Bigfoot Encounters

In Search of the British Bigfoot 
By Nick Redfern - FATE - July 2005

There can be few people fascinated by the mysteries of this world and beyond who have not heard of the North American Bigfoot, the Yeti—or Abominable Snowman—of the snow-capped Himalayas, and Australia’s very own man-beast, known as the Yowie.

 What is perhaps less well known, however, is the rich body of data that exists on sightings of similar creatures in the British Isles. At first glance, the idea that jolly old England could be home to a hidden race of large, ape-like animals seems manifestly absurd; the country is less than 1,000 miles in length, it has a bustling population of 60 million, and, although the British scenery is certainly beautiful, its forests and mountains are hardly of a size that would allow for a species of Sasquatch-sized beasts to flourish in stealth. And yet people have seen such animals with surprising regularity—and for centuries, too. 


Ralph of Coggershall, whose 800-year-old account concerning a wild man captured on the east coast of England at a town called Orford, is a classic example. In Chronicon Anglicanum, he wrote: “In the time of King Henry II, when Bartholomew de Glanville was in charge of the castle at Orford, it happened that some fishermen fishing in the sea there caught in their nets a wild man.

He was naked and was like a man in all his members, covered with hair and with a long shaggy beard. He eagerly ate whatever was brought to him, but if it was raw he pressed it between his hands until all the juice was expelled. He would not talk, even when tortured and hung up by his feet. Brought into church, he showed no signs of reverence or belief. He sought his bed at sunset and always remained there until sunrise. He was allowed to go into the sea, strongly guarded with three lines of nets, but he dived under the nets and came up again and again. Eventually he came back of his own free will. But later on he escaped and was never seen again.” 

The Man-Monkey 

On the cold and moonlit night of January 21, 1879, a man was riding home with his horse-and-cart from Woodcote in the county of Shropshire to Ranton, Staffordshire, England. Enveloped in darkness, he pulled his jacket tightly around him to keep out the biting wind. Approximately a mile from the village of Woodseaves and while crossing a bridge over the Birmingham and Liverpool Canal, the man got the shock of his life. Out of the trees leapt a horrific-looking creature. Jet-black in color and with a pair of huge, glowing eyes, it was described by the petrified witness as being half-man and half-monkey. The creature jumped onto the back of the man’s horse (which bolted out of sheer fright) and a fierce battle for life and limb began atop the cart. Incredibly, according to the man, when he attempted to hit the beast with his whip, it simply passed straight through its body. Suddenly and without warning the spectral man-beast vanished into thin air, leaving an exhausted horse and its shell-shocked owner in a state of near collapse. As with the events 600 years previously at Orford, the mystery of the “Man-Monkey of Ranton” (as the creature came to be known) was never resolved. 

The Big Gray Man 

As the researcher Andy Roberts notes, Ben Macdhui, at 1,309 meters, is the second highest mountain in the British Isles and lies in the heart of the Scottish mountain range known as the Cairngorms. Atop the mountain is a high plateau with a sub-arctic climate, often covered in snow for months at a time. Weather conditions can be extreme and unpredictable. Sadly, the Cairngorms have been defaced by ski lifts and restaurants but until recently remained remote, and still require considerable physical effort and mountain craft to navigate successfully. The wild nature and relative inaccessibility of the area has contributed to its popularity, and the Cairngorms have been a playground for climbers, walkers, skiers, naturalists, and those who love the high and lonely places for hundreds of years. While on Ben Macdhui, various witnesses to a phenomenon known as the Big Gray Man have described encountering footsteps; a sensation of a “presence”; sightings of a large, hairy, man-like animal; and an overpowering sense of panic. Sightings span more than a century and the experience has been terrifying enough to compel witnesses to flee in blind terror, often for several miles. Whatever the nature of the beast, it seems content to remain hidden deep within the safety of the Cairngorms and far away from civilization. 

Ape-Man or Cave-Man? 

While working as a nurse at the Royal Western Counties Hospital, Devonshire, in 1982, Britain’s leading cryptozoologist Jonathan Downes (of the Center for Fortean Zoology) was told a strange tale by one of the staff doctors who, at the time, was then approaching retirement. 

