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Saturday, 3 August 2019

CATS IN THE CRADLE


Nocturnal Isolation
The most commonly held theory about the presence of Big Cats in Britain is that they were released by exotic pet owners, shortly before the introduction of the 'Dangerous Wild Animals Act, 1976’, (which was introduced to regulate the disquieting trend in the late 60s and early 70s, of keeping dangerous, exotic and hybrid, status animals), and have since gone on to thrive, in what is largely an island of cattle and countryside, overflowing with easy prey species which are officially, lacking any large, natural predators. Britain is, for the most part, an island in darkness; dotted with poorly lit villages and dimly illuminated towns. Even its large cities are crisscrossed with green corridors and wooded outposts full of cover, where a nocturnal and elusive animal could easily hide out after dark. So, how do we examine this Big Cat problem? Unlike most cryptids, we are at least certain of the existence of these animals, it's just that they are not supposed to exist here, in Britain!

Living in Symbiosis
Unfortunately, the introduction of the DWA act would seem to have had the opposite of the desired effect, of keeping the population of these animals under strict control.

In Section 3 (c) & (f) of the act, we can read the requirement that:

(c) any animal concerned will at all times of its being kept only under the authority of the licence — (i) be held in accommodation which secures that the animal will not escape, which is suitable as regards construction, size, temperature, lighting, ventilation, drainage and cleanliness and which is suitable for the number of animals proposed to be held in the accommodation.

(f) While any animal concerned is at the premises where it will normally be held, its accommodation is such that it can take adequate exercise.

Sadly, it is these two particular stipulations that I believe, would have had the greatest impact upon owners of Big Cats. The costs of providing both an adequate enclosure to comfortably house and allow for the adequate exercise of such energetic and powerful animals, in near zoo-like conditions would have been prohibitive for everyone, except the financially well endowed. Thus it makes sense that owners would have released these animals into the wild. These reckless or perhaps desperate, owners, were simply unable to foot the bill and released their pets, either believing that they would perish or be protected, by their largely nocturnal habits and the isolation of their rural settings.

In retrospect, it may have made sense to provide an easy way out for these owners, in the form of agreements with local zoos and wildlife parks to take any unwanted animals, or for local authorities to provide initial subsidies to existing owners, caught out by this change in circumstance. But that does not seem to have been the case.

Historically, Norfolk, Suffolk, Devon and Cornwall seem to have had the largest concentration of sightings, but that is no longer the rule. Sightings are countrywide and are reported so frequently, that it has become a full-time job just trying to keep track of them. The most frequently sighted species are large black cats, most likely melanistic leopards, with the second most sighted, likely being pumas (mountain lions), with many witnesses describing a large cat with a tawny or silver-grey colouration.  

As we are now in the early part of the 5th decade since the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, 1976, was introduced and these animals have a maximum lifespan of 13 years for the puma and 17 years for the leopard; there should be no doubt that the cats' people are now seeing, are the descendants of these original exotic pets. There have even been sightings of Big Cats with cubs, yet more proof, if any were needed; that the animals are surviving quite comfortably in our land of fields and felids.

When it comes to this particular 'British Cryptid', or perhaps we should say, more properly, 'Out of Place Animal', there are simply too many significant sightings to recount here. The accounts of Big Cats are in fact so numerous, that I am certain several books consisting solely of eyewitness reports, could be written on the subject and yet still leave a wealth of untapped original reports for other authors to research.  

Initially, when I began writing this book, I made a social media appeal for people who had witnessed any unusual animals, asking them to send me their stories. As one might imagine, I received countless Big Cat stories and little much else! Our national and local newspapers are replete with big cat stories and anyone with the patience to surf a few websites, will easily find myriad reports to choose from and researchers engaged in the hunt for this elusive invader. But, in order to exhibit here, this bountiful treasure trove of anecdotal animals roaming throughout our land, I intend for the most part, only to include sightings that have been reported to me directly. In fact, you will not find the following reports in other books or in any newspapers. Alarmingly, what they represent to me is a ticking time bomb or an incident in waiting; whilst we continue to deny on a governmental level, that we now have several, large, native predators; that are for want of a better word – home-grown!

Sightings

THE FINEDON LION
This sighting was related to me by a resident of Finedon, a small town of just over 4,300 people, set amidst the beautiful countryside of Northamptonshire. Although there is extensive rural landscape surrounding the town, it is worth noting that the animal he witnessed in the late summer of 2009, would have had to traverse a populated and very urban part of the town, in order to find itself in his back garden.

“It was late summer and I had gone out to take the laundry off the line. As it happens, I was taking clothes off pegs and was facing the rear of the garden. I suddenly caught movement in the background. On the right-hand side of the garden as I was looking at it, was the very tip of something tan coloured and although I only saw it extremely briefly, the colour was very distinct, as it flashed behind a big black water barrel that was there at the time. Almost immediately, I saw movement again. Something was clearly behind that barrel.

