Anyone with an interest in cryptozoology – the investigation and study of mystery animals – will find more than enough to interest them wherever they travel in Britain, as revealed by the following selection of fascinating examples.
Dr. Karl Shuker is a zoologist who is internationally recognised as a world expert in cryptozoology (the scientific investigation of mystery animals whose existence or identity has yet to be formally ascertained), as well as in animal mythology and allied subjects relating to wildlife anomalies and inexplicabilia. You can purchase his work here.
These strange unproven creatures haunt various areas of the UK.
For decades, sightings of big black panther-like or brown puma-like cats have been filed all over Britain, but the most famous is the Beast of Exmoor, reported since the early 1980s from this huge moorland overlapping Devon and Somerset, and blamed for many sheep kills. Similar Westcountry-based reports have also been filed from Dartmoor and Bodmin, but if there are big cats here, escaped/released from captivity, they continue to elude capture. Wild but beautiful locations well worth a visit.
Mawnan Old Church
Since the 1970s, the woods surrounding the old church in the Cornish village of Mawnan have been the scene of several alleged sightings of a bizarre feathered flying entity nicknamed the owlman. For although it resembles an owl, it is as tall as a man and stands upright. Zoologists speculate that it may be an escapee European eagle owl, but eyewitnesses have discounted this. A dark, mysterious, and not a little eerie place.
A very large, long-necked sea monster reminiscent of Nessie and nicknamed Morgawr has been reported from Falmouth Bay, Cornwall, by a number of eyewitnesses since the 1970s, and is even depicted in two controversial photographs snapped by the equally mysterious, anonymous ‘Mary F’.
This extremely large expanse of woodland around Cannock, Staffordshire, is reputedly home to a wide variety of cryptozoological mysteries, including big cats, a pool-inhabiting crocodile, some troll-like or bigfoot-like humanoid entities, phantom black dogs, and even a werewolf! Don’t stay here alone overnight!
Bala Lake (=Llyn Tegid)
Scotland has Nessie, but Wales has Teggie, the monster of Bala Lake. In a famous 1995 sighting, two tourists were astonished to see a head and a 3-m-long neck rise up above the water surface, and when a Japanese television crew arrived they obtained an unidentified sonar trace of something very big moving swiftly below the water surface. So be careful when paddling here!
In the church at Renwick, Cumbria, is an account describing how, back in 1733, when this church’s predecessor was being demolished, a gigantic bat-like creature with scaly body but leathery wings, resembling the fabled cockatrice dragon, supposedly flew out of the foundations and terrorised the Renwick inhabitants until slain by local man John Tallantine (or Tallantine), using a lance hewn from the magic-imbued rowan tree. Yet even today, people claim to have seen it flying at night here.
Bala Lake, home of the Teggie.
Photo via Hefin Owen
Photo via Robbie Shade
Undoubtedly the most famous cryptozoology-associated locality in Britain, Loch Ness’s alleged monster Nessie has been reported for centuries, but predominantly since a road alongside the loch was opened in 1933. Purported evidence includes sonar traces, photo, and eyewitness reports. Many identities for this elusive water beast have been proposed, from a prehistoric plesiosaur or a long-necked seal to a huge sturgeon or a gigantic eel, but Nessie is still keeping her secret. Take your binoculars – and a camera!
During the 1830s, a supposed mermaid appeared off the coast of the Outer Hebridean island of Benbecula, where some people were cutting seaweed. A boy hurled a stone at this entity, killing it, and its corpse was later washed ashore. It was then given a formal funeral, even buried in a shroud and coffin, because everyone who had looked at the body was convinced that it really was a mermaid – combining the black-haired head and upper body of a young girl with the scaleless lower body and tail of a fish. A windswept but magical isle.
The dobhar-chú is an aquatic Irish mystery beast said to resemble a huge otter. One allegedly killed a woman called Grace Connolly in September 1722 after emerging from in County Leitrim’s Glenade Lake. Her grave is in Conwall Cemetery, in the townland of Drummans, and its stone bears a carving representing the dobhar-chú. A similar beast was sighted much more recently, in May 1968, near Sraheens Lough on County Mayo’s Achill Island. Irish blarney, or more than a myth?
One day in March 1962, schoolteacher Alphonsus Mullaney and his son were fishing in Lough Dubh (‘Black Lake’) in County Galway when something big pulled on their line. It proved to be a monstrous beast as big as a cow with short thick legs, small ears, dark grey skin covered in short bristles, and a large hippopotamus-like face – with a sharp rhinoceros-like horn on the end of its snout! The two men fled in terror, but when they returned in the company of some others, the monster had gone – definitely the one that got away!