Monday 10 December 2007

Odd article from The Local, Croydon

This intersting comedy sketch of an article was posted on the CFZ Forum, and appeared in The Local... although I NEVER claim to have seen a black leopard in Croydon!

The Local: Dangerous Carnivores (December 2007)
If you happen to be in Kent in the next couple of weeks, try stay alert. They’ve just spotted a leopard there. I didn’t realise that you got dangerous carnivores (outside of a chav-filled kebab shop) in Britain, but I’m reliably informed the story is true. A man called Neil Arnold who works for Kent Big Cat Research reckons he spotted a black leopard near Croydon Airport. I wouldn’t go walking through the fields muttering, “here, pussy, pussy, puss puss,” just yet though; despite the colour of its fur, a black leopard’s almost the same thing as the rosette-speckled beauties that hang around the Kruger Park.
Arnold’s blog reckons that a black leopard is “pound for pound probably the most evolved predator cat on earth. Some say, the most aggressive and feared animal in the world. They are extremely secretive and solitary animals, only coming together to mate. They are believed to be capable of killing prey up to 550 kilos.” Secretive and solitary but highly aggressive? So, completely unpredictable and therefore even more likely to make you dinner. So in other words, a close cousin of a member of the big five - the most awesome, terrifying and astoundingly, brutally, beautiful wild animals on the face of the earth - is currently wandering around near Croydon. And you thought Kate Moss was the area’s scariest citizen. Now if there is one thing Africans have always had the upper hand over Britons on, it’s wildlife. Not nature reserves – because the English countryside is brilliant on its own – but wildlife. I don’t care what you say; foxes and squirrels thieving rubbish, hanging around blackened suburban streets might excite people in – well, Croydon – but as far as I’m concerned, you can keep them.
Give me stalking a herd of elephants at dawn, a hippo gently rollicking on the surface of the waterhole or a lioness turning the veld into South Central. I’d bet good money that most of the South Africans here have spent at least a day or two in a game reserve, and that a good chunk of them will have seen a member of the big five, so you can probably appreciate that that kind of experience sticks with you. No matter how hard they try, no rural or urban environment in the United Kingdom is going to be able to compare to that. I won’t say ever because Arnold goes on to note that the appearance of big cats in this country are not uncommon. “The winter is generally a time when vegetation thins out, and these cats will search wider areas for food, coming into towns.” According to his website (and very good it is, too) lynxes, caracals and servals have been spotted here as well. Despite their presence, there is a worrying coda: a black leopard was apparently shot in the 1970s by some blunderbuss-wielding buffoon who thought it would look good as a carpet. Now that’s just not cricket. We’re probably not at the stage where they’ll rename Huddersfield as isiTony Blair National Park, but next time I head south, I’ll be carrying a big stick.

Saturday 1 December 2007

Mystery bird

An unidentified flying bird has been spotted over Battersea.
Early reports suggest it is a buzzard, but a possible sighting of an eagle in neighbouring Kingston has got twitchers excited.
Brian Barnes of Battersea snapped the bird near Battersea Power Station after seeing it circling in the sky.
Mr Barnes said: "It was circling high above while a flock of green parrots passed below.
"Then I saw it flying above Wandsworth town centre."
Earlier this week a man saw a large bird flying in Kingston.
The man said: "He was about two foot high and had a wingspan of about 4ft. I think it was an eagle."
Have you seen the bird near you or can you identify it?

From THIS IS LOCAL LONDON 9th November 2007
(actual photograph on right - buzzard ? eagle ? or something else ?)

Thinking of buying an exotic pet ?

Killer foxes or big cats ?

Camden New Journal - by SIMON WROE
Published: 1 November 2007

Has urban fox turned cat killer? Rogue predator blamed for series of attacks in street which has lost10 pets in two years. Cats of Hampstead beware – there is something lurking in the shadows and it is not after your Whiskas. A series of attacks on cats in a Gospel Oak street has raised fears that a killer fox is on the loose. Cat lovers in Savernake Road believe the rogue fox stalking their gardens may have a taste for feline flesh.Brenda Morlet is “100 per cent sure” that her cat, called Tony Har­rison, lost her back leg in a fox attack in September. She said: “I never thought a fox would do it, but six vets looked at the cat and told me the same thing – they thought it was the work of a fox. “The fox chomps down very quickly. It shredded all the skin. His leg was crushed bone and sinew with a bit of foot hanging off it. His claws were broken.”Mrs Morlet believes the culprit was a large, “predatory” fox, which was seen just two feet from her back door on the morning of the attack. “This one didn’t have the same look as the ­other foxes I’ve seen,” she said. “It was very big and it looked evil... predatory. This fox is going to give other foxes a bad name.” She said that 10 cats have gone missing from the street in the past two years – at one point they were disappearing at a rate of one a month.Neighbour Jan Stevens believes her 10-year-old tortoiseshell cat Albie was killed by a fox a year ago.His half-eaten remains were found in a next-door neighbour’s garden the day after the cat went missing. She said: “People tell you foxes don’t attack but occasionally there is a fox that does. There are no dogs in the houses on either side of us so what else could it have been?”Wildlife consultant John Bryant said fox attacks could not be ruled out. “Nobody loves foxes more than I do, but it does happen,” he said. “It’s no good denying it, but it is rare. You can never say never with wild animals. They’ve all got different personalities, like people. In any species you’re going to get a rogue.”It is believed the fox may come from a den of up to 30 at Hampstead Heath allotments. There are an estimated 10,000 foxes in London. Each will cover up to 160 gardens in a night looking for food.Elise Robertson, at Zasman Vets in South End Green, Hampstead, treated Mrs Morlet’s cat without charge. He said: “As the years go on, we’re seeing more atypical wounds that are being caused by dogs and foxes. The puncture wounds are completely different – they shred tissue. There are more and more foxes in the area, and they’re hungry.”Dr Robertson, whose cat was attacked by what she thinks was a fox, added that “faced with a mouldy curry from a dumpster or a nice fresh cat” the scavengers might think twice.Mr Bryant suggests imposing a cat curfew to prevent further attacks. “Killing the fox is not the answer,” he said. “They’ll be replaced within a few days by other foxes.”But Mrs Morlet believes the killer fox should be shot and the council should foot the bill. She said: “I can’t let my cats out because they’re in his food path. Animals adapt according to their environment. Maybe we’re seeing the start of the real urban fox.”
Other theories point the finger at roaming 'big cats' as several domestic cats over the years throughout the capital, particularly in the semi-rural areas, where pet cats have been found half-eaten in a very clean fashion, flesh stripped and peeled back, all the characteristics of a 'big cat' kill. Also, what mystery predator is behind the half-eaten remains of foxes ?

Like a pig in....!

Rumour had it that in 1851 beneath Hampstead, feral pigs, or hogs were prowling the depths of the sewers! Legend claimed that a pregnant sow somehow ended up trapped in the gloomy tunnels, giving birth to a happy litter of excrement swilling, offal consuming offspring, even more ferocious than their known relatives which may have inhabited some nearby yard.
Sceptics argued that such animals had never been seen or heard to grunt through the drain grates, but believers in such quirky tales claimed, that the reason for this elusive behaviour was simply down to the Fleet ditch, which, once encountered from the mouth of the sewer at the riverside, would have flushed the piggies back to their lair after failed attempts to swim against the rapids.
If only pigs could fly!

Such a mystery echoes the similar, yet more consistent myth of alligators roaming New York's sewer system, particularly from the early 1900's when it was said that unwanted pets were released into the rat-ridden domain, breeding successfully, and creating a local monster scare.

Reading 'panther'.