I continued to look and what must have been a few seconds later, I saw a creature take two leaps across the width of the garden, followed by an almost vertical jump to the top of a 6-foot fence panel, at the rear left-hand side. The fence swayed 2-3 times under its weight and then the creature jumped down into the neighbouring garden.

Three thoughts went through my mind as I was watching all this. I remember them clearly. These three things were:

·         There is a boxer dog, in my back yard!
·         Boxers don't have long tails?
·         Boxers don't jump on fences!

I remember those exact thoughts as if they happened yesterday. I remember the fear setting in immediately, as my mind finally made a connection between what I saw moments before and the cougars I had seen in films and documentaries throughout my life. I remember running into the house with whatever clothes I already had in my hands and locking the door. I remember shouting incoherently at my wife, running up to the upstairs bedroom that overlooked the back garden and trying to catch a glimpse of it again. For the next couple of weeks, I did not venture into my back garden at night and when I went there in the day, I carried a very big knife on me.”

THE CASUAL BIG CAT OF RUSPER
Two incredulous witnesses observed a Big Cat at around 9:30pm, on Monday 27th November 2017, in Rusper, West Sussex, whilst collecting a hay consignment from a local farm. After loading the hay on to their vehicle, they were just about to leave the property, when one of the witnesses briefly jumped out of the car to close the farm gate. As she made her way back to the vehicle, both she and her friend clearly saw, illuminated by their headlights, an enormous jet-black cat walking towards them and looking at them intently. When the animal was about a 'bus length away' (45 feet!), it stopped and licked its nose, before casually disappearing into a hedgerow.  The witness, amazed by the sight of this creature, says that there can be no mistaking what she saw and said of the animal: "It was huge and its big eyes were shining back at us. It was unnerving, to say the least. It didn't seem bothered by us at all. I had no idea at all that we had big cats in this country!!" She further described the creature saying: "It was about the size of a Great Dane, but much, much heavier built and definitely male. When it turned, I could see its body was around 4ft long and its tail was around 3ft long. The tail wasn't straight and almost touched the ground, even though it curved at the end. The thickness of its tail was approximately as thick around as my wrist and its legs were, well, stocky, thick or 'good boned' as we would say in horse terms. It had a slinky walk for its size, moving effortlessly. Its ears were also strange, they were not pointed but round”.

THE LEOPARD OF LLANDUDNO
This sighting was related directly to me via social media and of the many reported sightings I received, this particular one stood out as an unusual and slightly comical sighting.

"My name is Terry Brown and I once saw a black leopard on a north Wales beach, while fishing with my son. It was just after first light, so there was good visibility. We saw a leopard stalking in sand dunes close by and watched it until it suddenly spotted us, then we ran like crazy! I even overtook my son! Looking back as we ran, I noticed that it ran the same way, which was scary! It must have thought we were fair game; it was literally 100 metres away. We got back to the car carrying 50lb of fishing gear in record time! This sighting was in 1998 and I and my son still laugh about how I overtook him. I did report it at the time, as I was worried about people getting mauled, but the police just laughed at me, so I've not talked about it since. I've kept the location to myself for fear of people wanting to kill (or hunt) this marvellous animal."

AVEBURY, BIG CAT & CUB
One of the sticking points in Big Cat research is the absence of credible reports of adults with young cubs. This incredible sighting, which occurred near the Avebury Stone Circle, in Wiltshire; fills that gap very neatly and illustrates a very natural mother and cub interaction:

“My sighting was in early August 2012, in Wiltshire; not too far from Avebury stone circle. I had decided, as I don't live so far away that I would take my dogs there for a walk and make a day of it. I had parked near the white horse and I was on a country path that went towards an old Iron Age settlement. I was the only person around the path and was at the top of a hill, so I had a good view down in front of me. It was then that I noticed two black things moving around on a grassy patch by some trees, next to the edge of a field. One was smaller than the other and it sat watching the bigger one, which was pouncing around in the grass trying to catch something. After a while, the larger one just started to walk away along the edge of the cornfield, away from me. The smaller one jumped to its feet and chased after it. They walked the edge of the field, until out of sight. It was a huge black cat and a cub. It had a long tail and it scared me. I turned around and walked back to the car after that.”

BIG CAT OF HOLLYM
This sighting took place in Hollym, in East Yorkshire (Coast) somewhere between April and May of 2002 and is a good example of the boldness that some of these animals are starting to display towards people and vehicles; which may go some way to explaining, the steady increase in sightings over the last 20 years!

