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Sunday, 30 December 2018

BEASTS COME OUT AT NIGHT

Camberwell Old Cemetery
Photo by Andrew McGrath, 2019
Camberwell Old Cemetery is located on Forest Hill Road, Honor Oak, London. It has been in use since 1856 and covers approximately 30 acres of land, much of whose plants and trees have merged with the older tombstones, to create an eerie ‘forest of the dead’ like feeling. The site was in frequent use from its inception and by 1984, 300,000 bodies had been buried there.

Cemeteries are creepy enough places to be, during the day, but at night, that inexplicable fear of the unknown that we all possess becomes a living force. I was originally drawn to investigate this location due to two extraordinary witness accounts. The first related by a man who had decided to cut through the old cemetery one night on route to visit a friend, in 1996 and the second, which occurred many years later in 2004/5, related by a woman who was travelling past the graveyard with a friend, when she experienced something she still cannot explain to this day.

The images I captured whilst there do not quite convey the unhealthy atmosphere, which was palpable, all around me. Although, admittedly, visiting the site of such extraordinary sightings does imbue one with a sense of expectation, which in itself can become a causative of feeling ‘ghostly vibes’!


The Werewolf of Camberwell
On October 9th, 1996, a man on route to see a friend, had decided to take a shortcut through Camberwell Old Cemetery to save time, when something prodigiously strong grabbed him by the arm and smashed him into the ground. He saw a large creature, with dark fur and a head like a German shepherd, looking at directly at him intently, slobbering and growling and sniffing his body up and down, just as a dog would. Just as quickly as the attack started, it was over and the beast sprinted off on its hind legs. The witness believed that he was spared because he suffers from a disease that dogs can smell and that probably because of this, the creature left him alone.

The Camberwell Tree Shaker
“It was in 2004 or 2005 on a summer's night around 11.30pm and a friend and I were walking up Underhill road on the cemetery side of the road. I lived on Barry Road on the corner of Underhill road for many years and I was in my mid-20s at this point.

On the corner of the cemetery side of the road, we heard a really loud weird noise and both turned to look. A large tree in the corner of the cemetery was shaking incredibly hard as if something really powerful was shaking it with all its might. I don't think I have ever seen such a strange sight. It was definitely not made by a person or an animal or pet. The tree looked as if the roots were ready to be ripped out. There was another noise too like a low growl.

Needless to say, my friend and I took to our heels and fled as fast as we possibly could although in different directions. I sprinted up Harcourt road as hard as I could. When my friend caught up with me, we were both terrified and could not rationalise what had happened or account for the sheer terror we both felt. Instinctively, we knew we had to get as far away from the flimsy fence of the cemetery as fast as we possibly could.

There is something very sinister there. I don't think I ever walked past the road in the dark ever again or ever ventured inside the cemetery. I have moved away from the area now, but still not far enough away from that place!!!”




Camberwell Old Cemetery
Photo by Andrew McGrath, 2019
Werewolves? Dogmen? Bipedal Canines roaming throughout London and attacking people in graveyards? Frankly, It sounds like something for the High Moon fans and I wholly reconcile my own feeling of disbelief at such encounters, with those other practically minded souls who find it hard to accept that such a being exists at all! 

However, our folklore and history are replete with tales of such creatures stalking the darkness, not only in these resplendent isles, which we inhabit but also amongst the legends of our soon to be estranged, continental cousins. 

I also feel the need to further compound this problem with my staunch belief, that such creatures are not immaterial and belong firmly in the flesh and blood world. Perhaps, patiently awaiting the taxonomic net of the brave, intrepid (and perhaps foolhardy) explorer to fall upon and fit them neatly, into the section marked 'New', in one of our delightfully leather-bound books, of the known animalia that inhabit this wild and wondrous creation!


Written by Andrew McGrath



For more on Beasts of Britain, check out:








Saturday, 29 December 2018

IS ALL THIS CONTROVERSY REALLY NESSIE...SARY?

The Loch Ness Monster, Nessie (Niseag, in Scots Gaelic), LNM and the delightful, but not scientifically accepted, Latin classification of Nessiteras Rhombopteryx, are all names that have been attributed to what is arguably the most infamous water monster in the world and, until the recent Bigfoot boom, undeniably the most famous cryptid on the planet

Some proponents argue that sightings of this creature can be traced all the way back to St Columba, who according to his chronicler, St Adamnan 625 - 704 AD, had a somewhat successful confrontation with the animal in the River Ness, in 565 AD, in which he came upon the funeral of a man who had been injured, but not eaten it seems, by the monster and thereafter decided to send one of his followers into the river as bait. Whereupon, the beast made its appearance, was spiritually 'told off'' by the Great Saint, and fled from the poor baited disciple, as if dragged away, 'by an invisible rope!' Apart from a lesser-known priestly encounter with a monster in Lake Connaught or Lough Ree, in which Saint Mochua is actually the cause of a disciple being eaten by a monster and also his salvation from the beast; most other sightings of the water monsters of Loch Ness and other bodies of water, are less endowed in their ecclesiastical and historical credibility, but nevertheless, persist as legend and are, from time to time, still recorded in the annals of newspapers and local history books, up until the early part of the 20th Century.

We then, of course, come to the international breakthrough of Nessie knowledge and popularity, which begins shortly after a road is blasted into the hillside surrounding the loch; giving access to all and sundry, that was hitherto only available to those who travelled over the mountains on foot or who sailed the loch, by boat. The somewhat groupie-like hysteria that followed can easily be attributed to a growing international press and communications network accelerated almost certainly by wartime correspondence during the first world war and the alliances that remained so strong after its end and the race in Britain at that time, by several press barons, to enlarge their circulation along more humanistic lines, to sell to a larger, newly literate, working class. Within the following histrionic reception and inevitably profitable environment for the perpetrators of hoax, there are however some indefatigable sightings that, although disputed, are still pawed over meticulously today by some of the most evangelical sceptics and believers of our time!

Some of the most famous of these cases are of course without a doubt: The Spicer's road sighting, The Hugh Gray photo, The Arthur Grant road sighting, The Surgeon's photo, The Taylor Film, Peter McNab photo, Tim Dinsdale film, Wacked out Wizard and Hoaxer Mentor - Anthony Doc Shiels', muppet photo, Jonathan Bright's - Nessie Head, and so on and so forth.....!!!

The proponents of this discipline, 'sceptic' and 'believer' alike, have a proclivity for a golden age focus on the legendary evidence of yesterday and for trawling over the same empty waters of theory and philosophy regarding the origins of these creatures, or conversely, the international delirium, that according to some, causes the 'desiring' witness of this unusual animal, to magnify the otter, catfish, sturgeon, seal and eel, into creatures of 'dinosaurian' proportions!

What these 'experts', fail to see, whilst fighting over the ambiguity of past evidence, are the ongoing, corroborative sightings, year upon year, of large, unidentified animals that are regularly witnessed, photographed and filmed (albeit inconclusively) at Loch Ness, by persons from a diverse background of cultures, professions and gender.

What the witnesses report, regularly match several similar descriptions, which, largely exclude the regularly lauded list of monster impostors!

They are:

· A long neck, with a comparatively small head.

· A large animate hump, shaped like an upturned boat or several humps that undulate or change shape.