According to the doctor, he had been on duty one morning in the winter of 1948 when he received several unusual telephone calls—all from local officials, and all informing him in a distinctly cryptic manner that a highly dangerous patient, who had been captured on the wilds of Dartmoor, would be brought to the hospital within the hour, requiring specialist care and an isolated room. 

Within 45 minutes a police van arrived at the hospital and backed up to a side door. Seven policemen jumped out of the vehicle while simultaneously trying to hang on to what the doctor said resembled a hair-covered caveman. The policemen dragged the creature along the hospital’s corridors and into the already-prepared isolation room. The door was quickly slammed shut behind it. 

The beast stood slightly over six feet in height and was completely naked, with a heavy brow, a wide nose, and very muscular arms and legs. In addition it was covered with an excessive amount of body hair that enveloped its whole body apart from the palms of its hands, the soles of its feet, and its face, and had a head of long, matted hair. 

Over the course of the next three days, telephone calls bombarded the hospital from the police, the Lord Lieutenant of the County, and the Home Office in London. Then came the news that the man-beast was being transferred to a secure location in London for examination. 

Again late at night, the creature was removed from the hospital by the same group of policemen. This time, however, they succeeded in holding the thing down long enough for it to be heavily sedated by the doctor, whereupon it was tied with powerful straps to a stretcher and loaded again into a police wagon with an unidentified doctor in attendance for the journey that lay ahead. Less than 20 minutes after they had arrived, the police departed into the night and the creature was gone forever. 

Interestingly, the renowned folklorist Theo Brown collected a number of similar, decades-old stories of unusual encounters in Devonshire, and specifically near the village of Lustleigh. A friend of Brown’s confided that she had been walking alone at dusk one night near the Neolithic earthworks at the top of Lustleigh Cleave on the extreme eastern side of Dartmoor when she had seen a family of “cave men,” either naked and covered in hair or wrapped in the shaggy pelts of some wild animal, shambling around the stone circle at the top of the Cleave. 

Sightings Abound 

Bringing matters more up to date, a British family had an awe-inspiring daylight encounter with one of these beast-men in 1991 in an area known as the Peak District. The specific location—identified thanks to the research of the prime investigator of the case, Martin Jeffrey—was the Ladybower Reservoir on the Manchester-to-Sheffield road. On a nearby hillside, one of the family members spotted a large figure walking down toward the road. But this was no normal man. 

The car was brought to a sudden halt as an enormous creature—approximately eight feet tall and covered in long, brown hair—came into full view. It was described by the startled family as walking in a “crouching” style and proceeded to cross the road directly in front of them. Then it jumped over a wall that had a ten-foot drop on the other side and ran off, disappearing into the safety and seclusion of nearby woods. 

Hangley Cleave and Smitham Hill in Somerset have played host to a number of similar encounters. Many years ago the area around what is now an abandoned mine­shaft was linked to tales of strange beasts seen watching the miners. Sometimes on returning to work in the morning, the men would find that carts and equipment had been pushed over and thrown around during the night by a creature that one witness would describe as a “large, crouching man-like form, covered in dark, matted hair and with pale, flat eyes.” 

And as late as 1993, reports continued to surface from this part of Somerset that eerily paralleled the reports of yesteryear. From the files of Jonathan Downes comes the following witness testimony: “I was on a walk through the woods when I heard a twig snap. I thought nothing of it and continued on. Suddenly the dogs became very agitated and ran off home. At this point I became aware of a foul smell, like a wet dog, and a soft breathing sound. I started to run, but after only a few feet, I tripped and fell. I decided to turn and meet my pursuer only to see a large, about seven feet tall, dark brown, hairy, ape-like man. It just stood, about ten feet away, staring at me. It had intelligent looking eyes and occasionally tilted its head as if to find out what I was. After about 20 seconds it moved off into the forest.” 

The Scottish Bigfoot 

Mark Fraser is one of Scotland’s most respected researchers of unknown animals and mysterious beasts and has uncovered details of a fascinating encounter from Dundonald Castle, Scotland. 