From the Reading Evening Post (UK): 23 Nov. 2007
Trail of the black panther
A black panther could be on the loose in Caversham Park Village after a large cat with orange eyes was spotted sauntering across a field. Geoff and Sylvia Killgallon, of Littlestead Close, say they watched the unidentified beast for up to 10 minutes as it surveyed the area and lunged at a pheasant. Retired Mr Killgallon, 68, said: "My wife was in the kitchen with her hairdresser and said 'come and look at this'. "My first reaction was 'bloody hell', and I rushed upstairs to get some binoculars. "It was in a field out towards Dunsden Green. It was so big I don't think it could have been a domestic cat. My wife was convinced it was a panther. "It walked up the field swishing its tail before it looked round towards us. "My wife says she observed pointed ears and orange eyes." He added: "I don't think it was hunting anything but it looked through the hedge and a pheasant walked behind it. "It made a lunge at it but the pheasant flew off. "It walked further along, looking around and looking quite relaxed. "It was so big and had a very long tail which curved up. "I don't think it was fully grown but it looked healthy and well nourished." Mr Killgallon said he and his wife have looked out for the formidable feline every morning since the siting at 9.45am on Tuesday last week without success. Black panthers, or melanistic leopards, are thought to be among the most frequently spotted big cats in Britain.
Jo Barr from the RSPCA said big cats do escape from private collections and that a wild lynx had been found roaming the streets of London in 2001. She told the Evening Post: "We do get calls about these occasionally. Obviously, it's a potentially dangerous wild animal so it is often more of a police matter. "One possibility is that it is a very large domestic cat. "However, it is always a possibility a big cat has escaped from a private collection, which has to be licensed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976." Reading Borough Council confirmed it had not issued any such licences, while South Oxfordshire District Council has issued just one, to a bison owner. Miss Barr added: "We do get reports from time to time but the majority turn out to be unsubstantiated. "This is one of the more unusual sightings as they tend to come from more open and exposed areas like Exmoor and Dartmoor."
The RSPCA advises anyone coming into contact with a big cat to report it to their local authority.

Monday 19 November 2007

London 'big cats' article in latest CFZ Yearbook

Neil Arnold's London-related big cat article features in this years Centre For Fortean Zoology Yearbook available from alongside Karl Shuker's 'Mystery Animals Of London Zoo' article.

Sunday 4 November 2007

Croydon Leopard

A witness has contacted KENT BIG CAT RESEARCH to report a black leopard, which she saw mooching through long grass just fifty yards away at Roundshaw Downs, Croydon Airport.
The cat was sighted at 8:00am on October 9th 2007 and disappeared into a clump of trees.

Sunday 28 October 2007

Harrow 'big cat'.

From Harrow Times - 10th October 2007

A mysterious big cat has been spotted in Kings Langley.The large dark cat, with a big head and bushy tail was sighted on Watford Road on Sunday by an Enfield businessman and a local farmer.Jonathan O'Shea, 33, said: "I couldn't believe it. I was taking my partner to Champneys for her birthday on Sunday at around 8.30am and we went the wrong way and then 70 metres ahead of us we saw something."I couldn't figure out what it was we couldn't register the size of it in our heads. It was mad, crazy."Jonathan, director of Rawstorne Construction and his partner Nicola Sayers, also 33, said the cat was dark brown or black, had a big tail and was the size of a small weimaraner dog.Jonathan said: "I lived in Sweden for a few years and it was bigger than a lynx probably the size of a snow leopard."It wasn't wearing a collar and it wasn't a normal cat because of the way it was moving across the road."It was just the most amazing thing and I haven't stopped talking about it, it was awesome."Charlie Wray, of Wayside Farm in Watford Road, said: "I came back down the farm at around 8am on Sunday and saw something run out into the maize."At first I thought it was a fox but it didn't run like a fox, it held it's head up high. It was dark brown and had a big head."

Monday 22 October 2007

Mystery Mammal

From the Wimbledon Guardian (UK): 3 Oct. 2007
Is mystery squirrel playing possum after un-Common sighting?

Walkers on Wimbledon Common could be forgiven for thinking they are nuts following reports of a mystery mammal. According to an eyewitness a strange animal similar to a squirrel is hiding out on the common leaving people wondering what kind of beast it could be. So far educated guesses on website Wild About Britain have included the Australasian sugar glider, the North American flying squirrel or another species of possum. Rather more tongue-in-cheek suggestions have included a flying womble - on account of the common being home to the fictional TV characters. Wandsworth's Kolin Barnz, who spotted the beast while on the commen, said: "It was squirrel-like but its face looked more mouse-like, with long whiskers, black eyes and small ears. "As it jumped between trees, flaps of skin stretched between its front and back legs and it gilded to the next tree. I couldn't believe my eyes." How the animal got to its new home is anyone's guess, but it is possible it could be someone's escaped pet.

Tuesday 25 September 2007

Cheam 'big cat'

From the Sutton Guardian (UK):
16 Sept. 2007

Large cat 'probably a panther',
After reports in last week's Sutton Guardian of a mysterious "big cat" spotted in the borough, other readers have contacted us. A Cheam resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said she saw a large black cat, resembling a panther, dart across her garden in Fieldsend Road two weeks ago. She said: "I knew it wasn't a fox because they stop and sometimes look at you. Also it was much bigger. "I immediately called my son down, but he was too late to see it and didn't believe me." But Neil Arnold who has been studying large cats in England for 18 years said there was every chance a panther was at large. He said: "These cats were popular as pets during the 1960s and many were released into the wild during the 1970s and 1980s after the introduction of the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act. "I am monitoring around Croydon, Wallington and Purley although this cat could be any of the black leopards - and there are several - within a 70 square mile radius."

Thursday 6 September 2007

'Panther' roaming Carshalton


A Carshalton man is in shock after reportedly seeing a puma race across his back garden last night.
Darren Mason, 37, from Park Avenue, was about to take in some evening hedgehog spotting with his family when the mysterious black cat darted across his lawn at roughly 8.30pm.
"All of a sudden this large dark animal with long legs and a long tail and the size of a Labrador darted across the back of the garden." he said.
"I turned to my partner and said, What the hell was that?', thankfully she saw it too so it wasn't just me.
"The only way I could describe it was like a puma, it was the way it moved, it was so fast, crossing the garden in seconds."
Have you spotted Sutton's big cat? Call the newsdesk on 020 8330 9541.
12:39pm Tuesday 4th September 2007
By Heather Darlington

Monday 3 September 2007

Metro Interview with cryptozoologist Richard Freeman

London's Metro interviewed cryptozoologist Richard Freeman in 2006 with regards to his ventures looking for real-life dragons, his opinions on ape-men, and his love of zoology...and Doctor Who!

Things a flutter...

Escaped vultures, out-of-place heron's, and now Eagle owls soaring in the skies above the capital - in the July of 1997 traffic was brought to a standstill around the roads of St. Paul's Cathedral as the London Fire Brigade attempted to rescue a feathery anomaly perched some 130-ft up on the the cathedral's doors. The bird they were attempting to capture was a European Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) which stood 20 inches tall with a five-feet wingspan.

The bird was all a flutter some five weeks previous but had apparently escaped some five years before, when it was seen near London Zoo, other sightings took place in Camden, Hyde Park and Regent's Park where it attacked a man's dog as he took a stroll!

Unfortunately on the day of 6th July the bird was found dead by office staff who work opposite the cathedral. The bird was laying face down on a ledge, it had died of a bacterial wasting disease, something unusual in birds. The bird had leather falconry anklets on, proving it was once held in captivity.

The strange insect in the car.

In aletter posted to Fortean Times magazine (March 1998), a William C. Turner wrote of a peculiar encounter with a mysterious insect.

"While driving on the M4 near Junction 4 (Heathrow) in Mid- December (1997 ?) I noticed an insect buzzing around the car. At 70 mph overtaking on the offside lane, it's obviously dangerous to try and swat an agile bug, but I have an aversion to things flying around my head, so I tried to dispatch it. It was reddish, about one inch long, with a similar wingspan, quite fast in flight, aggressive and seemingly tough as I bashed it a couple of times and it still came back at me.

I am familar with ordinary wasps, hornets and horseflies, but this was unlike anything I have seen before. I finally got a good hit in but, when pulling up at traffic lights, I couldn't find a corpse. On getting home I cleared the interiotr of the car hoping to find the body, or some eggs/larvae/chrysalis - in case the car's heater had caused some overwitnering pupae to hatch - but I found nothing. "

Several issues later, a handful of people identified the insect as the Ichneumon Fly (Ophion luteus) also known as the Yellow Ophion, the insect normally appearing as reddish-orange.