· 4 paddle-like flippers (that are sometimes clawed.)

· A large rounded body or conversely a long snakelike form.

· A powerful tail.

· Two horns or 'breathing tubes' on the head of some animals, (suspected to be either some type of breathing apparatus or more likely, a type of sexual dimorphism.)

· And, most conspicuously - A large animal of a 'dinosaurian' appearance, measuring anywhere between 12 to 40 feet in length!

Generally, in the Lake Monster/Sea Monster research community, the evangelical sceptic is king and this has unfortunately led to an acceptable climate of laughable alternatives, (or monster impostors) to stand in for the extraordinary creatures that are regularly reported, not only in Loch Ness but also in lakes and seas in diverse locations around the world.

Some of these comical stand-ins are:

· A giant sterile eel (measuring somewhere between 20 - 40 feet in length!)

· A giant, previously unknown, long-necked pinniped, (A rather conspicuous, air-breathing mammal!).

· A large Sturgeon (where's the neck on a sturgeon?).

· The (diminutive) Eurasian otter.

· The seal (grey, common, harbour - any species really!)

· A Wels Catfish (again, the absent long neck poses an issue.)

· My all-time favourite - A giant unknown animal, similar to a mudskipper, with a plesiosaur head and neck-like lure?????

The reader will I know, forgive the obvious vitriol and scorn which the author holds for such learned opinion, but, being unbound by popular paradigm and therefore enabled to examine the numerous descriptions of this animal, without recourse to ecumenical fervour; the massive body of anecdotal evidence seems to point clearly, in the direction of a previously thought to be extinct creature, of a suspected bygone era!

So, why do we preferentially pick and mix our tolerable prehistoric survivors? Why is it perfectly permissible to have an animal like the coelacanth or horseshoe crab living on in to our current era, relatively unchanged and yet have a different animal, like the plesiosaur, that has allegedly been witnessed thousands of times in our lakes and seas, subject to such derisory dismissal and explained away with the type of mental gymnastics that would put any flat-earther to shame?

I think this whole 'controversy' comes down to a 'size matters' philosophy, that seeks the dissolution of any convincing evidence of large (and therefore impressive) prehistoric survivors, living on in our modern era; and is essentially based upon an existential argument, that often descends into the debate on origins within cryptozoology, between the materialists and their other religious counterparts, the creationists. But, stepping away from these two warring camps, with their zealous denial of one another and looking at the cumulative and corroborative reports made for the most part by antagonistic and uninitiated witnesses from every walk of life, it would seem obvious that what we are dealing with here is a 'living dinosaur' of sorts. That is at least, an animal that belonged with the dinosaurs and one that is rendered as such, in many of its suspected haunts around the globe. One only has to look at representations of Champ, Ogopogo, Caddy, Nessie, Morag, Ishi and others like the Lepel Tsmok of Belarus, to see a uniformity, that is hard to pin down to the global permeating influence of Nessie culture, upon an unsuspecting and frail brained general public.


Over the last 84 + years, since the Loch Ness media explosion, Lake Monster research has taken many wonderful twists and turns and has had its fair share of glorious moments. The folklore & successes of its great men, now embellished, retold and re-spun for the digital age. But it is an ageing art, a dying discipline, whose language would be extinct, but for the tacky machinations of the tabloid press and the working-class masses who devour them.

All is not lost, however, and a fresh supply of oxygen is and has always been present in this genre. That life-giving breath is held within our modern sightings and the witnesses who lay claim to them. Nevertheless, it is time to close the book on the past of Loch Ness and start a new modern chapter on the steady trickle of sightings that are reported year on year; to discuss their commonality and how we can employ modern technology and theory upon the mode and habituation of these elusive beasts.


Written By Andrew McGrath

'IS ALL THIS CONTROVERSY REALLY NESSIE...SARY???' is an excerpt from my book
Beasts of Britain -  available here!






Tuesday, 20 November 2018

HOWLS & GROWLS - WHOOPS & WOODKNOCKS!

In Part 1 of this series on behavioural characteristics of the British Bigfoot, I spoke briefly about cases of Bluff Charges & Intimidation in the U.K. and their corroboration with other bigfoot witness reports from around the world.

Wodewose  - Selby Abbey, North Yorkshire,
England. (Founded 1069)
In Part 2 of this series, we will examine some of those commonly observed behavioural traits of 'International Bigfoot' that are also witnessed, although less frequently so, in alleged Bigfoot encounters in Britain.
So, what are Howls, Growls, Whoops and Woodknocks? Plainly put,they are audible encounters, that are assumed by the cryptozoology community, at large, to be a form of communication among these animals, that is primarily employed to convey a message or a mood to one another; and less commonly believed, by some, strangely 'connected believers', to be a form of communication between these animals and themselves.

Recorded examples of these audible idioms are distinctly equivocal worldwide. One of the reasons for this possibly being, that certain sounds are relatively easy to explain away, via the transposal of other known corporeal impostors, that admittedly, could be wholly responsible for these alleged, sensory confrontations!

Even in a country like Britain, allegedly devoid of large predators, many of our indigenous animals growl, our dogs howl and birds whoop and whistle. Woodknocks, also regularly meet their nemesis in the woodpecker and, of course, all 5 of these sounds, could easily be attributed to human activity for myriad reasons. Some of which, could be as simple as, forestry workers felling trees, walkers whistling, their dogs howling and growling, or the obvious elephant in the room - the activity of other bigfoot researchers, out in the woods, practising their own primate power of projection!

So, regarding our little island and its maligned man-ape, what audio contacts do our 'ear-witnesses' report and are they mixed up with our aforementioned monster impostors, or, do these occurrences have a more mysterious origin, that points to Albion, having its very own 'Master of the Forest' roaming throughout its green and temperate lands? 


We shall see!

The following encounters are presented here verbatim, but with some minor excision of unneeded detail, edited carefully, so as to neither lose nor add anything in translation, that may inadvertently bend the will of the witness to my own perception. Additionally, although there were many reports that could have been included in this study, I have only chosen a few that illustrate best, the brushes, that many British people have had with these sensory happenings:


HOWLS

The Friston Forest Screams

"In 2012, I was walking through Friston forest with my friend and his dog looking into a rumoured big cat sighting when the dog suddenly smells something and runs into the bushes. So we start whistling for it to come back and we hear this scream come back at us that sounded like the scream cliff does on finding Bigfoot! I do more whistles and the dog comes back with her tail between her legs like something scared the hell out of her. It was mid-afternoon."


Strachur Strange Wood Knocks, Screams and Tree Breaks

"I would like to inform you all of a sighting I had the other day in Strachur, Argyll, Scotland. I was out riding on my local Mountain bike track when I started feeling a little weird like I was being watched. I got my stuff packed and started cycling down the hill towards the village and I heard a high pitched howl and I then heard woodknocks coming from the bottom of the hill. I quickly rushed down the hill to find a tree pushed over the path. I got over it but after that, I never heard anything more."


