The Gravesend Predator, Sevenoaks Jackal And Much More

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By Neil Arnold

During the Winter of 1905, near Gravesend, an unseen predator had preyed upon almost thirty sheep in what seemed to be a short reign of terror. The slaughter was reported in the London Mail of December 19th, and filed by ‘paranormal’ researcher Charles Fort in his 1931 classic Lo! . Now, whilst reports of large, exotic cats seem pretty common nowadays, especially after the events of the so-called ‘beasts’ of Exmoor, Bodmin, and the Surrey Puma, such a report proves that something, albeit not necessarily cat-like was slaughtering livestock almost one-hundred years ago. However, such historical accounts of bizarre creatures, and monsters, if you like, are common even from a small rural county such as Kent.

There are a number of cases through Kentish history where private menageries have spilled their contents and all manner of wild creatures have taken to the woodlands, after all, these private collections may be the only way of explaining such cases.

In the same year of 1905, but during the Spring, Farm & Home, of March 16th reported that, “…farmers in the south of England, especially in the districts between Tonbridge and Sevenoaks, began to tell of mysterious attacks upon their flocks.”

Several sheep were found disembowelled in local fields, but on this grisly occasion several people had spotted the animal in question, one man even fired upon the animal. However, after several more sheep kills a sixty-man search party patrolled the local woodlands and found the culprit, a Jackal that was dispatched by one of a Mr. R. K. Hodgson’s gamekeepers.

The incident attracted a lot of attention, with the Times of London covering the story on March 2nd, and on the 14th Blythe News reported that, “…the Indian Jackal, which was killed recently, near Sevenoaks, after destroying sheep to the value of £100, is attracting attention in the shop of a Derby taxidermist.”

Such flesh and blood, and yet very much out of place anomalous animals may be too difficult to believe for some, but what of Kent’s supernatural creatures ? For there are many.

On November 16th, 1963, at Sandling Park, Hythe, a John Flaxton, 17, was walking home with three other people when they noticed a bright object in the sky hovering eerily. The glowing orb glided silently then disappeared from view. The teenagers continued to walk for a few seconds but then all of a sudden noticed something emerge from the trees nearby, a large, black figure that came ambling towards them from the shadows. The youths watched in horror as the strange humanoid approached, and they fled in terror. Later, they told police that the figure had two large, bat-like wings, appeared headless and was completely black in colour.

On November 21st, the same year, a Mr. Croucher, also aged seventeen, also saw a strange glowing light in the sky over Sandling Park, and three days later a J. McGoldrick allegedly found large footprints left by a three-toed creature that had flattened the bracken in the woods. Little did the youths realise that a few years later, but across the world in West Virginia, USA, a creature known as Mothman would begin its reign of terror. The weird apparition was identical to what the Kent witnesses had seen, but the West Virginia scare lasted for several years.

Such incidents defy explanation, as do reports of large, shaggy-haired hellhounds with fiery eyes said to haunt lonely back roads, and appear to lonesome drivers and travellers, but which also vanish into thin air. Such ghostly Black Dogs have been seen at great Chart near Ashford, and Pluckley, in one incident during the 1980s by a car load of people who claimed that from the thickening fog came a stocky dog with malicious intent, but which the car drove straight through. Such hounds have been sighted all over the world, and are often perceived as omens of misfortune.

Sceptics may argue that an awful lot of these so-called creatures are sighted by youngsters who may wish to pull a prank, or may innocently be misidentifying normal creatures such as stray dogs, cats, and even mere shadows. However, if we are looking for credible witnesses to unexplained creatures then look no further than policeman S. Bishop who, on April 16th 1954, came face to face with an unusual creature at Dumpton Park, Ramsgate. The animal he saw ambled out of the bushes and appeared to him as Alsatian-sized, but being covered with quills, having a long snout, short tail and very long claws. The policeman couldn’t believe his eyes, and so called for back-up but the creature was nowhere to be found! Porcupine ? Pangolin ? Phantom ?

Creatures of all shapes and sizes, many flesh and blood, others clearly weird, turn up year after year in Kent, whether in the form of mystery felids, large wolf-like canids, or peculiar serpentine creatures spotted from piers or boats out at sea. What we must remember is that lack of evidence does not necessarily mean belief should be dismissed. A number of these creatures are simply animals that have escaped from zoos or from private collections, but as for the rest, I strongly believe they come from within the human psyche, and because we have yet to understand that, we’ll often fail to understand them….all creatures great and small.


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