Monday 27 August 2007

Mystery fish

A teenager on a summer evening stroll found a real fish out of water on the banks of the River Crane this week.
Isleworth residents Imogen Doole, 16, (pictured holding the fish) and her father, Steve, discovered the huge fish lying dead on the bed of the River Crane near the junction of St Margaret's Road and Railshead Road.
Mr Doole said the sighting of such a large fish is unusual for the River Thames tributary.
He is now appealing to anglers to identify the species and to have a guess as to why it may have swam up the small canal.
He said: "It seemed to be about 80cm long and I'll guess that it weighs much more than five kilos.
"Perhaps the fish became disoriented or lost once it found itself in the shallow water with the tide falling, or it couldn't get out.
"Maybe the man-made concrete channel had something to do with it."


Wednesday 22 August 2007

Monkey escapes London Zoo (July 2006)

Visitors to Regent's Park witnessed some disgraceful monkey business today as a primate from London Zoo swung into action and made her Great Escape.
Betty, a 10-year-old squirrel monkey is still on the loose after she spotted her opportunity for freedom when staff left a branch of a tree next to her enclosure growing too long.Today crowds watched the monkey running through the trees as staff waited for the moment to tempt her back home.It also emerged that the cheeky monkey may have been plotting the breakout for some time.
A spokesperson said: "The monkeys have really been hurling themselves from tree to tree and can travel quite a long way." David Field, London Zoo's Zoological director said: "She's certainly made a monkey out of us! She is merely visiting the park."We train the monkeys to come back to their quarters and she will return later in the day when it becomes quieter. We will encourage her to come back with a favourite treat of mealworms."We have also separated the other squirrel monkeys who are calling to each other and that is also a way of getting her to come back. "She will be feeling vulnerable because she will not feel safe outside her familiar enclosure.
The monkeys are a very tight-knit group."Squirrel monkeys are very inquisitive, exploratory and active creatures who like to swing on their branches. "Part of the reason she left may have been the fruiting trees, since they like to eat fruit and leaf buds, as well as foraging for juicy grubs."They are not a dangerous animal – their enclosure is a walk through exhibit – and they pose no threat to the public. "However keepers are monitoring her to make sure she does not come down from the trees, since we wouldn't want her to meet a dog. "Their uniforms will also make her feel more reassured as she is used to them."The keepers found her out this morning. She will have escaped by a branch that was overhanging the enclosure. There are tree surgeons in there now making sure all the escape routes are closed."

Beast seen again ?

A Pete Murphy, posting on the This Is Local London website, briefly mentioned seeing a black cat, the size of a male boxer dog, around 7th August 2007.

He stated: "...(it was) walking from garage roof to other roof behind my kitchen window.There is a secondary school and sports ground behind my flat both of which were empty and locked up.Not far away is parkland heath and ancient woods which leads to Welling,Plumstead and Bexleyheath."

Sunday 12 August 2007

Crayford 'big cat'.

A passenger on a train has seen a black leopard.
The incident occurred late June 2007, when a Nicola Short was sitting on the train at Crayford station around 9:30 pm, when she was amazed to see a big, black cat descend a nearby tree and head off into the undergrowth. Although such a sighting may sound strange, reports of large felids around railway lines are very common.
Author and so-called 'big cat' researcher connects cats and railway lines in a paranormal manner, but this is complete rubbish. Cats such as leopards, puma and lynx use railway lines to navigate at night, as they are ideal routes to prowl into towns of a night as their is ideal cover along the shrub shrouded tracks. There is also an abundance of prey such as rabbits which live along the railway lines.
During the early hours and late at night railway stations are deserted locations, so a large cat could easily use the car parking areas, bridges and lines themselves to hunt in the same way they use areas of water, backyards etc, for cover.

Wednesday 11 July 2007

High Wycombe Leopard

For the record, such an article is a good example at how inadequate reporters can be when covering 'big cat' stories. There has always been confusion for the press when identifying cat species, yet it's not a difficult task to undertakle when we consider that only three species of large cat are commonly sighted throughout the UK, the black leopard, the puma and the lynx, none of these resembling one another.

The mysterious Beast of Bucks has been spotted again by a couple near Hazlemere.
A large cat-like animal was seen by Suzanne Young, 19, of Quarrendon Road, Amersham, and her partner Matthew Tucker, 19, of Orchard Lane, Amersham, as they were driving back along Amersham Road from a night out in High Wycombe.
Suzanne, a secretary for Balfour Beatty in Manchester, said: "All of a sudden a very big cat trotted out in front of our car from one side of the road. We'd slowed down for a bend and saw a black blob on one side of the road.
"At first we thought it was a fox until our headlamps hit it. Once this happened it sprinted the rest of the way to the other side of the road. When we saw it in the light we realised it was far too big to be a fox, or even a dog. We weren't drunk as we were driving."
The couple went back to the scene of their sighting, just before the turning for Gravelly Way, on Sunday, and found some large paw prints in Common Wood, near Tylers Green.
"It was more for the sake of our sanity than anything else," Suzanne added.
"When we saw it in the light we realised it was far too big to be a fox, or even a dog."
Suzanne told the South Bucks Star that the creature she saw was about 3ft to 4ft tall, jet black, with a long tail.
She believes it to be the infamous "Beast of Bucks" although added that other people's accounts of it have sometimes differed.
She said: "A few older people I know have claimed to have seen it, like my grandad.
"This was definitely more like a puma than a panther."
Six years ago animal specialist Trevor Smith was called to help police after they took plaster casts of paw prints found on Wycombe Heights Golf Course, in Rayners Avenue, Loudwater. Experts confirmed that the tracks belonged to a young puma.
In February last year café owner Heather Brown told the Star how she spotted the giant feline while walking in the Chequers estate, near Princes Risborough. And a dog walker said he saw it on The Rye, High Wycombe, earlier this year.
Zoologists believe many exotic cats were released into the wild when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was passed in 1976 and owners could no longer keep them as pets.
2:00am Friday 6th July 2007 (This Is Local London)

A deadly Scorpion

Escape of the snake

Sunday 10 June 2007

Squacco Heron

A Squacco heron appears to have made itself at home at the Crossness nature reserve in Bexley, South East London. It is claimed that the last Squacco heron seen in London was at the Kingsbury Reservoir in 1866, but there have been some other more recent reports.
There have been around 50 reports of Squacco heron’s in the UK over the last 50 years or so, and there are unconfirmed reports of another Squacco in another part of Kent too. There have also been sightings of a Purple Heron and a Quail (the latter hasn't been seen in this borough since 1969) The Squacco was spotted on the afternoon of 29 May and has been seen on the Southern Marshes of Crossness ever since. The Squacco heron is mainly found in southern Europe, though it winters in Africa.
The sighting follows a £500,000 project at Crossness by Thames Water, Bexley Council and the charity Groundwork. Work has involved restoring reed bed and ditch habitat for water voles and creating a new wader scrape which has attracted the heron. The site has also been opened up to the public with a wildlife viewing screen enabling ornithologists to get close to the bird without disturbing it. eports.Crossness Nature Reserve is a small oasis within an industrialised urban environment, providing a unique opportunity to escape city life and enjoy one of the last remaining areas of grazing marsh within the Greater London area. The reserve is part of the original Thames floodplain known collectively as the Erith Marshes. With much of the marshland having been developed to provide business and residential opportunities, the creation of Crossness Nature Reserve in 1996 secured part of this important, declining habitat for nature conservation and public access. As a result of the regionally important communities of wetland birds, plants and invertebrates, the site has been awarded Local Nature Reserve. Click Crossness Nature Reserve to read more about the reserve, and to find out how to get there.

Tuesday 5 June 2007

Top London chef Gordon Ramsay loses lamb top 'big cat'!!

Fascinating details emerged this week regarding chef Gordon Ramsay and his pet lamb Charlotte, who was found dead whilst grazing at land owned by David and Victoria Beckham in Hertfordshire.

The animal was allegedly killed by a 'big cat', possibly a black leopard after recent sightings were anything to go on. Wounds certainly seemed consistent with a cat kill as the bones had been licked clean, and only the unfortunate victims head was left.

Links here provide full details:

Sunday 27 May 2007


Neil Arnold's brand new regular feature for, covering all manner of strange creatures and weird folklore such as The Highgate Vampire, phantom hounds etc.

This feature will appear each Saturday. Log on to Londonist to view.

Sunday 13 May 2007

Terror of the terrapins.