Snape Wood Shriek
"There is a place called Snapewood, it is part of the old original Sherwood forest, but, due to the industrialisation of the Midlands has become a secluded woodland area separated by at least twenty miles and is fenced off, with deer roaming throughout it and is now a nature reserve. I used to camp there many years ago as a teenager growing up. We would stay overnight often and would hear screeching this was not birds or any type of wildlife, our camp was ransacked one night as we lay in our tents zipped up and our food was taken. That night my friend caught sight of what he described as a huge hairy man with no clothes on. I never saw the creature at the time but it changed my friend's life. He would often tell us over and over again about it over the years and we would joke about it to him. He used to go back over the years on his own and sit for hours and come back and tell us there was a family of three, the youngest being a child ape-like creature, which ran on its hind legs. We thought he was nuts.

He took us back there some thirty years later and showed us where they could be seen. From the top of a disused railway line embankment, overlooking the part of woods where an old clay pond had formed, we were around half a mile away, we sat there all afternoon drinking beers until we heard the same screech we had heard as young teenagers. Even now I am lost for words, as this huge chestnut coloured, hairy man-thing, emerged from the clearing towards the pond and I watched it with two of my mates, bathing for over half an hour. The only thing my mate said was, "I told you, I told you, but you never believed me!" He still frequents the woods in winter and leaves food. He told us he has seen the branches you show in your videos. He says they are waypoint markers and when one passes by they will turn it towards the direction they walk towards, so others know which way they have gone. I came across your channel by accident and was stunned when I started watching, even now at my age! I'm over 50 and I find it hard to believe. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed they exist, but I can categorically state they do!

To be honest myself and other friends ragged my mate for over thirty-five years, it's just not something I would have believed in, but actually seeing it although from a distance there was no disputing what it was,, my friend was always adamant from the beginning as to what he witnessed all those years ago and he never let it lye either, he would often sporadically call in to see me in passing my house which is adjacent to the woods and he'd tell me that he had been back to the woods with food,I cannot tell you how many times I rolled my eyes and laughed at him; but after seeing it for myself, the whole saga was pretty emotional!"


Here I am,
listening out for an 'Audio Encounter'
somewhere in Surrey, England!
GROWLS

Growls from the Bushes


"I had something strange happen when I was about 18 or 19 coming back from a festival. I'm on a bus to get home and at the time I was living in Leigh, Lancashire. I didn't want to walk the long way home, so I got off at the next stop and cut across a field instead of going all the way into town, then walking all the way up again. I thought this would be quicker since I have done it in the daytime a few times before. So I get off the bus and I start walking, I lit a cigarette, and I called a mate and asked him if he wants to come to mine for some beers?
As I'm making my way down the path under the footpath to go across the field it starts to get darker. I have nearly finished my cigarette and as I put it out, you know your eyes adjust to the light and you can see more? I don't remember the moon being full but it was just enough to light the way down where I was going and as I was getting closer to the end of the path, where it's more covered in trees, I thought I heard something, something I couldn't make out, so I stop and look and I thought I could see things running in the distance, I couldn't make it out clearly, so I put it down to my eyes adjusting and I just carried on thinking nothing of it. As I get closer to the trees, I heard a noise again. All of a sudden there was this deep growl not very loud, but loud enough, it was just a creepy growl and it was enough for me to move faster than I was before, I picked up my pace without looking back."

Derbyshire Moorland Beast

"My experience with what has become known as the North East Derbyshire Moorland Beast was in August of 1984. I was bivouac camping with my cousin at a place called Blackamoor, Totley just outside Sheffield. I was about 14 and I was visiting family in the school holidays. We had set up the tents and camp, and it had been a fun day and as evening drew in we called it a night. I got into the tent at around 11 pm and we both decided to try to get some sleep.
It felt like no sooner had we settled down to sleep that we heard what I can only describe as "the deep growl of what we'd supposed must be a large apex predator" That may sound far-fetched, but that's what it sounded like at the time, it was not something we had heard before or could identify. We shook with fear instantly & struggled not to wet ourselves. We lay breathless as we listened to heavy footfalls moving through the heather around us. After a while we raised a bit of courage and gripping our knives we managed to get up out of the poncho shelter. A thick moorland mist had settled and we could barely see each other in it, let alone anything else, we kept searching the fog as we hurriedly packed, whilst all the time praying for all we could muster. Strange how you suddenly find the need for God. We went as quickly as we could, back down to the street lights at Totley and then home."

Growls and Mystery in the Simonside Hills 

"Several years ago my wife and I along with our German wired haired pointer Oskar took a trip to the Simon side Hills in Northumberland. As I was walking close to some hazel bushes, my wife Anne was about 30 yards away to my right and Oskar was beside her. Suddenly I was aware of a loud growling sound coming from the bushes beside me, it didn't sound like a large cat growl more of a very large dog. My wife at that point hadn't heard the growl, neither did Oskar.

Further down the hill about another 50 yards another loud growl came from the trees, this time my wife shouted did you hear that? I said let's get back to the car and we quickly walked down the hill to the car. Suddenly to our horror we found that whatever was making the growling sounds had beaten us to the car and was now in the trees directly in front of us, making even louder growling noises. I told my wife to quickly get into the car and I dragged Oskar to the back and put him in the boot. It was at this point that I was truly scared, as I looked around for some large stick to fend off whatever it was, to my mind, that was about to spring at me from the trees. I got into the car and breathed a sigh of relief. Whatever it was had stalked us all the way down the hill for over 300 yards and by the sound of the growl was extremely large. I wish that I could have seen whatever it was but from the safety of the car. I just want to make the point that whatever it was, was very big and the sound it made seemed artificial if that makes sense. I have never heard anything like it in my life, except on a visit to the zoo."


WHOOPS

The Howler of Barlow Woods

"It was around 1989 when this happened to me, I was 17 at the time. I was just killing time and I went into the wood for a look at the pine trees. I'm just wandering around and everything was normal, I could hear the birds, just a good day up to that point. I was about 100 yards in when went all quiet, silence, not a sound, even the birds stopped. There was nobody around at all just me. The wood was so quiet, I just stood there looking around and then I heard the strangest sound! A loud Whooping noise and knocking sound from all around, then everything went silent again.
Just like that, complete quiet, no birds nor car noise, no animal sounds just complete silence, I didn't see who or what made the noises, but I could tell I was being watched. I could feel it, I'm looking around everywhere but can't see anybody at all. These woods are thick and the trees are large, I couldn't make out anybody or anything around me.

I headed down towards the small stream and got down to look, and I saw nothing. I lay there for ages, I did some knocks back and the whoops started again, louder this time, my cheeks where puckered now, I was so spooked. I looked back into the thick woodland and my eyes saw loads of shapes in the sunlight but nothing I could pinpoint. Then bump, bump, crack in the distance! I could not take it anymore and I was off, I went back to my bike as fast as I could and all the way out I could feel I was being followed. I was scared, I kept turning around but couldn't see anything and then quiet came again. as I left the woods I could hear the natural noises return, the birds and stream noises. It was over. I have never returned to the wood."


Tilmanstone Whoops
Littleworth Common, Surrey, England.


"I'm a carpet fitter. In September 2015, I had a job out in the sticks, and as I was unloading some underlay from my van I heard about 4 vocalizations. Now the best way I can describe these sounds were like a wooing noise single at a time, but they sounded like the sort of woo you would here in a jungle. They did sound primate and tropical. The nearest zoo is 25 miles away, I wouldn't think it would travel that far, but I might be wrong. I've never heard these noises before and it was enough for me to stop in my tracks. I was in the Tilmanstone area of Kent, which is an old mining village near the Dover, Sandwich area. It sounded close, but not close at the same time. and I know it wasn't a fox or anything. As I was in work mode, that's why it stood out so much, as I could tell it was nothing I had heard before, and it was definitely like a primate type of whoop. It sounded like a very haunting sound, it sort of hung in the air. It wouldn't sound out of place in a jungle type environment. A very hard one to explain."