Set on top of a hill that overlooks north Kilmarnock, the castle is visible for miles around. The hill was occupied as far back as 2000 b.c. In the 12th century a timber fort was built by Walter, the High-Steward of King David I, and a more substantial Dundonald Castle was constructed by the Stewart Family in the 13th century. Although much of the castle was destroyed during the Wars of Independence with England early in the 14th century, it was rebuilt in the middle of that same century by King Robert II and remains standing to this day. In 1482 the castle was sold by King James III to the Cathcart family and was subsequently purchased by Sir William Cochrane in 1636. In recent years, however, the castle has been looked after by the Friends of Dundonald Castle and by Historic Scotland, the latter having a small visitor center on the site. 

According to Mark Fraser: “Josephine Aldridge from England says she will never go up the hill again as long as she lives.” It was the summer of 1994; and while walking on Dundonald Hill, her two Labrador dogs suddenly “went berserk,” as a truly immense, gorilla-like creature—estimated to be around ten feet in height—appeared some distance to the side of her. 

The terrified woman began to pray, at which point the beast vanished—quite literally—into thin air. As Mark Fraser astutely notes: “Josephine left Dundonald Hill in a hurry, not too far behind her whimpering dogs.” 

Also from the files of Mark Fraser comes the July 1994 encounter of Pete and George, who were walking through a forestry track in woods near their home of Torphins 20 miles from the Scottish city of Aberdeen. When nearing the end of the track, Pete saw a dark figure run from the trees on the left, head across the track, and disappear into the trees on the right. 

A few weeks later the two friends, along with a third, were driving along the road into Torphins when: “Suddenly from the side of the road there came this great, muscular, hairy figure bounding out, which started to run behind the car. At one point it caught up and ran alongside the vehicle, not seemingly out of breath as it approached speeds of up to 35 to 40 miles per hour.” The creature would be described as strong and muscular, with a hair-covered body and possessed of a pair of “red, glowing eyes.” 

A Near-Collision With Sasquatch 

A high plateau bordered by the Trent Valley to the north and the West Midlands to the south, the sprawling mass of forest known as the Cannock Chase has been an integral feature of the Staffordshire landscape for centuries. Following an initial invasion of Britain in a.d. 43, Roman forces advanced to the south of what is now the town of Cannock and along a route that would later become known as Watling Street, a major Roman road. The surrounding countryside was heavily wooded even then, as can be demonstrated by the Romans’ name for the area: Letocetum, or the Gray Woods. 

Jackie Houghton, who lived in Cannock for a number of years in the 1990s and worked in nearby Stafford, had a truly remarkable encounter on February 18, 1995, when she was driving across the Cannock Chase and along the main road that links the towns of Rugeley and Cannock. It was 1:00 a.m. and her shift at the restaurant was over. As she approached the village of Slittingmill, however, she was suddenly forced to swerve the car and narrowly avoided collision with a large, shambling creature that stepped out into the road at a distance of about 200 feet from her. Considering that she was traveling at high speed, said Jackie, it was a miracle that she didn’t hit the thing. 

The encounter lasted barely a few seconds, but she had caught sight of the animal and was certain that it was man-like and tall, very hairy, with two self-illuminating, glowing red eyes. It quickly vanished into the trees. 

The Green-Faced Monkey 

Over a six-week period in the summer of 1996, a strange animal was seen on repeated occasions at Churston Woods, close to the British holiday resort of Torbay. No fewer than 15 separate witnesses reported seeing what they could only describe as a “green faced monkey” running through the woods. And while some of the descriptions were somewhat vague, most of the witnesses told of seeing a tailless animal, around four to five feet tall with a flat, olive-green face, that was occasionally seen swinging through the trees.

Needless to say, there are no creatures fitting this extraordinary description that are indigenous to the British Isles. 

A Letter to the Editor 

The Beckermet area of Cumbria was apparently the location of an equally intriguing incident in January 1998. According to a letter to the editor published in the Whitehaven News of March of that year: “It was about 5.00 p.m. and starting to get dark so my visibility was not that good, but as I walked past the woods I heard the snapping of branches. Thinking it was an animal, I stopped to try and see it. Looking through the trees I noticed a large creature covered in a sort of ginger brown hair that seemed to be drinking from a pond about 150 meters into the woods. As the lighting was getting bad I was straining to make out what it was, but as I stopped and stared, it appeared to notice me. At this point it reared up onto its hind legs and made off slowly further into the woods. I would estimate its height when upright to be around six feet six inches.” 

