Nick Redfern, one of very few Forteans who makes a full-time living on the subject, gave a talk at the CFZ's Weird Weekend (Sunday 19 August 2007) on one of those 'zooform phenomena' - a term that describes animals that are way to weird to possibly be able to exist, but which are nonetheless still being reported - the Man-Monkey of Ranton, Staffordshire, near where Redfern comes from.
There are reports from England, Scotland and Wales that broadly fit the description of a Bigfoot-type creature, but these reports are 'not as straightforward as they seem' - there are weird folk stories around these creatures about ghostly attacks, disasters that they bring about, objects passing straight through them. And how come they've never been caught? Is this thing a real animal or an apparition?
Redfern has uncovered 20-30 descriptions of this phantom Man-Monkey creature from around the UK, including interviews with eyewitnesses.
The classic Man-Monkey sighting comes from 1879, when a skinny monkey jumped onto a cart at Ranton along the Shropshire Canal, at a point where a worker on the canal had earlier died. The victim of the Man-Monkey attack struck the creature with a whip, but it went right through him, as if it was somehow spectral. The area around Renton was the scene of UFO sightings in 1954, and Ranton seems to be a 'window area for strange activity.' Nearby Camelford Chase is a folklore hotspot. The local 'German Cemetery - where German POWs killed in the 1918 'flu epidemic were buried - has seen a recent spate of 'werewolf' sightings. Nearby Shugborough Hall - the name comes from 'shug', a mythical cross between a mastiff and a monkey - saw a sighting of a 'wildly running' man-monkey creature in the garden in 1981.
Also in the area is Cannock Chase - where animals have been found dead and mutilated, including dead foxes arranged in a circle among candles - there have been reports of 'animal sacrifices' and 'ritual activity.' I was interested to see during Redfern's talk a slide of BT's Telecom tower in Cannock Chase, and asked Redfern whether the electronic pollution from a microwave transmitter like this one could be somehow inducing visions or other weirdness. I discussed this with Redfern over dinner in Wolfordisworthy's Farmers Arms pub afterwards, and another area of weirdness with a microwave transmitter in the middle of it - Highgate in North London, scene of the 'Highgate Vampire' events of the 1970s, including reported attacks by ghostly entities.
I later ran microwave towers as a possible hallucination generator past my brother, who has a civil service background. He commented, 'Sigh. Done to death, at length. Call the press officer at the Radio Communications
Agency. There is lots of data on the harmlessness of microwaves. But it doesn't matter what us scientists say - people will still claim that LittleJohnny is sick because there is a mobile phone antenna 250 meters from his bedroom. Mind you, the early microwave techies building the Post Office Tower (opened in 1966, now BT's Telecom Tower) used to warm their hands in the focal point of the beams...'
Nick Redfern's latest book, Man-Monkey: In search of the British Bigfoot, is published by CFZ Press.