WOODKNOCKS

Goyt Forest Woodknocks

"In 2012 I had an interesting experience in my research location Goyt Forest, Peak District National Park. I hadn't visited the location for about a month, as I was using my free time to search for Deer antlers in a Deer Park not far from my house. Anyway, I decided to head over to the forest where there is a wild population of Deer, to see if I could find any antlers. A few hours in, I had just descended down a steep slope into the forest that lies in a valley and started making my way down to the bottom where I have to cross a river. I Got down to the bottom, crossed the river, and made my way up to a logging road. About 10 minutes after I had reached the logging road and had walked a little further down it, I heard a series of VERY loud knocks, which sounded like they were coming from close to where I crossed the river only 10 minutes ago. There would be 5 knocks, a 10-second pause, and then another 5 knocks. The knocks were very dull sounding, so it was coming from something being hit on a large, thick tree. Didn't think much of it, assumed it was loggers or something. Anyway, this went on for about 7 minutes, so I got curious and decided to check it out. As I reach the corner of a clear-cut that would allow me to see the river where I crossed and where I suspected the knocking was coming from, it stopped abruptly. I started glassing the area with my binos, and couldn't see anyone or anything.
I know that no rangers were on duty that day, and there were no loggers as their vehicles and high vis jackets are easy to identify. I had just passed that area 10 minutes earlier and I am 100% positive nobody was there. So annoyed I didn't get a recording of the knocking, but I just assumed it was someone down there. Anyway, made my way down there quickly and there was nobody there at all. There was no wind, and the knocks were always a series of 5, and then an approx 10-second wait before there would be another series of 5 knocks. And, I noticed the knocks started happening after I tripped and landed on a branch that had fallen, which made a large cracking sound.

I actually went back with my sister, and again, heard the same knocking sound. No wind, it wasn't a woodpecker, and I can rule out campers because I had just walked past the area the sound was coming from about 20 minutes earlier. I did a couple of hand claps to see if it would respond, but the knocking immediately stopped and we didn't hear it again. Interesting for sure. I went there at night and heard the exact same mumbling sound that I heard a couple of months ago, coming from around 20 feet in the treeline at the side of the logging road I was walking on. I then heard something large run through the brush as I could hear the limbs breaking. Could have been a Deer, but it came from the same area where I heard the rumbling sound?"

Holme Fen, Wood Knocks
"I was recently down at Holme Fen which is an area of Special Scientific Interest, and an area which I have visited hundreds of times... The woods here are diverse and full of Silver Birch, Beach and Oak trees. Wildlife abounds with many species of native and visiting bird life. The area has fisheries and The Great Fen is a 50-year project to create a huge wetland area. One of the largest restoration projects of its type in Europe, the landscape of the Fens between Peterborough and Huntingdon is being transformed for the benefit both of wildlife and of people. When I was there I heard knocking on the trees. A distinctive knocking and it was a double knock, which I know was not deer or human's messing about. This knocking sounded like wood on wood as if someone or something was knocking on the tree. It stood out and I think it was meant too.

I have a background in gamekeeping, so I am used to the usual noises you would hear outdoors in nature, this was different and it stood out, what I heard was unusual enough that I felt very uneasy when I heard this sound. It intrigued me and worried me at the same time.

As I walked I kept looking everywhere, but all I could see were Muntjac deer, which seemed to be acting in an uneasy manner, almost unsettled. I keep visiting this site and will continue to do so, and I am sure that something strange happened on that day, something out of the ordinary."



Looking objectively at these 'ear-witness' accounts, many of us would find it pretty straightforward to put some of them in the monster imposter category and apart from the odd exception, where an actual bigfoot is seen, it is only logical to do so. The rational mind is structured in a way to provide us with emotional security and a sense of safety and were we to find ourselves in a similar situation to these witnesses, we would likely employ the same power of rationalisation, to explain away the oddities of our experience.

Those few and far between, who do have a visual experience of an unknown animal, often struggle with the mental adjustment of drinking down the authenticity of what they have seen; but those others whose brush with the unknown has not taken them to such awe-inspiring heights, are rather left with a larger hole to fill, and with a greater unknown with which to make it full!



Written by Andrew McGrath


(Extra special thanks to Deborah Hatswell of the British Bigfoot research organisation and to the witnesses of these extraordinary creatures, for their tireless research and bravery in this little-known area of British Cryptozoology)



For more on Beasts of Britain, check out:















Wednesday, 24 October 2018

BLUFF CHARGE & INTIMIDATION


Much has been posited about the likely existence of a bipedal, ape-like creature, that is alleged to have been beheld by thousands of people, in some of the most remote and isolated regions on the planet.

Trace evidence, like footprints, hair samples and some very compelling film and photographic footage; have been captured, catalogued and studied with an almost microscopic diligence paid to every detail, by the obsessive devotees of this particular, fabled, fauna fetish!


"Get Off My Land!!!!"

The tales of the North American Sasquatch draw most public focus along with the Himalayan Yeti,(only from a pop culture retrospective nowadays)and now thanks to the work of Adam Davies and others, The Orang Pendek of Indonesia also, is a subject of serious scientific study.

There are in fact, many organisations worldwide, investigating other Bigfoot-like creatures, like the Chinese Yeren, the Russian Almasty, and Australia's Yowie. Viewed together, they seem to form a conglomerate of 'far off legends' that are only credible to our minds, due to their environmental isolation.

We have little trouble believing in these creatures or considering them real, simply because we do not have to consider the viability of their habitat or the means of their survival into our modern epoch; famously absent from our yearbook of the natural world and somehow, managing to evade even the most diligent scientific researcher, without ever having landed themselves caged, in carnival or zoo!

So, we preponder that maybe an animal like Bigfoot could avoid detection in the Pacific Northwest, or that the Yeti might remain unseen in the vastness of its 'alleged' mountain home; solely because our detachment from these lands makes it more tolerable to believe that we could have overlooked the presence of such faraway beasts. But, what of those sightings in a more'closed system' like the UK? How could it be possible that a type of 'Wildman' could also be roaming our countryside, for the most part avoiding the detection of our teeming millions and managing to live sustainably; without ever piquing the interest of our mighty British naturalists; who have, in ages past, been held responsible, for classifying so much of the natural world?

With this egotistical disqualification in mind, we turn to the study of the British Bigfoot or Wodewose; a subject that seems to invite derision from even the most seasoned of researchers, who, while juxtaposing the ecological needs of its ape-like cousins on to its island kin, judge the claims of our witnesses as somehow falling outside of the 'what we know to be true' paradigm. Which, even in cryptozoological circles can be fixed in its observance of the official line.

What I intend to present in this blog series, are behavioural characteristics of the British Bigfoot, that not only corroborate characteristics observed by witnesses of these creatures in more acceptable locations in the world but also, as we will see, are almost indistinguishable from them and their other simian cousins.