“At the time of my sighting, I was living in Withernsea – a small seaside town on the East coast of Yorkshire and working at a bakery in Hull and as such was getting up fairly early and driving to work. The next village is Hollym, it has a crossroads and it was further down the road from this that, as I drove along, I saw a huge black cat, appear at the side of the road next to the hedge. It was casually walking (slowly) across the road, from my right to left – it was massive!
It was not bothered about me or my Ford Escort whatsoever, It almost stopped halfway over the road and looked over towards me, as if to say:, ‘I’m a big black cat! –whatcha gonna do?’ I couldn’t believe my eyes, all the hairs on my body were standing in shock, it was beautiful and freaky at the same time and I was thoroughly amazed and couldn’t stop thinking about it for ages. As I got further down the road, it simply went in, under the hedgerow and disappeared.”

THE PRESELI PANTHER 
Witnessed in 1999, by the sister of an ex-girlfriend. After an afternoon visiting a friend in a nearby farm, our witness was riding her horse home over the Preseli Mountains in West Wales, when she stopped briefly to rest and look back towards the farm, she had just left. Usually a sceptical person, she was very surprised to see a large black cat with small ears and a long tail, about the size of an Alsatian dog, chasing sheep in the field next to the farm. Seeing that the creature had a predatory demeanour, she became afraid and quickly rode home.

THE CRYMYCH CAT 
Another big cat sighting took place outside a home in which I was staying, in the lovely village of Crymych, West Wales on Christmas morning around 5am, in 1999. A guest of my host, a lady in her mid-50's and a smoker, was enjoying a cigarette on the front porch, when she suddenly noticed a large black cat, resembling a panther, staring at her out of the darkness just 15 feet away. She watched the animal for about 30 seconds before it melted away into the undergrowth. She was understandably in a state of shock at what she had seen and for obvious reasons decided not to join our impromptu Big Cat hunt later that day.  I personally have a lot of trust in the veracity of both this and the Preseli Panther sighting. Both persons were known to me and had no interest in or awareness of the Big Cat phenomenon, at the time. They both gave corroborative descriptions of the animal they had witnessed and I think it can quite confidently be asserted that either they witnessed either the same animal or the same species of animal, on both occasions.

THE SANDY COLOURED STALKER 
This sighting was passed to me by a roadie of one of my former bands, back in the late 90's; after he had witnessed a sandy coloured, large cat that resembled a puma; on a Devonshire beach one night. The animal approached him and his friends, just stopping short of the headlights of their car. The animal quietly observed them for around 30 seconds, before disappearing into the darkness.  

THE DEVONSHIRE DOG CATCHER 
Another Devonshire encounter, with one of these mystery big cats was related to me by an ex-flatmate in the year 2000. He was living in a small village in rural Devon and was walking his dog one summer evening at twilight, when he became aware of a black shape in the tree line moving towards them. At first, he thought he was looking at another dog, but due to its size, quickly realised that he was being stalked by what appeared to be a large black panther. He quickly ran with his dog back to his home, which was close by, and secured himself and his dog inside. He stated that he believed that the creature was stalking his dog and not him, but was fearful of what could have transpired if he had not escaped, due to the animal's size.

Under Our Nose
These sightings are just the tip of a very large iceberg. Even though there were an astounding 460 reported sightings logged by police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2016, it is estimated that there are around 2,000 sightings each year in the UK, many of which go unreported, due to fear of ridicule. This extremely high number of reports and sightings would seem to defy the efforts of any sceptic to deny the presence of Big Cats living in our midst.  I would expect that anyone examining the wealth of evidence pertaining to the presence of these creatures here in the UK, presented through photographs, film, eyewitness reports, tracks, livestock kills and other signs of habituation would seriously reconsider their position on this very exciting subject.

We live in a land of plenty, for such skilled predators as Big Cats. A land that offers many places to nest and hide, filled with livestock, deer and many smaller species that could sustain quite a healthy population of these 'Out of Place Animals'. In our present era, many still believe that these sightings are cases of mistaken identity, perhaps large dogs or deer seen in poor light, or even an occasional zoo escapee; but for our children, I believe that Big Cats will be an accepted and natural part of the fauna of the British Isles.


Written By Andrew McGrath

'Cats in the Cradle' is an excerpt from my book - Beasts of Britain -  available here!

For more on Beasts of Britain, go to: -
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Wednesday, 24 July 2019

OPERATION DEEPSCAN

Steve Ravenhill & Family aboard the New Atlantis in 1987
Operation Deepscan was the brainchild of Adrian Shine, a marine biologist, lifelong Nessie researcher and hopeful sceptic. The leader of the Loch Ness project, in cooperation with Darrell Laurence the head of a U.S. company, Laurence Electronics; organised a sonar hunt for the elusive creature of Loch Ness, which would utilise 24 boats fitted with Laurence X-16 sonar units, which had a range of 1300ft and could target objects as small as 1ft long. It commenced on October the 9th 1987 and was at the time, the largest sonar investigation of any body of water anywhere in the world.