From The Guardian (London): 4 May 2007
'Horror in a half-shell' by Patrick Barkham

They're aggressive, impart a painful nip, and chomp their way through other pondlife. Hundreds of dumped terrapins are terrorising Hampstead Heath's pools - and now rangers are racing against time to round them up. Bobbing about in their flat-bottomed boat, Ian Shepherd and Bob Gillam have been given the slip. A moment before, the conservation rangers lured a large terrapin into a floating trap on the murky waters of Hampstead Heath's bird-sanctuary pond. Dipping and swishing a large salmon net around the square trap, they can't find the elusive reptile anywhere. Then Shepherd sees why: with its formidable front claws, the red-eared terrapin has ripped off a plastic cable tie and torn away the chicken wire at the corner of the trap before paddling off at high speed. "It's the Steve McQueen of terrapins," sighs Rob Renwick, one of the heath's conservation team leaders. Hampstead has a problem. These American reptiles began life as cute little critters when they were kept as pets during the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-inspired craze of the early 90s. But when they outgrew their owners, scores were dumped into Hampstead's waters. Life in the heath's lush ponds agreed with them and they grew some more. Now up to 150 cruise up and down almost all the 25 main ponds on the 792-acre heath, including the men's and women's bathing pools. Many have swelled to the size of dinner plates, chomping their way through our native species: fish, newts, toads, frogspawn, dragonfly larvae and, possibly, the occasional great crested grebe, coot, moorhen or mallard. There are a growing number of tales of aggressive, illegally released terrapins - "terrorpins" as the tabloids call them - bringing death and destruction to ponds and waterways across the country. Native to the warm swamps of Louisiana and other southern US states, they have been spotted in ponds in north-east England, canals and the Thames. Two years ago, schoolchildren were reduced to tears at a pond in Mill Hill, London, when they apparently saw ducklings being consumed by a group of ravenous terrapins. A mallard was later found with its legs bitten off. Last year a ranger at Hampstead saw a duckling being dragged under water. Terrapin experts at the British Chelonia Group, a tortoise, terrapin and turtle charity, are sceptical of such attacks. Red-eared terrapins, they say, are not known to take birds, although snapping turtles - another rogue species sometimes released into the wild - will kill baby birds. The terrapins have not attacked any swimmers at Hampstead, but they are known for their nip. The males also boast long front claws, which they use in mating. "They have been in the bathing ponds for a while and no one has been bitten but there's a chance it could happen," says Julie Brownbridge, one of the heath's ecologists. "And some carry salmonella, which is another sound reason to get them out." While one park ranger is rather fond of the reptiles and hums the Syd Barrett song Terrapin as he works, Brownbridge fears they are wreaking havoc with the heath's fragile flora and fauna. Last year, they were seen scuttling between ponds and, apparently, scaling a steep hill to reach a pool on the other side of the heath. One was found killed, its shell smashed by an angry angler (terrapins are very unpopular with fishermen). The return of the heroes in a half shell, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello, in the latest Mutant Turtle film, TMNT, has got terrapin aficionados worrying that more people will buy them as pets before chucking them out when they discover just how hungry, messy and disease-ridden they can be. Don Freeman, chairman of the British Chelonia Group, says the "mad craze" when the 1990 film was released caused thousands to be released into the wild. While it is now illegal to import them from America, they can still be bred in captivity and sold as pets. "Dear little things about the size of a 50p piece grow to be as big as the bottom of a bucket," says Freeman. "When they are that size they are a bit of a problem unless you are a devotee - they make a terrible smell, they bite, and they are not terribly friendly animals. If they are put into a small environment like a village pond they will soon decimate all the wildlife in it." As these pond-life terrorists pop out of the water to bask in the spring sunshine, Hampstead's conservationists are taking action. Renwick has little affection for them - "horrible little things," he says - but culling operations tend to attract unwelcome attention from animal rights activists. When the park's rangers looked at the culling option they found it cost the same (£25 per animal) to have them humanely put down by a vet as it would to catch them and send them on a permanent holiday to a terrapin sanctuary in Tuscany. The sanctuary scheme is run by the British Chelonia Group, which has dispatched 700 terrapins in the past three years to a secure reserve blessed with pools warmed by volcanic rock and Italian sunshine. Freeman says that while the terrapins are surviving in British ponds, many are suffering from a climate and diet that does not really suit them. The City of London Authority, which manages the heath, has also accepted an offer from a sanctuary in Norfolk. Hampstead's conservationists hope to catch most of the terrapins by the end of the summer. If not, they fear there is a chance they could breed. One really hot summer, and terrapin numbers could spiral out of control. Four home-made traps are now floating on Hampstead's ponds made of plastic piping fitted together in a square, offering a tempting basking spot for the creatures. Extra plastic mesh on the outside helps the terrapins clamber up, but once they haul themselves out of the water they slip into the centre of the trap, where tough chicken wire should, in theory, prevent them swimming off. Fish is dropped in the central area as an added incentive for the terrapins to turn themselves in. Five have been caught so far, including the troublesome specimen that chose to escape the moment the Guardian arrived. The remaining four are being kept in a child's paddling pool fenced in with chipboard in one of the staff yards. The trap is being repaired, and at the secure paddling pool Renwick is making sure there are no more escapees. The terrapins devour cat biscuits and lounge across some rocks added to the pool to make them comfortable. Has Renwick got names for them? "Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello, of course," he grimaces.

Tuesday 8 May 2007

Beast of Bromley

Beast of Bromley? - from This Is Local London

A Beast of Bexley-type creature has reportedly been spotted in Chislehurst.
The sighting was reported to Neil Arnold, the founder of the
Kent Big Cat Research Group, which studies eyewitness reports of exotic creatures.
He claims a woman saw a creature, which she described as the size of a small labrador, in woodland near St Paul's Wood Hill, Chislehurst, last Tuesday.
The animal was reportedly moving quickly through trees at around 6pm.
Mr Arnold believes the creature is a black leopard.
What do you think? Do you believe big cats roam Bexley and areas of Kent? Add your comment below.
4:44pm Saturday 5th May 2007

Tiger 'could jump fence' into Regents Park

Tiger ‘could jump fence’ into Regents park. by John Dunne.
Friday, 23 March 2007 - Source The London Paper
London Zoo has promised a security shake-up after inspectors found that big cats could leap perimeter fences and maul park-goers.Experts from Westminster Council discovered that picnickers, joggers and tourists enjoying neighbouring Regent’s Park face a potential threat from the zoo’s dangerous animals.The animals are kept in high-security compounds but if they did break out, a 6ft perimeter fence would not hold them back for long, according to the inquiry.

The inspectors said in their report: “It is a concern that, should there be a dangerous animal escape, it is unlikely that the existing perimeter fence will contain a dangerous animal, like a tiger for example, for a reasonable period of time allowing the capture team to do their work.”The zoo’s Sumatran tigers have an enclosure with a roof but the Asian lions are surrounded by a moat and a brick wall. Zoo director David Field said: “These findings are from very respected colleagues and we will take them on board. We will review our security – as we are always doing anyway – but we are confident that the animals cannot escape. "The inspectors recommended the zoo’s licence be approved despite the security risk and singled out its zookeepers for special praise. If an animal did happen to escape, special “armed” keepers would target it with tranquilliser darts or, in extreme circumstances, live ammunition."

Escape of the Condor

Missing bird of prey found safe and well
A MISSING bird of prey with a 10ft wing span has been found safe and well.
Crews from Dartford fire station joined the search for Tiny, a condor who went missing during a display at Eagle Heights Bird of Prey Centre, on Sunday.
The crew used thermal imaging equipment to try to find the bird, who landed in a rapeseed crop field, close to the centre's grounds in Eynsford.
But their efforts were unsuccessful and the search, led by centre staff and
RSPCA officials continued.
Luckily, Tiny was eventually found during a helicopter search last night.
Condors are members of the vulture family and are the largest flying land birds in the western hemisphere.
They have black plumage with a frill of white feathers around their necks.

May 8th 2007 (Source News Shopper)

Danny Robin's Investigates the 'beast of Sydenham'.

Channel 4 Radio presenter Danny Robin's, covered the so-called 'beast of Sydenham' in his Danny Robin's can download the 30 minutes documentary (featuring Neil Arnold) at the link.