We will start with a relatively untouched area of Bigfoot Research, bluff charges and intimidation - which are behaviours that are regularly observed in great apes, which have also been observed in 'bigfoot-like' creatures around the world. It should be noted that these witnesses reported this behaviour without any prior knowledge of the existence of an ape-like hominid in the UK.

PLAS DOL Y MOCH -GIANT APE CREATURE

In April of 1966, two teenagers staying at the Plas Dol Y Moch outward Bound centre in Wales were taking part in a night navigation exercise when they encountered a thick and bulky black shadow, like a giant ape, that came crashing through the undergrowth and roared at them. The Boys, dropping their maps and equipment ran back to the centre and alerted the staff, who to their surprise believed their story and called the police, who promptly questioned them and even organised a search.

CHILD'S ERCALL - MAN BEAST

In 1971 after an evening spent with her then-boyfriend at the home of his parents in the village of Child's Ercall, Shropshire, a teenage girl was happily riding her bicycle back home when she was shocked to see a large, hairy animal dash across the road directly in front of her and glaring at her menacingly. The animal was human-like in shape, covered in long flowing dark hair, with bright yellow eyes and a black-skinned, shiny face.

CANTERN BROOK WOODS - GREY HAIRY THING

A witness recalls how he and several other small children were regularly run out of the Cantern Brook Woods in Shropshire, by a huge grey screaming figure, whilst cutting wood to make their dens. The creature would chase them to the edge of the woods and then stand watching them, from the trees.

STOWE-BY-CHARTLEY - GIANT CHIMP

Late one evening in September 1986, a man and his wife were driving past the ancient ruins of Chartley Castle in Staffordshire, England; when they were forced to brake to avoid a huge stag crossing the road, followed by what looked like a large chimpanzee, which came bounding after it. Halfway across the road, the creature looked directly at the couple and angrily charged their vehicle, breaking off at the last second. In a panic the husband tried to reverse, stalling the car and leaving the couple briefly stranded in the road. Over the next twenty seconds, the huge ‘Chimp’ charged their car twice, before finally bounding off in the direction of the stag.

THE CANNOCK CHASE - THING

Some local residents of Cannock Chase were chased by a Bigfoot whilst driving through the area at 2am. The creature was human-shaped, but around seven to eight feet tall and very broad and stocky. When it realised it had been seen, it stood up straight and ran towards the terrified witnesses who sped away in their car.

THE IVY DEN - CREATURE SIGHTING

In the 1980’s several children were playing at a place called The Ivy Den, at Hackenthorpe Sheffield, when they were chased away by a 6-7 ft tall, dark figure, with very bright red eyes, which they saw running up the side of a stream about 20 feet away from them. The creature jumped across the stream with ease, at which the children fled. An interesting aspect of this sighting is that one of the children fell while running, only to see that the creature had ceased chasing him and was watching him a little distance away. This might indicate that the creature had simply meant to scare them off.

THORPE PERROW - SCREECHING FIGURE

In 1983, a young teenager living in a rural area called Thorp Perrow in Yorkshire was riding his bicycle back home at night, without lights. Taking a shortcut through a farmland track, he was singing to himself when he swerved to avoid hitting a ‘person’ in the road. He stopped to look back, only to see a huge ‘person-shaped thing’ with its arms above its head, screeching at him angrily. Over 30 years later he still can’t forget the way its eyes stared at him.

FRANKS WOOD CRANHAM - WILDMAN

In 2002, In Cranham Essex, A black shadowy figure, standing two and a half metres tall with no discernible features, gave chase to a group of friends as they left the wood.

THE CLEADON GEET

In 2003, around 11pm, a 16-year-old girl was waiting for her bus home, when she felt an urgency to relieve herself. She snuck off into some bushes nearby, when suddenly to her terror, a 7ft tall, skinny, hairy ape-man; lunged from the bushes and chased her. Needless to say, she ran all the way home.

THE RED CHESTED BIGFOOT - OF SALTFLEET MARSH

In the winter of 2004, two sisters were walking their dogs along the edge of the salt marsh at Saltfleet, East Lincolnshire; when they were pursued by a large ‘person’ covered in red and brown shaggy hair. Needless to say, they ran all the way home and have not been back to the area since.

MIDDLE WOOD - APE-MAN

In August 2015, a man walking in Middle Woods, Offten, Sussex; suddenly became overwhelmed by a fear that he wasn't alone. He explains that as a large man of 20 stone (127 kilos) that he is pretty fearless, but inexplicably on this occasion, he lost his nerve and decided to leave the woods. On leaving the area he heard a monkey go ‘woo woo’ and an almighty crashing noise. Then a 2 legged ‘thing’ like a chimp in colour but a gorilla in build, approximately 5’7 in height, came hurtling across the trail, using its long arms to knock aside the trees. He noted that its arms were at least a third longer than his own.

DORKING DEEP DENE - CREATURE

Two explorers visited an abandoned tunnel in Dorking Deepdene late one evening in 2016. Hearing noise inside and thinking that it was other explorers, they waited outside for them to finish. Their two dogs started barking and were suddenly silenced by a loud Roar. Then they heard the sound of something big moving the trees, breaking and snapping branches like they were twigs and then it stopped. After 10 mins of sitting in silence afraid to even breathe, they left the area, slowly. Returning some days later, they found a large footprint around 20 inches long. 8 inches wide at the top and about 3 inches wide at the bottom.


In these rather extensive examples, one can see, bluff charges and intimidation, with some people, even being chased out of an area. However, what is also quite clear, is that these animals tend to stop short of any physical action against the humans they encounter. One of the important aspects of the Ivy Den Creature encounter is that The 'Ape-man' that chased the children out of the woods, was observed to stop its pursuit when one of the fleeing children fell; indicating that the creature was lacking any real intent to harm; or the Dorking Deepdene Creature, which roared and broke branches in the woods facing two explorers, but remained out of sight, throughout the entire confrontation.

What remains certain, is that for all the doubts about the veracity or plausibility of the witness reports in the British Isles, our sightings are replete with lesser-known behavioural characteristics, that appear throughout other multitudinous and unconnected reports around the globe and testify, against the preference of the paranormal promulgators, to the mundane and physical character of the British Bigfoot.

In part 2 of this series, we will take a look at HOWLS & GROWLS -  WHOOPS & WOODKNOCKS

Written by Andrew McGrath


(Extra special thanks to Deborah Hatswell of the British Bigfoot research organisation and to the witnesses of these extraordinary creatures, for their tireless research and bravery in this little-known area of British Cryptozoology)


For more on Beasts of Britain, check out:


Monday, 8 October 2018

BOB in the USA

"TAXI!!!!!"
Deep in the heart of Surrey, on the outskirts of London, at 4:30am on the 30th August 2018 -  a very tired and wired, fanboy, waits for his taxi to the airport. His first of 9 flights over the next 12 days, and his first transatlantic, on his (mini) speaking tour of the USA, leave at 7:30am; on what will be his first foray into the intellectual world of cryptozoology 'conferences' and merchandising his passion, to the attendees of these events.