The Beast Goes Back to Cannock 

Eight months later, the Cannock Chase was once again the site of an encounter with one of our mysterious beast-men. It was just after midnight in September 1998 when a group of four was driving along the A34 road from Stafford to Cannock. As one of the witnesses stated: “It was a star-filled night, clear, but dark, and we were all in the car driving home, happily chatting and joking. Suddenly we all fell dead serious, the people in the back sat forward, and we all pointed to the same shape. It was a tall, man-like figure, sort of crouching forward. As we passed, it turned and looked straight at us. In my own words I would describe it as around six feet eight inches tall, legs thicker than two of mine, very strong looking and with a darkish, blacky [sic] brown coat. I just could not explain it and I still get goose bumps thinking of it.” 

Recent Encounters of the Hairy Kind

“Some Thing in the Woods” was the headline that appeared in the November 28, 2002, issue of the Nottingham Evening Post. Chris Mullins, a well-respected British-based mystery animal researcher, had been given the details of an “eight foot, hairy man-beast with red glowing eyes” seen within the legendary Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood fame. And it was this specific newspaper article that would prompt an elderly man to contact Chris several days later with details of his own sighting of a seven-to-eight-foot-tall ape-like creature in the vicinity of Sherwood Forest late at night two decades previously. 

On December 11, 2003, the British Express & Star newspaper published a report from a somewhat reluctant witness who nevertheless related that he and a friend had seen, only eight weeks previously, a huge, ape-like creature at the side of the road on Levedale Lane between Stafford and Penkridge—which, once again, was in the direct vicinity of the heavily forested Cannock Chase. 

“I saw something in the corner of my eye,” said the witness. “It was coming towards the car, running very fast. It wasn’t a dog or a deer. It was running like a human would run, but it was really hairy and dark. It came level and jumped at the car but just missed.” 

And as 2002 came to a close and a new year began, the sightings continued unabated. In an article published in the North of England Evening Chronicle of January 6, 2003, it was stated: “A yeti with glowing eyes is living in a North East park, according to a fisherman’s tale. A report on a website dedicated to hunters of the Yeti and his Big Foot buddy carries details of three encounters between the half-ape creature and three pals. 

“They tell how they spend hours in Bolam Lake near Belsay, Northumberland, pike fishing late at night. But their tranquility was disturbed on one fishing trip by a catch they did not expect to make. The anonymous writer tells how he was between his friends Neil and Nathan walking on a wooden path back to the car park, just after midnight. ‘About halfway along the path I turned around to talk to Nathan. He was further back along the path, picking his bag up off the track. Behind him, standing in the middle of the track, was a dark figure. The light was moonlight and shining through the trees.’ 

“The others did not see it at first until he pointed it out to them. He said it was ‘a dark figure, looked about eight feet tall, heavy built, its eyes, or what seemed to be its eyes, glowed in the darkness. We ran, top speed, all the way back to the car.’” 

Interestingly, the newspaper revealed that during the previous March, a similar creature had been seen on a hill close to the remains of an Iron Age settlement near the park’s boun­dary. On January 15, 2003, Jon Downes headed to Bolam to conduct a firsthand investigation of the sightings. Four days later, he telephoned me: “I have seen the beast,” he said quietly and with a degree of fear and trepidation in his voice.  It transpired that Jon and five members of a local research group, the Twilight Worlds Paranormal Research Group, were on watch at Bolam Park the previous evening as darkness began to fall. Suddenly “something” appeared that defied all explanation, said Jon. He and three of the group only caught a glimpse of it for the briefest of moments, but the fast-moving creature was around eight feet tall, three feet wide, and dark in color. 

Although lost in the failing light and the trees, Jon was able to determine that the “creature” seemed to be without real form and, incredibly, one-dimensional in appearance. 

