running like a dog. I was terrified. It vaulted 30ft over to the other side of the drain and vanished up the embankment and over a wall into some allotments." She said that it both ran on two legs and on all fours, having the qualities of both a human and a wolf.

Another couple said they saw something 'tall and hairy' eating a dog next to a drainage channel, which runs through the countryside. They added that it jumped over an 8ft-high fence, with the animal in its mouth.

Yet, Another woman who was walking her dog one evening spotted something she described as being 'half dog & half human'. She said that her dog adamantly refused to go any further along the path they were walking along. (although, the reason why this clever animal's refusal to walk towards a huge wolf-man should be noted in such a disciplinary tone, escapes me!)

The Werewolf of Hull
Jemma Waller, an animal rescue worker, described the moment she came face-to-face with the notorious werewolf 'Old Stinker' as she was driving through the East Riding village of Halsham. The 24-year-old said the beast looked like a big dog "with a human face"

Ms Waller was with two friends at the time of the sighting and said: "We were driving down this country lane on our way to get some pizza and my friend in the back seat said that he had seen a fox. I looked on my driver's side and saw this beast on all fours who started to walk straight towards my car on two legs. It looked like a big dog, probably bigger than my car, but it had a human face. It also had this cream and grey fur. My automatic reaction was to keep on driving, but thankfully it didn't keep coming towards me. It just turned around and ran off diagonally. Everyone in the car was really shaken. We'd never seen anything like that before."  The party stopped their car at a nearby petrol station to calm themselves down. When concerned staff asked what was wrong, the friends described what they had seen, only to be told by the staff, to the legend of the 'Beast of Barmston Drain'.

Ms Waller said: "We had never heard about it before, but when we started reading up about it, it was exactly like what we saw. It just made us more scared, to be honest, and I didn't get any sleep that night. It was just like a horror movie."

Sightings of 'Old Stinker' are believed to date back to the 18th century when wolves still stalked the countryside. In one report from the 1960s, a lorry driver said a creature had tried to smash its way through his windscreen as he drove along a remote Wolds road off Beverley Road in Hull. 

(There are many other Werewolf or 'Dogman' sightings in the UK, which can be found through many reputable sources such as Deborah Hatswell's British Bigfoot Map or via the purchase of one of Linda Godfrey's many excellent books on the subject.)


In the case of the Dogman or the Werewolf, I'm drawn to the (not so original) conclusion that perhaps what we consider to be dog-like in its features, could in fact be ape-like or more baboon-like, if only the muzzle was extended enough and the ears were long enough to appear to be on top of the head. But then, what ape or baboon ever had such features? Is the Dogman some new and original creature or, just like the werewolf legends of old in Britain and Europe just what it appears to be, a large, bipedal; Wolf-Man? The eyewitness accounts certainly seem to be very compelling and add further weight to substantiate that what people are seeing here in The British Isles closely resembles those North American tales of this strange beast. 

In this line of questioning and theoretical over-extension, I suddenly realise that I have reverted to the position of sceptic and for a moment feel giddy with this new found pseudo-objectivity that allows me to briefly experience how the uninitiated perceive the evidence for Bigfoot, Nessie et al; and what evidence I as a researcher need to provide them, in order to allay their concerns and create a plausible explanation for the existence of undiscovered animals living among us. Yet, on the other hand, what I may be experiencing in regards to the concept of the Dogman, quite simply can be summed up in the phrase 'One Man's Meat is Another Man's Poison',  or in this case, 'Werewolf'!


As a final word, I would say that they, The Dogmen, that is, are rather rare, rarer than the Bigfoot, in any case, and they look to be far more aggressive in behaviour too. Also, they do not appear to inhabit the same range as Bigfoot, with many of the sightings in the UK concentrated in Staffordshire and Derbyshire, although,  there are other sporadic sightings throughout most of the country. In all of the eyewitness sightings, the Dogman seems to exhibit very similar characteristics and behaviours to the Bigfoot, even though it does seem, overall, to be less intelligent and more animalistic in its general demeanour and composure than its ape-like cousin.