I, being of sound mind and having booked my trip on the cheap; have already laid out my travel itinerary, inclusive of flights, taxis, hotels, conferences and backup plans for every eventuality that may occur, but still feel the need to check again, as I arrive at the airport. I read carefully: "Gatwick to Orlando, Orlando to Portland, Maine and then a short taxi to the hotel, with three days accommodation reserved and paid for at the Clarion Hotel, by my lovely host - Mr Loren Coleman." After which, I glance up at the departures board to see that my flight has been cancelled due to an aircraft fault and that I have no chance of making my connecting flight. I call the booking agency. The operator reassures me that they cover every eventuality, books me a new flight, but apologises that I'll have to stay overnight in Orlando, in a 4-star hotel, with a swimming pool, all expenses paid and inclusive of breakfast and a lift to the airport the next morning. I do my best to hide my enthusiasm from the travel agent and politely say, that I will accept the inconvenience. Talk about service! these guys impressed the socks off me!


I arrive at Orlando, make it through customs, after getting a puzzled look from the immigration officer about the reason for my visit (Cryptozoology Lecturer!) and get a taxi to the hotel. To say that I was impressed with my accommodation would be a classic example of the British talent for understatement. The premises, room and service are beyond anything I've ever experienced before.

Looking suspiciously at the pool, at the 'Alligator Hotel',  Florida.
I awake in the morning and check out the pool area and a very suspicious pond (lake) at the back of the hotel, with hammocks and chairs positioned next to a warning sign about 'alligators'. When I ask my hosts what to do if  I see one, they calmly tell me to, run as fast as possible, without looking back, or climb into a tall tree if I'm trapped. Hardly encouraging, but their natural response seems to indicate that this is a normal issue in Florida and that sitting near the pond, is a 'buyer beware' type of situation.

The Alligator symbol negates the necessity for the
'No Swimming' warning, on this sign (IMHO)
After soaking in my beautiful surroundings, I head to the airport and after successfully checking my bags, head over to the TSA line, to go through security. Now, being British and part of a western nation, but also having travelled quite frequently to the Middle East over the past 9 years, one could say that I am more than used to an extra 'layer' of security checks and make an effort to be compliant and transparent with the officers I meet. After all, their job is to keep the plane safe and I am most definitely, 'down with that!'

However, whether because of a cultural aversion Brits have, to answering any question in the affirmative, or rather in a presumptive manner, (basically, we're non-committal); when I step into the scanner and the officer asks me if I have anything in my pockets, I answer: "No, I don't think so". Which, loosely translated in our culture means. "I've checked them and found nothing, but who can be 100% certain about anything?" To which he replied: "Do you or don't you?" and I say: "I don't" and he says: "You didn't sound so sure a moment ago!" and then a 'to & fro' ensues, in which he keeps asking me if I'm sure, to which I finally reply: "Look, you've got me in the scanner, yes? So, do your scan, and then you'll know FOR SURE! if I've got anything in my pockets!" Without going into the details of the aftermath, of this cultural conundrum, of the differing employment of the active and passive voice in our countries; I will simply say that they found nothing in my pockets, and I for my part, like a good guest, pretended not to notice the severity of my pat down and thanked the officers for discharging their duties so professionally.

So, on to Portland, Maine (via Atlanta) for the 3rd Annual Cryptozoology Conference. I arrive well rested and make my way to the Clarion Hotel, which is very lovely, but unfortunately, now visually diminished, due to my unexpected overnight Orlando indulgence. I get up early, get my Merch, (books, banner, T-Shirts, Decals) together, and get in the lift, only to be joined by renowned Bigfoot researcher, professor and documentary 'star' of  Discovering Bigfoot & other notable Bigfoot documentaries, Jeff Meldrum. A light suddenly switches on in my head and a very reasonable voice says: "Whatever you do Andy, don't mention Todd Standing, Jeff probably gets asked all the time and that's not going to earn you Jeff's colleague-ship. Remember, he doesn't want to talk about Todd!) We say our goodbyes, I sip on a machine filter coffee (more about the coffee later) in the hotel lobby, which is being fiercely guarded by Coast to Coast's very own Tim Binnal, force a business card into his hand and head down to the conference, at Thompson's Point, a 5 minute walk away.

International Cryptozoology Museum
In Portland, Maine.
The first face to greet me is the lovely, Colin Schneider, otherwise known as 'The Crypto-Kid'. My reason for liking Colin, apart from his excellent show and research; is because the first time he ever interviewed me, he grilled the life out of me, and only told me he was going to do so, about two minutes before we went live. That kind of honesty and respect, I think, deserves the same in return. Next, I see Loren Coleman, somewhat akin, these days, to the legendary Sasquatch himself, in the mythical standing he has attained in the cryptozoology and paranormal community. His greeting is warm and welcoming and my nerves start to drop away. He jokingly hints that one of my fans (rivals) from the UK has been invited to debate me, and seems pleased with the sudden look of terror in my eyes, which quickly turns into a mutual laugh of realisation, at this funny, but very naughty tease!  I see my table and get busy making it presentable, displaying my wares, as best as I know how, as an 'un-businessman'. Already, I see Jeff and Cryptid Wendigo, set up across from me and beside me Dave McCullough and Jonathan Wilk from Squatchachusettes and On the Trail of Champ documentary maker - Aleksandar Petakov on the other. Panic sets in as I suddenly notice anthropologist/Primatologist, NYU professor, and unwilling star of, 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty, Todd Disotell, approaching me! I begin silently praying that he doesn't ask me any technical questions! We have a brief and friendly chat, he buys my book, which I sign; and leaves to check out the conference....phew! ;)


Happy Hellos with - The Crypto-Kid - Colin Schneider, at
The Third International Cryptozoology Conference

This conference, to Loren's delight and my own, has more female representation than most cryptozoology conferences (Researcher, Hayley Eldridge, Author, Michelle Soulliere, Primatologist - Dawn Prince HughesChamp Lady - Katy Elizabeth) and among them of course, the equally valid and lovely male speakers; who will be making this 2 day event, a learning curve of the most enjoyable inclination.

The first day is filled with lectures, socialising and sales, after which, several of us head out to the centre of Portland to get some of Maine's renowned seafood. Our table consists of Jeff, Katy and Myself, Travis Cartoonist and his daughter Angelina, Colin Schneider and his partner Serena and Aleksandar Petakov. The conversations are both funny and general and I manage not to ask Jeff about Todd Standing, until I hear Katy, asking Jeff: "So who is this Todd That I keep hearing about?" to which I reply: "Katy, I'm sure that Jeff doesn't want to talk about Todd Standing right now" and she says: " Not Todd Standing, Todd Disotell, who's Todd Standing!" I'm then forced to explain to Jeff the promise I made myself not to ask him about Todd Standing, to which he says: "I don't mind talking about Todd, at all" and proceeds to spend the next half hour speaking about their time together. The conversation is both enlightening and reassuringly professional and slowly moves on to the subject of children, of which I have two (girls.) I am shocked to find out that Jeff has 9 children, 7 of whom are boys! My admiration is now shifted from his risk-taking as a tenured professor, in openly researching Bigfoot and I suddenly understand his bravery in this field, as being nothing more than a paltry gesture, when pitted against the responsibility of having 9 children. I start to wonder if his Bigfoot 'obsession', could just be a way of getting out of the house, from time to time. ;)

'Table of Thrones'
Our lovely group, out on the town, in Portland, Maine. 
Jeff's lecture the following day, called, '50 Years of the Patterson/Gimlin Film', is eye-opening, but also reaffirms a benchmark to which we should all adhere, which is; if the PG footage which has never been disproved and cannot be physically emulated, is the benchmark of Bigfoot 'photographic' evidence, then anything (film/photo) below this standard is really, no evidence at all. As a researcher, like many others, who regularly suffers from a type of  'Red Circle PTSD'. I heartily agree with this standard and realise that we in the cryptozoology and Bigfoot community at large, are extremely lacking any evidence as compelling, as this iconic film.