Sunday 6 May 2007

Wild cats!

19th August 1976 - '...hordes of wild cats invade Heathrow'.

The Acton puma and other pets!

In 1975 MP Peter Templemore claimed that, “Someone sooner or later will get killed”, in response to a strange incident at Acton in London where an estranged husband dumped his puma in the back garden of his former home, with wife and kids trapped inside screaming for help. The man left a note saying that he had nowhere else to put the cat, and it took the local police and RSPCA two hours to get the terrified family of the man out of the house.

The South Harrow puma, which was owned by a local man in 1974 who often walked his prized pet through the local streets was one of many large cats owned in the capital. However, on one occasion, during the November of ’74, things got out of control. The owner in question casually strolled into the Farm House pub with his puma on a lead. After a short while several locals began to feel uncomfortable in the presence of the wild animal and so the man was asked to leave. Although he complied with the requests of the staff and customers, the beast didn’t, and in turn went berserk. The landlady at the time commented that, “It took the man fifteen minutes to get the puma out of the pub and into his car, during which it tore off the man’s glove and ripped open his hand”, this was after it had caused severe damage to the chair upholstery in the public house, as well as damaging tables, smashing glasses and demolishing the bar in its frenzy. Then, the cat decided to shred the car seats and the police were called to the scene where, after a short time, they towed both the vehicle and the aggravated felid away. Later, the man was charged with being drunk and incapable. But what happened to his cat ?

Friday 4 May 2007

Croydon Council Dangerous Wild Animals Act

Bexley 'beast' back on the prowl.

The Beast of Bexley has been on the prowl again.

This time the large black cat was spotted by Betty Morris.
It was stalking the streets around Becton Place, Northumberland Heath.
Mrs Morris, 60, was closing her bedroom window at about 10.20pm on April 21 when she saw the cat.
She said: "I don't think it is a panther. It was smaller, more like a black leopard, and had a huge long tail."
Mrs Morris added: "It sauntered along the road, then stopped under a street light.
"It waited while three men walked past on the other side of the road, then sprayed some bushes with its scent before walking off towards some empty garages."
She said: "I wanted to take photographs but my camera was in the living room and I was just transfixed.
"My husband had just gone out in the car and I called him to tell him there was a leopard going up the road. Then I called Bexleyheath police."
9:50am Tuesday 1st May 2007

A penguin!!!

London Evening Standard - 11th October 1984:

'An Arctic penguin crash landed (even though penguin's are flightless!!) in London's Sloane Square, in September 1984 after being "...blown hundreds of miles off course". It was believed to be the first such visitor to London under such conditions on record. Named Marianne, the young bird was looked after by an RSPCA inspector, who released her at Portland Bill, Dorset on 10th October after nursing her back to health.'

Hoax ? Zoo escapee ? You decide!

Mystery of the dead ducks!

Brief report from mid-'70s:

'More than thirty ducks dead from unknown causes in several south London parks'.

Attack of the bats!

Said to have plagued a house near Wimbledon Common in 1974 over the Summer months.

Mystery big bird

Around 1974 one of London's new commercial radio stations ran a report on an unusual bird sighted around West Drayton on the outskirts of the capital. After several puzzling sightings the flying thing was identified as a West African Crowned Crane! Local newspapers featured reports on the bird which had allegedly been around for around two years, or at least a relative had been.

Invasion of the caterpillars....

Coming soon...

Sunday 15 April 2007

Public vote on the Bexley 'beast' !!

Beast of Bexley could be out there

Almost two thirds of people think there is at least a chance the 'beast of Bexley' could be real.
In a poll on News Shopper's site, 31.7 per cent of people said the beast is definitely on the loose.
The same percentage of voters also said they don't know if the beast exists - but it could.
Just 36.6 per cent of voters said there is no such thing as a beast on the prowl around Bexley.
Over the past few years there have been numerous supposed sightings of a panther-like black creature.
Have you seen the beast or do you even believe it could be real? Add your comments below.
12:08pm Saturday 7th April 2007
By Simon Bull

Another 'beast' of Bexley encounter ?

IS THE BEAST BACK by Sara Nelson (Newsshopper - April 15th 2007)
A WOMAN has described how her "blood ran cold" after she heard and saw evidence of what she believes is an escaped black panther.
The woman, who does not want to be named, heard the noise of an animal growling in the back garden of her home in The Grove, Biggin Hill, around two weeks ago.
She was in her garden this morning when she noticed deep scratch marks reaching almost 20ft up the trees.
She said: "I heard something growling a few weeks ago and it was blood curdling, but it wasn't today until I made the connection.
"The trees have been scored with huge claw marks going up around 15 to 20ft where it looks like it has leapt up to find a branch to lie on.
"I am really worried because a small child would obviously make a nice snack for something capable of causing such damage.

"Whatever it was it was obviously looking for somewhere to cool down as the weather is getting so hot.
"We have put chicken wire over the base of the trees to stop any more damage and I do not fancy the thought of it coming back."
The woman has contacted the police and says they told her that similar reports had been made, and has also spoken to a member of staff at the Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire.
She said: "I spoke to a man there and described the marks and he told me it did sound like they had been made by a big cat.
"I also described the growl. When I first heard it I knew the sound was coming from a very large animal, and I thought 'hell, that must be one enormous rotteweiler'.
"My blood just ran cold, it was a low, rumbling, bubbly type of sound.
"Then when I first saw the claw marks I though 'oh the badgers have been sharpening their claws again'.
"It wasn't until I saw the marks going right up the trees that I knew I was wrong.
"I've spoken to people about it who respond with things like 'are you sure it's not a rat my dear or next door's cat?' which is frustrating, but I want to warn people to keep an eye on their kids.
"If someone gets kills or badly damaged, I will feel very guilty."
Ian Turner, who is deputy head warden at Longleat Safari Park, said: "From what she has described it is possible it is a black panther.
"I have advised her to take a picture of it if she can and keep an eye on any livestock in the area.
"It is very doubtful it would attack a human being, unless it was starving."
There have been numerous sightings of an animal dubbed as "The Beast of Bexley" over the past five years, but this is one of the first reported to News Shopper in the Bromley region.
The animal has been spotted at the Hillview Cemetery in Welling, around the woodlands at Shooters Hill, Plumstead Common, Danson Park, Barnehurst and Northumberland Heath and most recently in Silver Spring Close, Erith.
Have you seen or heard anything unusual in the area? Contact the news desk at or ring 01689 885723.

'Beast' of Bexley seen again ?

Newsshopper- 3rd April 2007

TERRIFIED cousins locked themselves in their homes and called for help after spotting "the beast of Bexley".
Tina Rutherford, 27, and Joanne Parfitt, 30, who live next door to each other in Silver Spring Close, Erith, spotted the large black cat on derelict land last Friday morning.
Miss Rutherford said: "Joanne saw the cat in the scrubland which leads to the nearby sand quarry.
"She drove down the road to get a closer look and realised it was too big to be an ordinary cat. She rang me to have a look."
Miss Rutherford added: "It was sitting on a bank and looked over at us before getting up and walking out of sight. It was huge and had a long thick tail."
"The cat then reappeared by the trees. It was bending down and appeared to be eating something."

Friday 6 April 2007

A London man-beast ?

When the panic pertaining to the Spring Heeled Jack crimes began in London during the late 1830s, reports of the frightful humanoid seemed confused. However, the general consensus of opinion was that 'Jack' was indeed a darkly cloaked nobleman with springs in his boots and iron-like claws used to attack women. However, also during the hysteria there were several mentions of a 'devil' or bear' in the vicinity of St. John's Wood which may well have been unconnected with the 'Jack' crimes. A solicitor at the time, reading to a packed Common Hall of stunned listeners, when speaking of the cloaked intruder, gave mention also to another mystery being, stating -

"There have been rumours in St John's Wood and its neighbourhood, for the last fortnight, of the appearance of the monster alluded to in the police report of yesterday of the Mansion House, inserted in THE TIMES this morning. The bet is, however, understood to be of an even more grave nature than is there stated, and, if it be true, amounts to murder. As far as the writer had been informed, the bet is, that the monster shall kill six women in some given time.
It is asserted that he has been seen in St. John's Wood clad in mail, and as a bear".