24 sonar equipped boats set off from the new clansman hotel witnessed by 250 journalists, 20 television crews and countless spectators from all over the world, who turned up to see this momentous search for the creatures of Loch Ness. Adrian Shine, who addressed the volunteers that day,
asked that they do it for, "all the maligned eyewitnesses who look to you for vindication."


On the first day, 3 strong sonar contacts were recorded from 78 metres (256ft) to 180 metres (590ft). The best of these was made just off Whitefield, opposite Urquhart Bay. Darrell Laurence said that "All the contacts made were larger than a shark but smaller than a whale", and Adrian Shine, leader of the Loch Ness Project, said that in his opinion, "All 3 targets were unlike those which could be expected from the lochs known inhabitants, like salmon, eels or shoals of char", and that they were, "Deep midwater contacts of considerable strength."

However, later, in what appeared to be a partial recantation or at least a more realistic appraisal of the contacts, Adrian speculated, based on size, that they might be seals which had entered the loch! (Of course, it goes without saying that the discovery of a seal capable of growing to a size somewhere between that of a large shark and a small whale, would also be an amazing discovery!)

Somewhat reassuringly, the following day, some of the sonar equipped boats returned to the location, but no further contacts were made, indicating that these anomalous sonar contacts must have been moving midwater targets and not stationary objects.

Nevertheless, the rest of the operation passed without any significant findings and it was largely tabled by the media as a flop and lauded by the scientific community, as proof of the 'non-existence' of the fabled creatures of Loch Ness.

In May of 2017, I was fortunate enough to catch up with Steve Ravenhill, who took part in Operation Deepscan, aboard a vessel named ‘New Atlantis’. Steve Ravenhill was a lifelong fan of Nessie and friends and actively kept abreast of the latest in lake monster lore from his retirement home in Columbia, where he sadly died, early this year.

What follows is an account of this event in Loch Ness history, from a first-hand observer and active participant in this extraordinary expedition!

OPERATION DEEPSCAN


B.O.B: "How did you become involved in Operation Deepscan?"

Steve: "I have been interested in Loch Ness since I was a boy, now many years ago! I first visited the loch in either 1970 or 71. I know that because the LNPIB was still open. I have been there many times since, either staying in a local hotel or renting a boat from Jim Hogan at Caley Cruisers. In Sept 87, I was going back up and Jim informed me that New
Atlantis was available for 2 weeks. I jumped at the chance and rented it for 2 weeks! I took my mother, father, then-wife and her mother; and had a great time learning how to use the sonar. I showed some of my sonar readings to Jim, he asked me to interpret them, which I duly did! He said he was very impressed, said I had a natural aptitude for sonar and told me about ‘Deepscan’ and invited me to join the crew of Atlantis. I accepted and that’s how I got involved!"


B.O.B: "What role did you fulfil in the investigation?"

Steve: "The role of Atlantis was to operate in a support capacity to the main fleet and to verify any contact they might have! I personally took on a lot of the driving and the side scan. We also went off on our own for a bit of, off the record poking around, mostly around Urquhart bay and down by the horseshoe scree."

B.O.B: "Was there ever any discussion about possible sonar contacts that were too ambiguous to be proof?"

Steve: "I can't remember any specific discussion about sonar contact but yes, there must have been some! Plenty of discussion (argument) about the Dinsdale film and various photos!"

B.O.B: "Did you feel that Adrian Shine and company wanted to prove or disprove the existence of the monster?"

Steve: "Adrian always played down the monster hunt side of ‘Deepscan’, but I remember his speech saying, 'we must go out and vindicate the many eyewitnesses', so there was a public side and a private side! I do remember Dick Raynor and a story about some giant eels seen by the Foyers Power Station. As you must know, both of them now go for the big fish theory! David Martin never has believed, Alistair Boyd did not believe, but then he had a hump sighting and now I think he does!"

B.O.B: "Do you believe there is now or has ever been anything like Nessie in the Loch?"
Steve: "Yes I do believe there is something unexplained in loch Ness, I have spoken to eyewitnesses and personally witnessed one deepwater sonar contact as it happened. What the creature is I cannot say, but I do not think there is any 1 theory that covers all the reported sightings! A fish cannot explain the head and neck, as an eel cannot explain the humps!"

B.O.B: "Do you think that Nessie/s live in the Loch all year round, or do you think they travel between the Lochs and the sea?"