Monday morning comes and I head out to get a coffee and call home, from the hotel car park, where there is good (international) reception. As I'm dialling, I see a smartly dressed woman in her late forties approaching me. She appears to be speaking to me, so I remove my headphones and greet her. The conversation that follows, shows that it is hard to identify 'another country's crazy, through your own cultural lens'. It appears throughout our 5-minute conversation that she is trying to pick me up. I will always remember her opening line: " I've just finished taking cocaine all night with my sister and we were just saying what a beautiful morning it is....so, what are you doing today?" I reply: "I'm leaving town..."

The 'King of Kong' himself,
Cryptozoology Legend - Loren Coleman.

After escaping my suitor, I meet Katy in the lobby, to get ready for our drive to Vermont, to investigate the Lake Champlain Monster. An obsession she has cultivated, for the last 8 years, before finally moving her life and possessions to the Lake, just over a year ago. Before we can leave this part of the country, we head down to New Hampshire, for a promised breakfast goodbye and a look through the private collection of International Fortean Society's, James Boyd. As we pull up next to his lakeside home, we are greeted at the door, by this lively, funny and incredibly knowledgeable elderly gentleman. James has certainly been an adherent of cryptozoology, or more properly, Fortean research for most of his life and his awareness of the myths, legends and cryptids of my country is impressive. He is also a self-proclaimed witness of the Tatzelwurm, which he had witnessed in New Hampshire as a teenager. James saw the creature, running along a dirt road and followed it. He observed it from a close, but safe distance, as it hurriedly tried to burrow its way into the side of a railway embankment. The animal, which he describes as being about 2 feet long, jet black, with single yellow stripes on either side of it, was travelling at an incredible speed, appeared reptilian and did not have any discernible legs. He did not see it's head. In cryptozoological terms, this is a niche claim, and one not reflective of the creatures, that would naturally be included on the general eyewitness menu. James has clearly made the investigation of the unknown a lifelong dedication and although I am sceptical of extraordinary claims, I confess, unusually,  in this instance, that I have no doubts about the veracity of his story.

A small sample of the awesome private collection of Fortean, James Boyd.

We eventually leave the lovely Mr Boyd and hit the road; and after a few hours of searching for anything that resembles a Starbucks or similar 'cappuccino style' coffee outlet along the road, I catch sight of the impressive Adirondacks. Coming from such a small country as Britain, the scale of wilderness takes my breath away and reinforces my feelings about the isolation and habitat that Bigfoot, may have, in which to roam, in parts of the US.

Sunset on Lake Champlain
Arriving in Vermont, I am greeted from afar by the sight of what looks like an inland sea and realise that we are far from the coast. Unsure, I ask Katy if this is Lake Champlain and she seems happy and proud to confirm my question, in the way that I would feel showing a tourist to the UK, Westminster Abbey or Stonehenge. I get out my phone quickly to check its stats, assuming it to be one of the great lakes, next to which Google confirms that it is merely a barely perceptible blip on the map, next to The Great Lakes. However, if you consider that our largest body of water in Britain is Loch Ness at 23 miles long and 1.7 miles wide, the scale of the tiny Lake Champlain at 107 miles long and 14 miles at its widest is unnerving. Katy tells me that although, it looks calm today that it is a dangerous body of water, due to its size and sudden bursts of inclement weather.

We spend the next 4 days on and off the lake, visiting beautiful bays and spots, where she has been successful in sighting the creature and driving around the beautiful country settings in Vermont and New York, finally culminating in a late-night vigil, whereupon we snuck down to Arnold's Bay at night and threw some chicken into the water and waited, with our spotlight and a monocular, for some action. One of Katy's sightings took place at night, at this very spot, whilst was sitting in a car, with a friend. So understandably, my expectations are high. Aware of the possible habituation of this area by the creature and our isolation, our conversation recorded here, is comical in its capturing, of the growing, self-imposed fear, that we seem to be experiencing, in standing next to the blackness of the now; baited water and over examining every splash and rustle that we hear along the shore.

Katy Elizabeth, lets me sit on her 'stoop', at Button Bay
We also visit Button Bay and sit on a hill in Katy's usual spot and a known hotspot for sightings of the monster of Lake Champlain, where she keeps vigil and has spotted the head and looped neck of one of the animals in the water. Katy describes this sighting in detail: as a long neck, with a horse shaped 'reptilian ' head, that came out of the water in button bay. During this particular sighting, she witnessed the animals incredibly flexible neck, looping over itself, showing off its flexibility in near-defiance of the pervading paradigm within palaeontological circles, that even now believes that these animals, if they be, what I believe and the eyewitnesses describe them as being, were unable to lift their necks above water? We also visit Otter Creek, an area where there have been many sightings and where Katy has captured, some unidentified eye-shine on one of her game-cams, strategically place along the path that follows the creek back down towards the lake. The most intricate sighting I hear about is relayed to me by a companion of Katy's, who although of completely sound mind and body is afflicted with one of the most valuable and dangerous attributes a person can possess as a skill, which is an unfiltered and simplistic honesty. This lovely gentleman, who we'll only refer to as Mike, was also seated in a car at Arnold's Bay (location of Katy's night sighting) with a friend when they witnessed a long shape surfacing about 30 feet offshore. The animal, as Mike describes it, was over 20 feet long, greenish-brown in colour, had a bumpy back, and a long neck with a small horse-like head. The creature stayed within watching distance of the two witnesses for a few minutes before submerging. When I asked Mike why he didn't take a photo, he confessed that they were both in awe of what they were seeing and concerned about its proximity to them, to think about taking a picture. This excuse is one of the most common, among witnesses of unusual phenomena, for failure to document their sighting, and in no way indicative of a hoax.

Otter Creek Eyeshine - photo, copyright of Katy Elizabeth
People like Katy who claim to have many sightings are often ridiculed as desperate or attention needy individuals, whose imaginations are either predisposed to seeing what they want to see or to creatively translating various large fish and mammals, or flotsam & jetsam into Cretaceous Creatures; somehow reanimated and transposed into our current epoch. However, having spent just under a week following her daily routine, it is easy to see how those afflicted with a life-changing obsession for the hunt, are better placed than most to witnessing, not only the animals themselves, but with a careful ear to the ground, statistically predicting likely places for a sighting to occur, based upon perceived habits, derived from the overview of  positional sightings, in combination with the topography, ecology and seasonal changes of a large body of water, like Lake Champlain. Although, I do not doubt the passion and veracity of Katy's sightings and research. Along with others, like Steve Feltham of Loch Ness; the relocation of her life to her research area, is indicative of a sink or swim mentality, that can have serious life consequences for the unsuccessful in such an endeavour!  For my part, I wish her and all like her, the success that their dedication deserves!