Written by Andrew McGrath

Beasts of Britain is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

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Monday, 26 February 2018

BEASTLY BLAGGERS AND FISHERMANS TALES


THE MACRAE FILM
"Honestly Guvnor! its mouth was this big!!!"
Photo by Nily Ron

The existence of this film is legendary, a kind of grail-like quest, passed on by word of mouth or in dusty, moth-eaten books about cryptozoology and occupying the bookshelves of the cooler granddads out there. Now sadly, unread for years and languishing in this internet age, in between a sort of mythical half-truth and hopeful allegory.

The story began when renowned Loch Ness researcher and author, Ted Holiday told of a meeting he had with a man named Alistair Dallas, from Kirkcudbright who claimed to have seen 2 extraordinary and conclusive pieces of Loch Ness Monster footage; or to be more accurate, 1 film of the Loch Ness Monster and another film of a similar Nessie-like creature, in Loch Duich. 

The films in question had been recorded in the 1930's by a Dr MacRae, a physician who had retired to a house along the shores of Loch Duich. In his 1968 book, 'The Great Orm of Loch Ness', Ted Holiday recounts Mr Dallas' description of the films, starting with the animal filmed in Loch Ness:

'Mr. Dallas told me that this film runs for several minutes. Three humps, together with the neck and head, are clearly visible. The neck is held low over the water and seems to be writhing to and for. During the sequence, a bird flies down and lands on a stone in the foreground, which helps to give scale to the picture. The Orm's head appears to be bluntly conical in profile - rather like half a rugger ball, to quote Mr Dallas. On the crest of the head are two horn-like sense-organs. Starting between these, and running down the neck, is a bristly mane. Mr Dallas said that this mane reminded him of baleen; it is stiff yet flexible and the texture seemed to him fibrous rather than hairy. Slit-like eyes can be made out on the head but they are not very distinct. Occasionally, the animal, rolls in the water and one of the forward flippers makes an appearance; it is thick and fleshy and seems to be capable of independent movement. The skin looks tough and leathery. Another interesting feature is the fact that the head seems to be in a state of continuous flux or movement, apparently due to the play of muscles under the skin.

He then goes on to describe the animal in Loch Duich:

'The second film, which was also taken by Doctor MacRae, shows a creature lying in Loch Duich - a sea-loch on the Scottish west coast. The monster is lying against the shore and is writhing its neck over a bed of seaweed. It differs from the Loch Ness specimen in having a longer neck and a mane which looks tufted. A man appears in the picture during this sequence, probably in the background.'

At first glance, this story seems to be the map to El Dorado (for cryptozoologists anyway!.) A reliable, descriptive film taken by a reputable retired doctor, would seemingly hold a lot of weight. But, this all comes crashing down with Ted's news that Mr Dallas claimed that Dr MacRae had decided to leave the film evidence in an unnamed bank vault in a safety deposit box, under the trusteeship of Mr Dallas himself, a then deceased colonel - Sir Donald Cameron and a 3rd
unnamed person, until such a time as the academic study of the monster, was taken more seriously. Furthermore, Mr Dallas claimed that he was allowed to speak about the film but not allowed to reveal it, as talking about it did not break the terms of his trusteeship.

This style of fisherman's tale, the one that got away, so to speak; constitutes the greatest threat to the credibility of the study of unknown animals and maligns the reputation of serious cryptozoologists
everywhere. The 'Carrot and Stick' method here tends to keep one trying to attain the unattainable, regardless of how many times you take a beating from that stick and in this instance, I can only conclude that Ted Holiday's sincere desire to find evidence of the creatures of Loch Ness and other bodies of water, dimmed his sensitivity to this obvious rouse. I would happily conclude in this case, that the MacRae film never existed and was a total fabrication, either by Alastair Dallas, or by Ted Holiday (which is more doubtful), to imbibe his long study and research at the loch with the possibility of success or at the very least, a hope of uncovering definitive evidence. That is, of course, if only the mysterious persons involved would be willing to reveal it.