Steve: "I don't think they migrate to and from the loch, because any connection from the loch to the sea large enough for these animals to use would be far more obvious! I have just remembered one incident involving one of the boats in the line! They reported over the radio, a deep water rising directly beneath it, from around 400 to 500 feet! We were some distance away and proceeded towards them as fast as we could when suddenly the boat shot forward fearing a collision with the contact! Then contact was broken and by the time we arrived, we were unable to regain or verify contact. I don't think this incident was ever reported."

DEEPSCAN'S DEEPSCAM


B.O.B:
"Do you think that Operation Deepscan was proof that no large Nessie-like creatures live in the Loch?"

Steve: "Don't forget Deepscan never covered all of the loch, only about half, or 60% or so! Think about it! Neither end of the loch was covered, none of the bays were covered and because a lot of the volunteers were inexperienced boat drivers, it was deemed too dangerous to go too close to the sides, especially at the southwest end! Many of the drivers had a struggle just keeping in a straight line without crashing into each other! The loch is pitch black from 6 to 7 feet down, so eyes would be pretty much useless! If they are sensitive to sonar, then Deepscan must have been deafening and they probably pissed off up the other end of the Loch! No wonder we didn't find anything! As well as not covering the ends, and the sides and bays of the loch, there were also gaps in the sonar curtain itself, because the line abreast soon fell apart! Add to that the fact that because there were so many sonars pinging away they interfered with each other and had to be set to the lowest sensitivity level, it was always unlikely there would be any contacts at all! Put yourself in the position of one of these creatures! You are swimming along looking for your dinner, then there is this almighty racket that scares you witless! What would you do? Getaway as far as possible? Find a nice little hidey-hole? You certainly wouldn't hang around to see what's going on!   Alex Campbell, the former water bailiff of Loch Ness, once reported witnessing one of the creatures reacting scared to the sound of an approaching ships engine and diving before it came in to view!"

THE AFTERMATH OF DEEPSCAN


B.O.B:
"Do you believe that Deepscan was a success for the sceptics or believers in Nessie?"

Steve: "Deepscan, What did it achieve? Bluntly, not a lot! 3 deep water contacts? Nothing new there! There was already a good few since around 1982 and Deepscan did not add anything to help solve what they are. We debunked the Rhines gargoyle head photo, Yes! But that was already known and I don't think Adrian Shine had anything else to give to a packed, expectant press conference, but that is just my opinion! It raised a few people’s profiles and made a few local businesses a lot of money! For a week we were followed continually by press and TV looking for interviews. But being a quiet, shy chap, I ran a mile. There were a few of the more prominent 'faces' who saw it as a giant ego trip, sorry no names!"

"That’s about it! Will the mystery ever be solved? No, I don't think so!"


A SHALLOW SUCCESS


At the time, this gargantuan operation was painted as the final 'nail in the coffin' for the mystery of Loch Ness, its aim to disprove (or prove) emphatically, whether any large creature existed in this large and intransigent body of water. The sonar 'net' set by this operation should certainly have captured any large, errant creatures in The Loch and of course, if the 'net' came up empty, then the conclusion that the monsters existed only in the realm of fantasy, or were a mere histrionic frail brained fallacy, would be implicit!

Aside from those initial sonar contacts on the first day of this expedition, nothing further was found. But, as can be seen in the comprehensive trip down memory lane, afforded us by Steve Ravenhill, the mission was not really equipped to find anything significant, due to its being, in composition, fatally oversized and under-skilled. These flaws, coupled with the low sonar intensity, (due to overlap with the other vessels), and up to 40 % of the Loch remaining untouched (including the bays and the sides of the Loch) due to safety concerns; would indicate that the operation was doomed to failure, in lieu of its experimental nature and unnavigable topographical dilemmas.

It is of course, always easy to speculate on the Shudda, cudda, wudda's, with the benefit of hindsight! But perhaps, the operation was not as cut and dry as it was sold to be. In any plan of a prospective nature, there will always be technical issues that are difficult to foresee.

So again, Nessie resists all attempts to be recognized and become a permanent resident of the British Isles! (Joking aside, she was recently refused British residency by the home office, in reply to a somewhat comical campaign to have her naturalized, as part of the Brexit campaign!)

However, when it comes to believing the 'facts' about the creatures that are said to inhabit Loch Ness and other cryptids locales around the world, a little faith, admittedly, can be dangerously stretched, to transform sticks into sea serpents and bears into Bigfoot. However, a lack of faith also can wash over the most blatant evidence, making even the most extraordinary sightings out to be, the experience of frail brains and fraudulent men! A bit of balance on both sides, 'Sceptic' & 'Believer', would certainly be beneficial if any progress is to be made, in finding, cataloguing and more importantly; protecting these elusive beasts, that have survived 'extinction' to make our little island an an altogether more interesting and magical place!