B.O.B's Merch Perch at CryptidCon
After a busy but beautiful week in Champ's backyard, I pack my bags, thank my host and head on to Burlington Airport, Vermont, for the first of two flights to Kentucky, my transfer being via Philadelphia. contrary to all of my other American airport experiences, which have been very polite and helpful, Philly is reassuringly rude and I suddenly feel a sense of familiarity and relaxation come over me, as though I'm back home in London, its the same as when its damp and rainy in London and I suddenly feel like I'm back in Wales again. Not because damp and rain or abrupt service and rudeness are good, but because they're familiar and comforting. This is something I refer to as 'The Cultural Haggis Theory'. The world knows that Haggis is a disgusting culinary aberration, a blot on the menu of the planet; but to some Scots, it represents a traditional, childhood and therefore, comforting meal and bypasses the taste buds to be a tasty national dish.

Anyway, I digress. I arrive that evening for my 2nd speaking engagement, in the USA at Cryptid Con, a very big event and featuring some of the biggest names in the industry. I grab a cab for the 30-minute drive to Frankfort, the cabbie seems nice and wants to chat, So I start asking him about himself. Unfortunately, again, the cultural lens through which we judge content of character, based upon things like appearance, speech and other verbal cues is diminished in a new environment, and if I am amused that my cabbie is talking himself up in the first 5 minutes of our conversation; I am shortly horrified by the realisation that my driver is 100% batshit crazy!!! Our conversation or his monologue is loosely based upon becoming a cage fighter at the age of 37, whilst holding down two jobs and being the guardian of 6 kids. He has no formal training but is convinced that no one can withstand a hit from him if he just focuses on the tough life he has. I wish him luck in his new endeavour, but unfortunately this does not stem the tide of conversation, for he's not only going to become a cage fighter, but he is going to defeat the infamous Connor MacGregor and thereafter transfer to boxing and achieve what Connor failed to achieve, by defeating Floyd (Lightning Hands) Mayweather!!!!! He sees my doubt, which is hard for me to hide at this point, and justifies his confidence by explaining that his wife, the mother of 3 of his children, ran away with a drug addict and had 3 other children with him and then she and her drug addict partner, ran off and left him, with all 6 kids to raise. His and theirs! That is why he cannot be defeated in a fight, regardless of his opponent's skill or power. I admit to him, that this is a compelling argument and wish him luck. When we finally get to the hotel, I tip him generously and breathe a sigh of relief, when he apologises that he will be unable to pick me up on my return to the airport, Monday.

Taxi Driver: "You looking at me, you look, me?!"
The Plaza Hotel in Frankfort is situated in what appears to be a very quiet town, but its interior is grandiose and welcoming at the same time. I introduce myself to the team, who are welcoming and lovely and I head over to the bar, to drink a get a coke and acclimatize to my new surroundings when I spot Cliff Barackman, Seth Breedlove and a lovely guy named Adam and decide to spend the few minutes before check in with them. In this strange genre, you get used to the names, faces and the chats you have with your fellow researchers, but when meeting them face to face, you are suddenly confronted with the reality of familiarity, without actually knowing the someone, with whom you are acquainted, through talk or TV. The guys are very welcoming and do a good job of overlooking my nervousness, in the few minutes we share this space.

Cliff: "Security!!!"
The next day I rise early and head down to the dining room to a warm reception, Ronald Murphy and family. The Pairo'normal guys, Jesse James Durdel and co. and a host of lovely speakers, vendors and fans crowd the breakfast bar and each booth is filled with friendly, sleepy chatter. On to the vendor's hall, I remember Bobo walking over to me and saying, "Hey, it's Beasts of Britain!" I look genuinely shocked and secretly hopeful, that he does know me and it's more than just good conference manners on his part...and the big sign on my stall with my name on it, of course! I embark upon a blurry 2 days, filled with chats, sales, interviews and talks given by Cliff Barackman and Derek Hayes, Travis Walton, David Paulides, Linda Godfrey, Ronald Murphy, M.J.Dickson  and many, many other moreseome awesomes!

We finally come to my own talk. I arrive early and spend the next 20 minutes warming up with a few people who've stayed on since the last lecture and finally see the lights go down and embark upon the many wonders of the Beasts of Britain, which somehow now don't seem to belong to me, but feel as though I'm 'jumping somebody else's train!' I remember my own home-peeps, who've stuck by me and advised me throughout this two-year roller-coaster of research, writing and interviews and wonder if they could come and fill in for me for an hour until my nerves go??? In a moment my fear drops, before I can stop myself, I open my mouth to talk and for the first time in my life, hear my voice as it sounds to the ears of my audience....truly English! Talk done, products sold and on to party time! There is a wonderful atmosphere, lots of dancing and, oh no...Karaoke!!! My fears are quickly allayed by the rock and rap karaoke playlist I'm hearing and that my co-delegates, like myself all seem to be former musicians. I eventually succumb to the 'have a go hype' and get up to sing Radiohead's - Creep. How did I do?...well, I got to do an encore, but that could just mean that Americans are polite!

"Ummm, What Monsters???"
The day is over, I pack my bags and head down to the restaurant to find the lovely She -Squatchers, Jen & Jena, who have promised me a dinner date, but Kentucky closes early on a Sunday, so we order a few pizzas. We are joined later by Cliff and Travis, and I find myself out of body (symbolically), looking down on this motley crew of conversations and personalities. Jena is talking to Travis about her near death experience, Cliff is fielding my questions about Dogman and Jen is talking about remote viewing Sasquatch habituation sites, when suddenly we all stop to listen to something important that Travis has to say, which turns out to be, that his youngest son is freakishly strong, even though he looks very weedy and slim? This comment drags me back to earth and reminds me that we are, after all, just people, with regular lives, concerns and families; that are far more interesting than these alternative 'careers' , that we have fallen into.

The impression this trip has left on me is that, there are very few successful people in this 'genre', and that even the biggest of them, are not pampered, but man their own desks and sell their own merchandise, face to face. Others, who are stationed and 'locationed' at alleged cryptid habituation sites around the world (Lake Champlain/Loch Ness etc,) pay more for their interest than they are paid, always hand over fist, in every case! I have to ask myself, do I want this life without reward, or with the reward of ridicule if I present proof of a cryptid? I'd say no! yet, something that is inherent in the moreishness of mystery is also present in cryptozoology; that keeps us watching, waiting and writing about these allegedly, undiscovered animals, of the great unknown.

Extra Hot, Double Shot, 
Mocha with Cream!

Deep in the heart of  Kentucky at 4:30am, the following morning. A very tired and wired, fanboy, hails a taxi to the airport, to complete his second transatlantic trip, at the end of his (mini) tour of the USA! His assessment of Americans, in general, is that they are good people. Polite and open-minded, welcoming and eager to meet strangers from distant lands.

If I could change anything about this beautiful tree filled country of endless landscapes, cultures and customs, it would only be one thing..... it's coffee! Living on the shelf of Europe, and being a regular London commuter, I have not drunk anything but barista made, Italian style coffee for the last 20 years, and filter coffee, vanilla or otherwise, just can't compare, to our extra milky, double shot, whipped & creamy, Italian fayre.... in a takeaway cup!

A fond farewell America, I bid adieu to you, see you next year!!!

Written By Andrew McGrath


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