Even with all the manic confusion of the period when, previous to 'Jack' and his name being created, there were many a mention of a 'demon figure' or 'ghost', it still seems intriguingly odd that a 'bear' should come into the equation. Spring Heeled Jack was an agile and elusive assailant, but nowhere does there exist reports of a hairy creature running on all fours. Whilst bears can stand on two legs and walk for a short distance, this kind of creature does not resemble any of the SHJ mannerisms or descriptions which tended to be darkly clad, tall, fiery eyes, wearing a hat and shadowy.
Was there in fact a very separate creature roaming London's leafy suburbs during the 1800s ? Was it an escapee, maybe a large cat such as a puma, or something entirely unknown ?

A Horrifying humanoid

As witnessed by a man named Jim on the night of January 16th 2004, as he woke from his slumber to a weird clicking noise. In the dark of the room Jim could see a figure with the head resembling that of a fly or Praying Mantis. The hideous monster blasted the witness with a beam of light which seemed to send varying confused messages to its victim.
After the bizarre incident Jim described the creature as standing over five-feet in height and wearing a cloak, and was bathed in a purple light.

Monster of St Michael's church.

According to author Graham J. McKewan, in his MYSTERY ANIMALS OF BRITAIN AND IRELAND book, :

"The Tudor historian John Stowe, who was born 1525 and died in 1605, recorded a strange story told to him by his father -

'My father told me that, at St Michael's church in the Cornhill ward, London, on the night of St James, certain men were ringing the bells of St Michael's, in the loft, when there arose a tempest of thunder and lightning, and a thing of an ugly shape and sight was seen to come in at the south window, and it lighted on the north. For fear whereof, all the ringers fell down and lay as dead for a time, leaving the bells to ring and cease of their own accord. When the ringers came to themselves, they found certain stones of the north window to be razed and scrat as if they had been so much butter, printed with a lion's claw; the same stones were fastened there again, when it was repaired, and remain so to this day. I have seen them oft, and have put a feather or small stick into the hole where the claw had entered, three to four inches deep.
At the same time, certain maine Timber posts at Queen Hith were scrat and cleft from top to bottom, and the Pulpit Cross in Paul's churchyard was likewise scrat, cleft and overturned. One of the ringers lived in my youth, whom I have oft heard to verifye the same to be true, and I have oft heard my Father to report it'.

Monster bat!

Spring of 1922 it was alleged that a dark apparition was seen in London's West Drayton cemetery, a phantom that roamed the dusty catacombs a handful of decades before the Highgate Vampire. Witnesses who saw the creature, with a six-foot wingspan, described how a policeman pursued it into the shadows where it let off a scream and took to the air. The spectre often appeared under the glare of a full moon.
Little else seems to be known about this obscure form.
In 1938 at Thornton Heath in Surrey, a woman claimed that on three occasions over three months, she was attacked by a 'vampire' with wings. On each occasion the creature drew blood from the woman.

Deptford Whale,,25338-2021500,00.html

The Brentford Griffin

During the middle of 1984, a Kevin Chippendale was strolling along Braemar Road, when he observed a strange creature in the skies near the Green Dragon apartments, rather coincidentally! He claimed that the beast resembled a dog but with wings and a beak.

Mr Chippendale saw the creature again in the February of 1985 and said that the apparition bore some resemblance to the creature painted on the sign of the Griffin Public House.

A friend of Kevin's, an Angela Keyhoe also claimed to have seen the flying monster. She was on a bus journey when she saw it sitting on the gasometer next to the Waterman's Art Centre. She said it resembled a giant black bird. Several passengers on the bus apparently saw the creature, and so did psychologist John Olssen, one morning whilst he was jogging near to the Thames. Sightings seem to escalate, and the legend was featured in the press and also on The Six O' Clock News.

Although many claimed that the entire 'Griffin' fiasco was a hoax, it has embedded itself into local legend.

A pamphlet on the series of reports was written by Andrew Collins in 1985.

Now, whilst such a creature may well have been nothing more than fanciful rumour, I would like to share with you a letter, submitted to Fortean Times magazine, during the May of 1998, from a Mr Martin Collins who believed that such a monster may well have been more than local hoax.
He wrote: “I first encountered the story of the Brentford Griffins while I was at St John’s School in the 1950s (note: some thirty years before the first sightings!). St John’s in those days sat in the shadow of Brentford’s football ground, Griffin Park. Inquiring why there were so many griffin references in Brentford, I was told that it was due to the family of griffins that lived on Brentford Eyot, an island in the Thames.
The story of how they got there was that the first griffin was brought to Brentford by King Charles II as a gift for his mistress, Nell Gwynn, who had a house in the Butts at Brentford. One day the griffin was playing on the banks of the River Brent, which flows past the Butts, and fell in. The hapless creature was washed down the Brent into the Thames, finally being washed up on Brentford Eyot. As it was assumed to have been killed, it was left alone and was able to live on the Eyot for many years – griffins having a lifespan of centuries.
Then Sir Joseph Banks brought back a griffin from a Pacific island where he had been with Captain Cook. This griffin was originally housed in the Pagoda in Kew Gardens, which is on the opposite bank of the Thames from Brentford Eyot where it found a mate awaiting it.
There was soon a whole colony of griffins and they spread out from the Eyot all over the town of Brentford, where they can still be seen to this day, if you look closely enough.
This story has stayed with me…it is a nice bit of Brentford mythology.”

Whilst intriguing, and seemingly in support of the legend, the details mentioned simply prove how the creature had become symbolic within a community, just as the dragons, satyrs, centaurs etc, have the world over. However, sightings of such winged monsters do still persist throughout the world, and whilst many of these reports describe griffin-like beasts, it seems that they could all be replicas of the more universal gargoyle figure, seen perched above many a town throughout this weird world. Merely stone guardians or echoes of what really lurks in the skies ?

Berkeley Square horrors

Once considered an extremely haunted location, and investigated by many ghost hunter's, including Elliot O' Donnell, Berkeley Square and its eeriness is now the stuff of legend but seems bereft of any further activity since its haunting during the Victorian era.
In his book HAUNTED HOUSES, author Charles G. Harper wrote:
"There is quite a literature accumulated around No. 50 and even in the staid pages of Notes and Queries the questions of 'haunted or not haunted?', and if so, 'By what or whom?', have been debated. It seems something or other, very terrible indeed haunts or did haunt a particular room. Whatever it is, has been sufficiently awful to have caused death, in convulsions, of at least two fool hardy persons who have dared to sleep in that chamber."

Mentions of a little girl ghost are rife but the main malignant entity seems to be a shapeless horror that terrified two sailors so much to the extent that one of them leapt to his death, whilst the other was arrested for it.
In 2001 one of the bookseller's now occupying the place saw a strange brown mist in the room, but nothing untoward or remotely sinister resembling the dark activity of the past has resurfaced.

Spring Heeled Jack

During the year 1788 a vicious attacker prowled the streets of London. The sinister fiend, often described as an 'inhuman monster', slashed, cut and sliced around several female victims in a two year reign of terror. The man and his evil acts have become the stuff of legend.

Unfortunately, descriptions of the vile 'monster', at the time, were inconsistent, leading some experts and authorities to argue as to whether the victims were merely fabricating the stories.

Some victims described being approached by a man holding a bunch of flowers. The man would then ask the victim if she would like to smell the bouquet, and in many cases when the woman neared, he would stab her in the face with a hidden spike or blade hidden among the petals. Other women claimed that the fiend slashed at their clothing, hurled abuse at them, and in some bizarre attacks the attacker would attach knives to his knees and swipe at the buttocks and hips of his victims.

During the series of hideous assaults, many local men were afraid to approach attractive women in the street for fear of being reported to the police, although the local authorities were also under scrutiny, with many victims claiming that the police were not doing enough to capture the mysterious villain. Several vigilante groups were set up, but these kind of gangs often picked out the wrong culprit and many pick-pockets and the like were often scrutinised for being the prowler. Some sceptics argued that the night prowler did not exist at all and was some wild creation imagined by some of the so-called victims. Hysteria was at an equilibrium during the height of the frenzy.

A club calling itself the NO MONSTER CLUB was formed by various local men who took to wearing badges in order to be able to identify themselves to women as harmless.