I do not doubt that there is hidden and withheld footage out there somewhere of the monster of Loch Ness and others as well; kept hidden for reasons of reputation, financial leverage or most commonly in my unmitigated opinion, because of the philosophical implications of finding a living 'dinosaur'. And yet, the MacRae films are not one of those examples.

This highland folktale is replete with marvellous circumstance and unlikely players, not to mention the only other named witnesses being deceased at the time the tale was told. Holiday was also said to have followed up the matter with the present Donald Cameron of Loch Eil, who denied any knowledge of the films and as his letters to Alastair Dallas went unanswered, he concluded he could take the matter no further.

Again, these details unravel a dead end story with no corroborative witnesses and few compelling facts. It is in itself, a true representation of a typical legend of Loch Ness. Constituting and continuing an unfortunate and enduring foray into folklore and fantasy.


Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

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Sunday, 4 February 2018

WHAT'S WITH THE HABITUDE?

The Fight in the Forest
by Hans Burgkmair,
Bigfoot is big business these days! The 'merch' merchants are out in force, selling you everything from t-shirts to tortillas and kaftan's to coffee! There are Bigfoot tours, seminars, conferences, television documentaries and also some very serious research and scientific study! This astonishing multi-faith mix of manifold disciplinarians, collaborating (loosely) in the name of our elusive hairy hominid friend, whose popularity, it could be easily contended, proclaimed, or even professed, has eclipsed Nessie, now making 'it' the world's number one cryptid, is both exciting and treacherous to the uninitiated!

It is in this climate of self-made bigfooters, with their gofundme...ish campaigns, that we find, in small doses at least, some modern day sightings seeping out from some of the globe's lesser known, or at least lesser publicised Bigfoot locales.

The primacy of North America's Sasquatch in the promontory of the public minds eye, goes a little way to justifying the seemingly youthful appearance of other Bigfoot phenomena, making their way slowly to the front of the queue, appearing as brand new customers to the cryptid cashier, whose vision of the smaller 'squatch' has been understandably obscured by the giants she's been serving, over these past few decades!

This brings me neatly, of course, to our very own cryptid and cousin of North America's Sasquatch -  the British Bigfoot; or, as it has been referred to throughout its history - The Wodewose.  This beast, that has been depicted throughout European history upon the heraldry of many noble families as a tall, hair covered man, was once arguably ethno-known, among our ancient population as 'the wild man of the woods', a forest spirit, or guardian. (A description that is not too far removed from those of the first nations people of North America, the Sherpa peoples of Nepal and the Aboriginal peoples of Australia; as well as countless other archaic and original inhabitants of other lands.)

One of the external issues that affects the credibility of those researching these creatures in other 'smaller' or less 'squatchy' parts of the world, is that of Bigfoot's perceived habitat requirements and the alleged unavailability of untenanted or unpopulated land within which, it could reside unseen.
Putting these assumed base requirements aside, the British Bigfoot has actually been sighted hundreds of times in recent decades, with regular sightings being reported up to this very day, from diverse locations, throughout the length and breadth of the country - from the tops of our mistiest mountains, right down to the bottom of some of our most narrow and stagnant Glens.

The evidence for the existence of these animals is primarily anecdotal at present (eyewitness reports mainly), with some unsubstantiated blurry photos, footprints and stick signs thrown in for good measure, amidst other interesting evidence, such as researcher, Bigfoot Tony's 'tree pusher', accidentally captured on film somewhere in South Wales. And researcher, Neil Young's 'Infrasound' recording, captured at Harwood Forest, Northumberland!