Written by Andrew McGrath


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Sunday, 14 July 2019

WAITING FOR AN ALIBI

Whilst trawling through some recent photos of pareidolia faces in bushes, funny stick shapes, serpentine bow waves, plesiosaurid looking logs and other bits of so-called, 'evidence' online, I suddenly had a moment of clarity...
Paredoilia - Thom Quine
[CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

In a flash, I saw myself from above; earnestly peering down at these peevish and cynically presented photos, as though staring at these magic eye mysteries might manifest my desired monster and prove once and for all that it pays to be among the faithful!

But alas, no! What I in fact saw, was nothing more than the manifestation of a moribund pseudo-religious projection of a guru-esque self-validating science, that had insidiously inserted faith into what should otherwise be an enterprise based upon a factual foundation!  

I wondered, how did we get here? Was the mainstream media commercialisation of cryptozoology responsible or more likely, our current love of likes, AdWords and donate now buttons, that keep the research going, but inevitably create a demand for 'daily evidence' that could never possibly be morally fulfilled.

Historically, human encounters with the alleged 'undiscovered animals' of our world are rare, even for those peoples who inhabit the locales of these supposed beasts, who might only be lucky enough to get one glimpse in an entire lifetime, often spent living within the borders of its monstrous lair! 

So, by definition, a regular communication with the local 'Forest People' or an ability to magically raise the 'Monster from the Lake', should be regarded as nothing more than what it claims to be - Which is a bawdy slight of hand, akin to men who wear capes and pull rabbits out of hats, at children's parties!

Of course, I do not mean to say that there is no evidence, for certainly there have been myriad examples of footprints, film and faeces, that are somewhat hard to refute; but, as far as a running commentary on an ever-increasing pillar of proof is concerned, well let's just say that 'likes' are not currently trusted as good empirical evidence.

So, is there a future for us? More importantly, will we ever attain a credible standing where it counts most - among those professionally engaged in mainstream Life Science? I think not!

Nevertheless, the fringe is there for a reason, to absorb the reputational risk that others are unwilling or unable to take and hopefully, in taking that big leap, to discover something new & hitherto unknown to science.

If we are to honour this call, we must self-police, self school and become self-made citizen scientists, intolerant of our own confirmation bias, as all, but the most brutal sceptic would be.  

Cryptozoology is an exciting arena, filled with curiosity and populated largely with an earnest desire to prove the impossible and add more to the wonder of our world - let's keep it that way!

By Andrew McGrath


For more on Beasts of Britain - Check Out!


Friday, 5 July 2019

DOGGERLAND

In Ancient times a land stretched between Britain and Continental Europe.

This stretch of forgotten territory, called Doggerland, was first discovered in the 20th century, when fishing trawlers began to drag up remains of Deer, Mammoth, Lion, and prehistoric tools and weapons, just east of 'The Wash'.
A hypothetical map of the now submerged Doggerland, 
that once connected Britain to Continental Europe. 
(copyright - Bryony Coles and Vince Gaffney)  

Archaeologists and anthropologists believe the Doggerlanders were hunter-gatherers who migrated with the seasons, fishing, hunting and foraging for food such as hazelnuts and berries.

However, this landmass was submerged by rising sea levels sometime around 6500BC, at a time when the peoples who inhabited these nations, were distinct from those who now call this island home. Throughout the ages, stories were told and depictions were carved, embroidered and chiselled into our heraldry and woven into the folklore of our island, of the European Wildman.

Known by many names, the Wildman or more properly, the Woodwose, has occupied our superstition and our artwork since at least, the 12th century and even appears as a surname around that time in the form of 'Wudewuse'.

Is it possible that when the seas liquidated the land bridge known as Doggerland, these wildmen sought refuge in remote areas of Great Britain, now cut off from their continental cousins, forever?

We know for a fact that large apex predators once roamed our island and even until comparatively recent times, bears and wolves hunted in or forests and hills, and yet these beautiful beasts did not arrive in Britain by sea but were native to the land. A land that was once connected to the European continent.

So what does this legend have to do with our misperceived overpopulation of concrete Britain? Well, what it offers is plausibility to the theory of how the Wildman or Wodewose arrived on our Island via Europe, whilst removing the significant maritime impediment that has been levied against it.

There are currently over 500 contemporary sightings, of a being that closely parallels the medieval descriptions of the European Wildman - or as it's now commonly known - The British Bigfoot!

Written by Andrew McGrath


For more on Beasts of Britain - Check Out!





Tuesday, 2 July 2019

THE AYRSHIRE FOREST GIANT!



I recently learned of a strange event which took place in the vicinity of Balminnoch Farm, Kirkmichael Rd, near the hamlet of Straiton, Ayrshire, sometime around the 18th or 19th April, this year.