A 23-year old man named Rhynwick Williams was believed to have carried out the attacks when one victim, an Ann Porter, identified the man after he attempted to assault her for the second time. Williams had a strong alibi for several of the attacks however that had taken place, but during such a period of panic he was still convicted after to farcical trials and spent some six years behind bars.

Several reward's were put up for capture of the lunatic, but the mysterious demon seemed to vanish into thin air after two years.

Some fifty years later and another, and quite similar fiend was stalking the streets of London. 'Spring Heeled Jack', as the phantom was to become known, was a similar street prowler who assaulted many women, and his exploits are now the stuff of legend, eclipsing the more obscure London Monster, yet forever remaining in the shadow of Jack The Ripper who emerged fifty years later.

These strange fifty year cycles may simply be coincidence, but all three of these fiends of the foggy streets had similar motives, to stab and assault women.

Spring Heeled Jack emerged in 1837 when he appeared to several victims including Polly Adams as she walked back to The Green Man public house in Blackheath. She was returning from a brief visit to the local fair where she'd been approached and grasped by a sinister man. Upon walking home on Shooter's Hill, a figure bounded out from the darkness and grabbed her. The figure wore a dark, swirling cape and seemed to have eyes that burned into her own. There was a sulphuric smell from the fiend and blue fire flashed from his lips towards her face, he kissed her, all the while his iron-like nails dug into her flesh, drawing blood and ripping at her dress, tearing it from her body with ease. The shredded garments revealing her curving figure to the night. The figure mocked, yet did not attempt any further malicious action such as rape, but merely bounded off, with great strides into the night.

Polly was one of many to be attacked by the grim marauder and certainly not the last. However, the shadowy figure was only brought to national attention in 1938 via the disclosures of the Lord Mayor in January 1838 at Mansion House.

The reign of terror began, or was at least first noted in the September of 1837 when he assaulted four people (three of them women) at locations in and around the capital. One evening of that Autumn a businessman took a short cut on his way home. The route took him past the cemetery where the man encountered a shadowy figure which vaulted from over the railings, springing him into the air. The figure landed with a thud in front of the terrified man who turned and fled. Despite his state of horror and panic he managed to recall that the figure had glowing eyes, pointed nose and pointed ears. The following night the figure displayed his first violent streak when he appeared to three girls in the same area. The mysterious character sprang from behind the railings once again, but when he landed he attempted to rip the coat from one of the girls who managed to flee, accompanied by her friends. They described the figure as having glowing eyes and mocking them. As one of the other girls tried to run Spring-Heeled Jack attempted to grab her breasts and tear at her clothes. The girl collapsed and was found in the same area unconscious by local police.
Servant girl Mary Stevens was attacked a month later at Cut-Throat Lane near Clapham Common. She had been visiting her parents house at Battersea and was heading back to Lavender Hill when she was confronted by a tall figure adorned in black who leapt from the darkness and grabbed hold of her. The stranger slobbered over her face, attempting to kiss her lips and grope her breasts. The woman screamed and the figure fled into the night. The woman was heard by many local people who calmed her down and she told them of the terror that came in the night. Unfortunately for the victim, she was blamed for having an over-active imagination, but on the following night he was back, and in the same area. A carriage drawn by horses was halted by a mysterious figure. The horses ran in horror, causing the carriage to crash and injure the coachman. Bizarrely the figure escaped the scene by effortlessly leaping over a nine-foot high wall. Then, another female was attacked, this time by a figure in a dark cape at Clapham Churchyard. Again, the harasser escaped from the site but left two mysterious footprints in the mud which were around three-inches deep and appeared as though the person who had left them had been wearing some kind of apparatus

During 1938 the Spring-Heeled Jack (as he was to become known in this year) enigma reached an equilibrium. In the February of this year the athletic phantom attacked eighteen-year old Lucy Scales who was with her sister Margaret. It was 8:30 in the evening and the pair were visiting their brother’s house in the Limehouse area. With Lucy walking slightly ahead, she reached the entrance to Green Dragon Alley and was startled by a cloaked stranger who emerged from the shadows and blew bright blue flames from his mouth into the face of the young woman. The girl collapsed in her terror, her distress causing her to fit on the ground and Jack leapt high over Margaret onto a nearby house roof and away into the evening mist. Two days later another eighteen-year old woman was assaulted, it occurred at Bearhind Lane in the district of Bow. Jane Alsop was reading a book on this particular evening, it was just before 9:00 pm and the bell of the front gate sounded. Jane answered the door to a man in a cape who claimed that, “I’m a policeman, bring a light! We’ve caught Spring-Heeled Jack in the lane!”. With excitement Jane ran into the house to fetch a candle and returned to the door with it lit only to be confronted by a terrifying sight. The stranger was illuminated in the flickering flame, revealing a grinning face of what she knew to be Jack. The figure blew a stream of phosphorescent gas at the girl which partially blinded her. Sensing her disability he then began to fondle her, tearing at her clothes with cold hands. Jane screamed into the night, alerting her sisters who came to her aid, dragging her from the attacker and shutting the door of the house in his horrid face.
Jane was quizzed by the Lambeth Police Court and she described in detail a man wearing a large helmet, an oily, tight-fitting costume and a cape similar to that worn by the police. She shuddered when she thought about how cold his clawed hands were and that his eyes glowed like fire. Soon, the local newspapers realised that a real figure was attacking these women and so the name Spring-Heeled Jack hit the headlines and vigilante patrols were sent out to roam the areas. The Duke of Wellington came out of retirement in order to hunt Jack down. Armed with two pistols he went off into the night, but came back with nothing.

A week after the Jane Alsop incident Spring-Heeled Jack appeared at a house in Turner Street, just off Commercial Road. A servant boy answered the door to the shadowy figure who hid his face with his dark cloak and asked, in a deep voice if he could see the master of the house. As the boy turned away though, Jack made an error by stepping into the light where the boy could view the monstrous sight before him; glowing orange eyes and an evil sneer, clawed fingers and under the cloak an intricate embroidered design that resembled a coat of arms and the letter ‘W’ stitched in gold. The boy yelled with horror, alerting many people in the neighbourhood and causing a furious Jack to leap over the houses in Commercial Road and out of sight.
The male witness was interrogated after his encounter and many people believed that the mysterious ‘W’ stitched in gold on the strangers chest may have had connections to the Marquis of Waterford (Henry de la Poer Beresford), a widely known prankster known for his notorious hoaxes and jokes, which tormented and irritated many. However, how the Marquis managed to construct shoe apparatus to enable him to leap over twenty-feet into the air was beyond most theorists. Others believed that a whole posse of hoaxers were at work, in communication throughout the city. Throughout his days at Eton and Oxford the Marquis was known as a joker, during one extravagant day he painted a town red, slapping crimson all over people’s windows and doors, and even painting a watchman! Although fined for the activities, the Marquis and various associates continued their nasty frolics, and on one occasion he was blamed for the vicious attack on a Polly Adams whilst at the Blackheath Fair in 1837. The woman described her attacker as having ‘pop eyes’. In fact, his eyes were a noticeable characteristic, which possibly may well have linked him to the SHJ attacks. It is alleged however, that the family crest at the time was not a ‘W’ but many pinned the attacks on Waterford who was related to the various areas where the attacks took place. However, in 1842 the Marquis married and lived in Ireland, but a second wave of attacks emerged, only this time right across England, and included the murder in 1845 of a thirteen-year old prostitute named Maria Davis. Strange London leapers were still reported throughout London after the 1838 assaults but reports were inconsistent and sporadic throughout the late 1830s and early 1840s. In 1845 Jack was reportedly seen in daylight when he assaulted a prostitute crossing a bridge in the capital. He grabbed her shoulders and breathed fire into her face and then tossed her into an open sewer and watched her drown.