The British Bigfoot and Historic Sites 

In late April 2004, Alec Williams was driving across the aforementioned Cannock Chase, close to a landmark known as Castle Ring, when he had a close encounter of the distinctly hairy kind. 

Constructed between 500 b.c. and a.d. 40, Castle Ring is an Iron Age structure of the type commonly known as a Hill Fort. The highest point on the Chase, it is 801 feet above sea level. Its main ditch and bank enclosure is 14 feet high and, at its widest point, 853 feet across. Little is known about the people that built Castle Ring, except that the creators were already in residence at the time of the Roman invasion and remained there until around a.d. 50. 

Williams’s encounter lasted for barely seven or eight seconds; however, he was adamant about the details: “It was about seven feet tall, with short, shiny, dark brown hair, large head, and eyes that glowed bright red.” Interestingly, Williams stated that he witnessed “what looked like a camera flash” coming from the depths of the woods, and heard a cry that was somewhat similar to that of an owl. 

The UK Man-Beast: Physical or Paranormal? 

It will have become apparent to the reader that the British Bigfoot exhibits evidence of truly high strangeness as well as curious character traits, such as having the ability to appear and disappear at will and possessing a pair of self-illuminating red eyes. Nor should it be forgotten that many encounters are reported in the direct vicinity of stone circles; ancient burial mounds; and areas of historic, archaeological, and folkloric interest. 

This has led a number of researchers to suspect that the British man-beast has paranormal origins rather than being a wholly flesh-and-blood entity. As Jonathan Downes astutely notes: “Unlike the phenomena in other parts of the world, each of the historic British cases have a convenient little folk story, or ghost story, attached to them to explain the presence of these apparitional creatures in the relevant region. The Ghost Ape of Marwood, for example, was, when alive, said to be a pet of a local landowner who one day grabbed the landowner’s young son and climbed a tree with him, refusing to come down. And after being killed, the monkey’s ghost supposedly haunted the surrounding area. 

“Whereas the well-known specter of Martyn’s Ape at Athelhampton House in Dorset is supposed to have been the pet of a member of the Martyn family that was either accidentally bricked up alive during building work, or was entombed when the daughter either committed suicide in a locked, secret room or was walled up by an unforgiving parent—depending on which account you read and accept. 

“The Martyn family built the earliest part of this house in the 15th century; and, interestingly enough, their family crest was of an ape sitting on a tree stump and the family motto was ‘He who looks at Martyn’s ape, Martyn’s ape will look at him.’” 

Downes is firmly of the belief that these accounts were nothing but folk tales created by superstitious villagers in centuries past in an attempt to explain sightings of ape-like entities that were more phantom-like than physical in nature. He also offers the intriguing opinion that the British beasts, at least, may be Tulpa-like thought-forms created out of the collective unconscious of the human race. Moreover, he suggests that those same thought-forms may have now achieved a degree of independent, quasi-existence in our world. 

According to Scottish legend, the Kelpie—or water-horse—is a supernatural entity that haunts the rivers and lochs of Scotland and that has the ability to shape-shift. The most common form that the Kelpie takes is that of a horse. It stands by the water’s edge, tempting any passing and weary traveler that might consider continuing his or her journey on four legs rather than two, to mount it. That, however, is the downfall of the traveler, as invariably the beast is then said to rear violently and charge headlong into the depths of the river or loch, drowning its terrified rider. 

Ancient folklore states that the male Kelpie could transform itself into a large and hair-covered man that would hide in the vegetation of waterways and leap out to attack the unwary—not unlike the infamous Man-Monkey of Ranton. 

While the theory that the many and varied cryptozoological mysteries of our world are merely Tulpas and shape-shifting thought-forms will certainly not please the more down-to-earth cryptozoological community, in the British Isles it is a theory that many researchers view favorably. 

Whatever the origin of the British Bigfoot, however, of one thing we can be certain: the phenomenon shows no signs of stopping. 

The less-than-hairy Nick Redfern invites anyone with data on the British Bigfoot to contact him at His latest book, Body Snatchers in the Desert, is published by Paraview-Pocket, a division of Simon & Schuster.

© Fate 2005

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