Amidst this accumulating body of evidence, we find the 'regulation rebuttal' given by sceptics and Sasquatch fans alike, which is that, 'Britain lacks the available habitat and food sources to sustain a population of large hominids and keep them well fed and (mostly), well hidden from man.'

This misnomer, this Mandela effect of poor habitat, or perhaps to be more accurate, no habitat; has had a strong hold on the urban population of Britain (and the world) for many years. And yet, it is a surprisingly easy myth to dispel with freely available statistics and facts. The illusion of urban Britain, most probably engendered in the inception and franchising of the industrial revolution from our tiny island out unto the ends of the known world, is one that I hope to put to bed in this blog. Leaving in the aftermath of its sleepy collapse, into what I hope to be a permanent slumber, the clear light of a green field, on a sunny urbanless day!

There was, in 2012, one of the most complete studies of urbanisation in the UK, which was undertaken by the UK National Ecosystem Assessment. They were surprised to discover that only 6.8% of the UK's land area could be classified as urban" (a figure inclusive of rural development and roads). The figures when broken down amongst the 4 primary nations that make up the UK portrayed a picture far different from that which is enshrined in the mind of the average British city dweller, convinced of the lack of available green space in our allegedly tightly packed, tiny island!

Instead, this exhaustive study of our land found that the urban landscape only accounts for 10.6% of England, 1.9% of Scotland, 3.6% of Northern Ireland and 4.1% of Wales. This means that a whopping 93% of the UK is not urban. This tired illusion of urbanisation is further diminished by the studies finding that 54% of the land in our towns and cities is also green space (parks, allotments, football fields etc.) Our gardens further use up another 18% of urban land, and our waterways and reservoirs a further 6.6%.  In England alone, 78.6% of urban areas are natural! This leaves a miserly 2.27% of England's landscape that is actually built upon, meaning that England (the most populated country in the UK) is nearly 98% natural! And they dare to say, "there is no habitat!?"

Of course, in the light of these figures demonstrating the general isolation the average city Brit has from the wild places he is ironically surrounded by, it is not unexpected that the next objection that the unwilling would venture, is that of the lack of food in our unproductive garden. As to what there is for a Bigfoot to eat in the British Countryside, again, a few simple statistics will easily illustrate the bountiful disposition of our green and pleasant land.

In the U.K., there are currently somewhere in the region of 1.5 million deer running wild. Rabbit numbers are somewhere around the 37.5 million mark. we have 33.337 million sheep, most of which graze on our hills and in our fields. There are 4000 wild boar, 62,000 breeding pairs of Canada Geese with a further 192,000 birds wintering here. We've myriads of game birds, wildfowl, small mammals, and healthy salmon and trout stocks, amongst many other fish species in great numbers in our rivers and lakes. There is also widespread crop growing and other available foodstuffs like wild berries and roots that grow year round. More than enough for an omnivorous, opportunistic and intelligent animal to exploit to its benefit!

There is another default argument that the majority of rural UK is intensively farmed and the actual remote areas are very small and encroached upon by our farming and high population density, but again in reality this exclusion is based upon an assumption and does not stand up to scrutiny. What we in fact see is, that although 70% of the total land is classified as agricultural, only 25% of the total land area is croppable (two thirds of production is devoted to livestock, one third to arable crops.) Most of the rest of the agricultural land is grassland, rough grazing, or woodland. So in actuality, the word  'farmland' is misleading. To use the most populous UK nation as an example again: We find that the rural population of England is estimated at 9.3 million people and that within this number, only 0.5 million people live in sparse settings. Further illustrating the available 'space' in England, is the fact that the percentage of urbanisation presented here in my article, is also inclusive of rural settlements and roads.

So, what we have here is an environment that is not entirely understood by its native population, that is spacious, underpopulated and healthy enough in provision for this cryptid creature to thrive in almost undetected. Something that the British Bigfoot or Wodewose, would seem to have mastered, over the many millennia it has spent living among us!


Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

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