The Marquis of Waterford died in 1859 but in 1877 in Norfolk a similar figure was seen bounding across the rooftops in Caistor. Witnesses described the man as having large ears and adorned in something resembling sheepskin. He was also seen in an oily suit, a shiny helmet and seemed immune to bullets when he was fired upon by a sentry at Aldershot. Private John Reagan was guarding the powder magazine of the North Camp when he heard something ‘shrill and metallic being scraped’. With rifle at the ready the guard had a look around but found nothing. Upon returning to his box he felt a cold hand on his cheek which frightened the life out of him. Another sentry became alerted and they both saw the shadowy figure of Spring-Heeled Jack, his head garb shining under the moon. He leapt into the air and appeared behind them, laughing. Reagan raised his rifle and shouted, “Who goes there ?”. The dark figure charged the soldiers who, according to some sources only fired blanks. Jack spewed forth blue flames from his mouth, causing the sentries to run with fear.
A similar caped marauder was seen a month later in Lincolnshire, leaping over the thatched cottages in a rural village. The tranquillity was broken by his presence and the locals emerged with their shotguns only to hear their bullets strike something metallic. In the January of 1879 a man in a cart crossed a bridge on the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction canal. It was around 10:00 pm when he was confronted by an evil-looking figure in black that leapt from the undergrowth and landed on the horses back. The man tried to whip the ‘thing’ which eventually sprang off into the undergrowth. A year after this incident a Spring-Heeled Jack type figure was seen on the other side of the world, in Louisville, Kentucky. The figure leapt at women, ripping at their clothing. The culprit was described as male, with pointed ears and a long nose, long fingers and wearing a dark cape. He was adorned in a black shiny uniform and wore a helmet. A bright light was often seen on the attackers chest and he spouted blue flames at his victims as if to startle or temporarily blind them so he could grapple and grope them. Once the attack had concluded the figure was said to escape by leaping effortlessly away. Some fifty to sixty years later the same kind of figure appeared in Massachusetts where a number of attacks were connected to him. He was allegedly cornered on one occasion by four police officers but leapt a ten-foot tall fence to escape them. In most cases though, the attacker was described in familiar ways, with details which usually echoed the original London leaper. However, many Americans tended to connect their ‘Jack’ with UFOs, as they often felt that the figure was too tall and hideous to be human and walked like an astronaut does when striding across the surface of the Moon. In fact, in 1953 in Houston, Texas, a shadowy figure was seen crossing a lawn, the figure had a glowing outline, and either wings or a cape. The figure faded into the darkness but three witnesses claimed they heard a whooshing across the rooftops and a white torpedo-like object fizzed across the sky. Just over twenty years after this incident a motorist driving through the Yakima Indian reservation in Washington was startled to see a black figure leap fifteen feet out of a ditch and approach his car. The motorist believed the figure was around seven-feet tall, had long hair and wore a dark uniform with white markings on it. The driver sped off only then to see a strange light whiz across the sky.
In Lancashire during 1904 SHJ was blamed for many of the sightings involving a figure which was seen leaping from roof to roof. In Everton a strange figure was seen on the steeple of St Francis Xavier’s in Salisbury Street. As the crowds gathered the figure leapt into the darkness below. Many felt they had witnessed a suicide, however a few minutes later a figure in a helmet, dressed in white emerged from the shadows and hurtled towards the crowd. Women screamed as he approached but the figure somehow managed to fly above them, disappearing over William Henry Street.
Sixteen years later in Warrington another figure glowing in white was seen leaping across the rooftops in Horsemarket Street. The figure jumped the railway station and was never seen again. However, in 1948 another SHJ-type entity was seen prowling in the south of Wales. A weird-looking fellow was sighted leaping over a stream at Watery Lane, but this could have been anyone.

However, during the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s there are still recorded accounts of such figures. Some may well be hoaxes perpetrated by people who just do not want the legend to die, but some are weird all the same.
In the mid ‘70s at Westbury Street a weird prowler was spotted on several occasions and even pursued by the police. Said to have had red glowing eyes, the mystery entity was said to stand six to seven-feet tall, be adorned in all black and wear a dark cape. The figure was observed on number of occasions leaping from house to house, from roof to roof. The figure was also seen to walk down the side of houses and local pubs. One night the prowler was surrounded in the back room of Dexel Tyres but vanished without trace.
In the Summer of 1983 in County Durham, at a spot known as Nannygoat Bank, an odd figure was said to have been watched as he effortlessly cleared a six-foot high wall after flashing at people in the area. The figure was said to have worn pink tights and knickers on his head and exposed himself to motorists who passed on the A68 road. Whilst hardly sinister, the figure was noted for his athleticism as he escaped four farmers one night, leaving them trailing in his wake as he sped off across the fields never to be seen again. Yet three years later in Southern Hertfordshire a cyclist riding along a country road was startled to see a manly figure almost gliding over hedgerows. The figure leapt into the road, slapped the witness in the face, laughed and then jumped back into the field and took off. The witness described the man as wearing all black and having a long chin.
On December 2nd 1996 strange footprints were seen to trail for over two-hundred yards at Walton Park. The foot size was measured at around a ‘10’ and the strides measured three-feet apart, but most peculiar was the fact that the prints appeared to be burned into the soil!Meanwhile in 1995 in a village in West Surrey, a local school was terrorised by a figure in black with glowing red eyes, that appeared to children one evening during a leaving disco. Apparently none of the teachers ever saw the ghostly figure, only the children. The figure frightened the children who claimed that the ‘man’ wore black boots, gloves and played a flute-like object. The incident has become one of many similar ghost stories from around that particular area.

The 'vampire' of Highgate

During the late 1960s and early 1970s a tall, dark and mysterious figure prowled the vicinity of Highgate Cemetery in London. This sinister spectre was said to haunt the North Gate of the Western Cemetery, which, at the time, was a dilapidated entrance to an overgrown and gloomy metropolis where tombstones spilled unto unkempt pathways, catacombs were pallid in their expression and graves were desecrated for fun.

It was rumoured that dark, diabolical rituals were practised in the eerie confines of the foggy abode, and where on several occasions a red-eyed entity was seen hovering behind the wrought iron gate. This particular graveyard fiend was to become known as the Highgate 'vampire'. At times it drained passers by of energy, psychically sapping from them the air they breathed, whilst other rumours circulated that several female residents within the village had been attacked in the night, and, whilst during slumber had their blood drank from their necks via puncture marks allegedly left by the invader.

Unfortunately, during the time of the sightings of the malignant shade, hordes of reporters converged upon the cemetery, and hysteria reached a climax on several nights when hundreds of members of the general public bombarded the area, in search of the night stalker. These panics resulted in several bizarre events which make the tale of the Highgate apparition one of, if not London's most spectacular yet unsolved mysteries.

Did satanists raise the seemingly evil psychic apparition ?

Was the 'vampire' responsible for several fox deaths in the cemetery ?

Was the spectre simply a dark spirit roaming the ivy-strewn pathways ?

Does the phantom still haunt the darkness in the present day ?

Much of the case has been regurgitated in paranormal-related books over the years, but something very strange went on all those dusty decades ago. Theories range from a real-life king of the undead, to a soul-draining shadow, others claim a hoax, some believe that the spectre was a manifestation that grew stronger as more and more attention was paid to its murky presence.

Today, the Highgate anomaly still remains obscenely overlooked when you consider just what exactly went on. The cemetery itself now exists in gothic splendour, in a state of manageable neglect, a wonderful abode that looks like a Hammer Horror film set. It's just a shame the mystery itself remains dormant, because somewhere amongst the thickets, the mist and the fiction there lurks a very real horror.

Phantom Bear of the Tower Of London

During the early 1800s, possibly 1815/16, a ghostly bear was observed in the Jewel Room of the tower. The guard at the time, was keeping watch over the Crown Jewel's when the apparition emerged from the room. As the phantom approached the man lunged at it with his bayonet, but his weapon glided through it and embedded itself in the door.
According to legend the guard died a few days later, of shock most probably.

Phantom dogs

As mentioned in the above link London's most known phantom hound was that which stalked the old Newgate Prison, but other hellhounds and ghostly dogs have also been reported around the capital although such legends are ar less common than the more classic canid apparitions such as Black Shuck, Striker, Padfoot, Guytrash, Roy Dog etc.
Some ghostly dogs are simply just that, and are said to roam the Spanish galleon public house in Greenwich, whilst another haunts the Anchor Tavern in South East London.
Other dog apparitions have been seen at 523 Wandsworth Rd, this particular spectral animal was sighted during the 1960s after a dog was killed on the road outside.
At Baker Street a glowing dog, possibly a Dachshund, is said to haunt a stretch of the road.
Ghostly dogs around London seem far and far between however, but if you've heard of any such legends please get in touch.