Two men were out hunting in the forest behind Balminnoch Farm, at approximately 11pm when they both came running out of the woods in a very frightened state. Both men believed that they had witnessed a large looming, bipedal figure, very dark in colour and possibly around 9 feet tall!

Bigfoot researcher, Robert Shankland, who initially received the report from a 2nd hand source, visited the location and was met by a local farmer, who greeted him saying, " I know what you’re going to ask me about, so you start talking and I'll tell you if it's about the same thing ".

He then went on to confirm that the story was legitimate and that, it was in actual fact, his own daughter's house that the two men had run to in their panic, banging on the door until she opened it.

The farmer phoned his daughter, (who was in work at the time) who then proceeded to tell Robert that, "The witnesses came running out of the woods like two wee frightened schoolgirls!"  and were in, "A very agitated and nervous state indeed!” 

One of the men, in particular, was, “Very, very scared, of something they had both just seen in the forest.” She also said that the men claimed to have seen something in the forest that was, “On two legs, bipedal, very big & looming.”

Balminnoch Woods is a sizable area, with a small loch to the North, located in The area of Straiton, on the Galloway Forest Park boundary, in which there was a large forest fire, a short time before this sighting occurred, which damaged 5 miles of woodland! 

This particular area has become synonymous with possible Bigfoot activity, where our valued correspondent, Robert Shankland, has found several unusual prints and other anomalies.

Scotland is a vast and pristine nation that boasts a trifling 1.9% of its landmass devoted to urban sprawl. If a Bigfoot-like creature were to endure here in the UK and resist our best attempts to capture and catalogue it, I can think of no more remote a realm in our beautiful isles, than there!

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

BIGFOOT, BOOZE & BREXIT!

As we Brits edge ever closer to saying our never-ending farewell to the EU, the average person on the street, may be left wondering what in our country will change and what will stay the same.

Will food prices rise? Will there be a shortage of hot European Baristas serving us our coffee on the way to work every morning? More importantly, will alcohol prices rise so steeply that we'll be forced to start drinking our own beer again!? - Oh, the humanity!!! 

Whatever the outcome and the eternal societal divide that follows, between those mutually accused nationalist xenophobes on the one side and capitulating communists on the other; plus a possible snap election, featuring a landslide win for that wreath laying friend of terror and scourge of the Shul - Corbyn and his anti-capitalist renationalised economy of doom; we will no doubt remain in our character, typically British, in our stalwart denial of reality and mental opposition to conspiratorial musings!

This enduring character of ours, that has stiff upper lipped its way through numerous foreign invasions, 54 international occupations (officially), two world wars, the dissolution of its empire and consequent sell-off into the European superstate, will not be cowed by being removed from the EU's Friday after work drinks, Whatsapp group and is more than happy, happier even, to drink alone!

So, what has any of this to do with Bigfoot? or Nessie? Or big cats? Or any other unusual British Cryptid? Nothing I guess, other than its representation of the British dislike of drama and disdain for modern tales of the corporeal unknown. For, as a society we deemed long ago in the age of exploration, reason, industry et al. That there was nothing we had not discovered, nothing that we did not already know and in especial, in regards to our own backyard, nothing of the material that could have remained hidden from our analytical gaze!

This sustaining arrogance, both mentally protects us against hardship and blinds us to innovation and the what-ifs and maybes that propel the other peoples of the world, many of whom we once ruled and industrialised, to ever greater heights of exploration than we could have ever dreamt of.

To my fellow countrymen, questions, such as those below, are easily answered:

  • Is there a British Bigfoot - Certainly not! 
  • Does Nessie exist - Who cares?! 
  • Are Big Cats roaming the British countryside? - Get real!  People are seeing nothing more than overfed house cats

The World changes, yet we British stay the same! Unknowing, uncaring and unconcerned! Possessing an unassailable battery of psychological barriers, which are nationally available and can be summoned at will by the common man, to dispense with any form of senseless hokum!

With heads buried as deep as these, we will unquestionably weather and probably last forever! 


Written by Andrew M. L. McGrath
(Author of Beasts of Britain)


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Monday, 3 June 2019

STICKS AND STONES!


An ‘A Glyph’ found in Irwell Park, Salford in 2017.
Photo by Andrew McGrath
‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me!’  - Isn’t that how the old proverb goes? A once powerful retort, invoked by children everywhere to the vocal bully, who, in those innocent days of childhood to which we once belonged, could be stopped in his tracks or made mute and immobilised, by this most cunning of all comebacks, right? But, as adults, or grown olds, we actually experience the reverse, in that, names or more precisely, our name or reputation, can, in fact, hurt us. Ironically, far more than sticks and stones ever could.

