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UK Zooform Phenomena In Search Of Local Manbeasts
From Neil Arnold
"For those of you interested, I have set up a blog of Kent monster folklore at: www.kentmonsters.blogspot.com which pretty much covers a history of strange creature sightings, from dragons, to big cats, from out-of-place animals such as boar, wallabies and swarms, to lake and sea monsters, so please take a look as it will be updated regularly.
Also, in Spring this year I'll have a new book out MONSTROUS MANIFESTATIONS, to be published by CFZ Press, which is a unique catalogue of worldwide creatures known as 'zooform phenomena', which are basically monsters, bogeymen, apparitions, humanoids etc, which clearly don't live in the woods but are possibly more connected to the human psyche, the lay of the land, cultural beliefs, local dreads etc. Several creatures from red-eyed monsters, to blue donkey's feature from Kent, but no country is unexplored in my A to Z listing of the winged entities, semi-mythical beasts and eerie monsters. When the book is out links will be provided with regards as to where to purchase it from so stay tuned."
By Neil Arnold
Kent is known as the ‘Garden Of England’. A patchwork quilt of rolling fields and vein-like lanes which run and entwine with rivers and streams through the rolling woodlands. Folklore is rife but reports of hairy man-beasts akin to the Yeti and Bigfoot have never really been chronicled, until now. Only since stumbling accidentally on such brief reports have I managed to construct this article pertaining to such phenomena. In fact, the only ‘humanoid’ case which has been chronicled, as far as I’m aware, is that of the Hythe ‘being’ (see one of my previous’ mystery creature’ articles for Yourcounty) which scared a group of youths in the 1960s, and became a case quite well known within UFO circles.
Twenty years previous in an area of woodland on the east coast of England, the Shirley family were one of only a handful of witnesses to an English werewolf-like creature. The following report, although brief, and obtained from an American website called Cryptomundo, has, allegedly, been passed down through several generations and stood the test of time as a family incident of the most unusual nature.
Mrs Shirley, whilst having a picnic with her grandmother in the woods, described seeing a creature that was only described as, “…being covered in flaming red hair”, and, “…possessing a pair of huge and powerful jaws”. Apparently the beast was seen only briefly before it moved off into the trees. In 1975 in woodland in the Medway Towns, a woman, who only wants to be known as Mrs B. had a terrifying encounter, a sighting which simply proved that Medway’s sparse woodlands were being stalked by something very weird and unnatural.
What Mrs B. saw, and never spoke of until she confided in me in 2006, was very much a Kentish Bigfoot, something quite unique. This is an account never before published that has remained in her mind for more than thirty years! This is what she told me: “I was in the local woods in the August of 1975. I was eighteen at the time and myself and my boyfriend were about to light a small fire, as it must have been around 10:00 pm, quite dark. My husband was crouched down sorting the fire out and I was standing. It was then that I saw them, two piercing, reddish eyes just around ten yards away. I froze in terror, because this thing was big. It was around seven-feet in height but in the darkness I could make out the bulk of it. It’s figure wasn’t like that of a man, it was a mass, a hulking figure, like it was hairy. I really thought I’d seen the Devil!”.
“I just stood there and then it seemed to lower, quite slowly and after a few seconds it disappeared behind heavy foliage, but I could sense it was still there. I immediately made excuses to leave and we did, and I kept that terrifying night with me and never spoke to anyone”.
So many reports of this ilk, especially from Kent are all too brief but Mrs B’s sighting is very impressive. However, it seems clear that what she saw on the Summer’s night was NOT a flesh and blood creature, simply because I do NOT believe that an undiscovered ape or Sasquatch relative could inhabit such land. Werewolves and Bigfoot-like humanoids cannot exist in our woodlands as real creatures, but maybe as some form that dates back several centuries to a time when yarns of Wildmen, or the Wudwuse were recorded.
Another South-eastern man-beast sighting took place in Friston Park, nr Newhaven in the neighbouring county of Sussex. On November 18th, 2002, at 2:30 am, a Phil Hayman had parked his lorry up to stretch his legs when he spotted a large figure in the woods. The form was illuminated by a red light which was situated on a forestry machine in the woods. Mr Hayman was unsettled by the presence and hurried back to his cab but still had time to shine his torch at the being which rushed off into the darkness. Phil claimed that the creature wasn’t human because he saw no skin colour reflected in the flashlight beam, and suggested it may have been covered in hair for it was dull in colour.
In the Winter of 1967 at Winterfold in Surrey, a motorist pulled over on an dark, remote road to clean his windscreen. As he looked along the road he noticed a huge figure standing there which gave off a foul odour. The strange beast seemed to have a glowing, oblong-shaped head!
On the night of February 11th 2006, and as reported on the Unexplained Mysteries Forum, a similar man-beast was observed in south-east England. Unfortunately the exact location was not given. The witness was taking out the dustbins when he was unsettled by a weird sound he could only describe as low pitched, very deep, like a distant rumble. The strange noise seemed to be coming from the pitch black woods at the end of his garden. As the witness walked down his garden, to the wood, only separated by a fence, he thought he could see two glinting circular objects that seemed to be a dull yellow in colour. Rather unnerved by the objects, which he likened to cat’s eyes, the man switched on the security light which seemed to make the two glinting objects glow brighter and the rumbling sound deepen. As soon as the witness reached the very bottom of his garden, the sound almost became unbearable. However, he managed to get a closer look at the two glinting ‘eyes’ which he believed were on the sides of a head of some kind of hairy, dark form. The man fled into his home.
In 1997 when the local press, especially the Kent Messenger Group, were latching onto stories of sightings of ‘big cats’, one anonymous witness wrote in, on December 5th, to say that he’d spotted a gorilla-like beast in the woods near Blue Bell Hill, not far from Maidstone. A reputedly eerie location.
During the May of 1961 at Bilington, Kent, two schoolgirls watched in horror as a hairy being emerged from woodland and stood in a nearby field. The form then scurried off towards the trees, but as it turned the girls said they noticed it had a tail.
So, Kentish man-beast sightings are not so scarce after all, but they clearly do not belong in Noah’s Ark or the woodlands of the UK, but some unknown realm.
(Neil Arnold is Kent's foremost authority on big cats, you can find out more about his work here.)