When entering the house of cryptozoology, one might think that your reputation should be left at the door, but this could not be further from the truth! This fringe discipline, often clinging on to the edge of methodical principles, is largely tenanted by laymen, who must somehow compete for the attention of professors in the highly regimented and recognised realm of the scientific sphere; where the practice of systematic observation, measurement, experiment, and the formulation, testing and modification of hypotheses, are prerequisite to acceptance!

With this in mind, we creep carefully into the minefield of sticks and stones or, Bigfoot Sign, as some would classify them. One can scarcely join a Bigfoot group on social media these days, without being bombarded by photos or film of trees that have fallen into odd positions, sticks twisted into strange shapes/glyphs, or piles of stones that have allegedly been left as territory markers, by our elusive forest friends. Although most of these signs can be explained away by forest fall and man-made activity, I feel that it is imperative that we deal with some of the regular signs that people encounter and at minimum try to eliminate some of the natural explanations for these supposed anomalies. The importance that is currently assigned to this issue within the research community, is, I believe, damaging on a reputational level and paradoxically in juxtaposition to the childhood proverb, our obsession with these sticks and stones are a direct cause of the names that will inevitably hurt us.

I have compiled a short list here of some regularly observed stick and rock formations, that are associated with Bigfoot activity:



  • X: This is often observed as two trees that have fallen across one other, to form the shape of a letter X. the sign is commonly believed to be a territorial marker or barrier to keep other Bigfoot or people out!
  • Pinned Arch: Usually, a living tree that has been bent over and pinned beneath another tree, or tree limb/log. Believed by some to point in the direction of water.
  • Stick Tepee: a makeshift hut or grouping of sticks, in a free-standing tepee formation, sometimes clumsily leant against a tree. Variously interpreted as temporary lodgings or the bored musings of our hairy friends.
Mini Pinned Arch -  Littleworth Common, Esher, Surrey.
Photo by Andrew McGrath, 2017.
  • Bigfoot Kerplunk: Seriously!? This sadly is the only way that I can think of to interpret this particular stick formation, which seems to be a collection of sticks or branches, jammed together from every angle, to form a kind of spikey circle. Some of these examples, in North America at least, seem impossible for humans to replicate without machinery. However, I am not aware of any British examples that fit these criteria. 
  • Stick Leans: These are simply branches that have been leant against trees. Often, several branches are observed together facing in the same direction. Additionally, they are often observed leant against several trees in a row. These are believed to be directional markers, left by Bigfoot, to tell other Bigfoot which way they went.
  • Glyphs: These are usually small signs, made of intertwined or carefully placed sticks that form a shape or symbol. Some researchers believe that some of these shapes resemble characters from the mysterious Neolithic Vinca markings, an ancient set of symbols found on artefacts from 6th to 5th millennia BC, in Central and South-eastern Europe.
  • Rock Stacking & Clacking: These are usually small piles of rocks placed in prominent places, on sawn tree stumps or next to roads and on beaches etc. There are also paired rocks, presumably used for rock clacking, a regularly reported feature of Bigfoot behaviour.

Making a Scene
There are abundant natural explanations for many of these phenomena and it is important that we try to entertain the more mundane possibilities, before assigning a more grandiose character to their manufacturers. The first and most obvious, go to, for much of what we observe in stick structures is windfall. One of my favourite cannibalised sayings is: ‘if a tree falls in the forest, did Bigfoot push it, or do trees just fall in the forest?’ Of course, the answer must be the latter; for wind, snow, and rain and even natural death, in trees, leads to all kinds of strange and unusual formations that may appear unnatural, to the untrained eye.

Another causal explanation for these unusual edifices could simply be that they are man-made. The forest, after all, is host to a myriad of different groups, from forestry workers who regularly cut away deadfall, to wild campers and bush crafters, who like to make huts and dens out of deadfall, (incidentally, this is a regular feature of some children’s activity camps!) Our travelling community in the UK, is also rumoured to employ the use of stick and stone signs in the forest, to indicate resources, like water and to give directions. Which brings us finally, to the biggest bugbear of them all, rock stacking and the rather irritating trend that has recently spread throughout the country, of leaving these teetering towers of terror, in forests, mountains and on beaches, as a kind of middle-class interpretation of the practice of tagging; wherein, the talentless tagger spray paints, ‘Kevin was ‘ere!’, on the wall of some beautiful building, in an attempt to leave his mark upon the world.

In Conclusion:
Should we ignore these signs and exclude them from our research? Certainly not! If both repetition and locality are demonstrable across the spectrum of this physical data, then further investigation is certainly warranted. However, one would also expect other collectable data to be available at these locales, such as tracks, hair samples and animal remains.

Unhappily, as it stands; if one finds sticks in the woods, that is only evidence, of trees!



Written by Andrew M.L. McGrath 
(Excerpt from the 2nd edition of Beasts of Britain)

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