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6 British mythical creatures that struck fear and confusion

BY Crispin Andrews

14th Nov 2023 Life

4 min read

6 British mythical creatures that struck fear and confusion
Strange and unexplained mythical creatures have been spotted all across the British isles, even as recently as within the past decade
Ninety years ago, the first photo of the Loch Ness Monster appeared in the Daily Record newspaper.
Ever since, enthusiasts, tourists, researchers and monster hunters have flocked to what has become Scotland’s most famous loch in search of whatever may or may not be down there.
Last August, researchers from the Loch Ness Visitor Centre and Loch Ness Exploration flew drones fitted with infrared cameras over the loch and used a hydrophone to try and detect underwater signs of Nessie.
Three hundred volunteers turned out to help them, in what was the biggest hunt for the monster since 1972. They didn’t find any monsters; just, they say, a few underwater sounds, unfortunately when the recorder was switched off.
The Loch Ness Monster isn’t Britain’s only mystery creature tale. There are many other fascinating stories, each with a real animal lurking behind the legend. 

Mawnan Owlman, Cornwall, 1976

Two girls, aged twelve and nine, report seeing a huge, feathered creature hovering over Mawnan Church near Falmouth.
Two months later, two teenage girls hear a hissing noise in the bushes near the church and see the same winged creature take off and fly into the trees.
The following morning there’s another sighting, this time in the treetops.
"Reports say the creature has silvery grey feathers, pointed ears, black claws and glowing red eyes"
The legend of the Mawman Owlman soon spreads around Cornish bars and cafes. Reports say the creature has silvery grey feathers, pointed ears, black claws and glowing red eyes.
An eagle owl perhaps? Eagle owls are known to hiss if threatened, have six foot wingspans, upward pointing ear tufts and appear to stand upright when taking off from the ground.
Sometimes these birds escape from zoos or private collections and occasionally fly over from mainland Europe or Scandinavia.
Blakiston’s fish owls are even bigger and have silvery grey wings.

Wild Dog of Ennerdale, Lake District, 1810-11

Thylacine
A tawny coloured dog-like animal with dark stripes on its lower back and sides, appears suddenly and starts killing sheep around Ennerdale and Wast Water—lots more sheep than any domestic dog would ever kill.
Eyewitnesses report that the beast eludes hunters like no animal they’ve seen and scares hunting dogs away with its long, snapping, powerful jaws. 
Locals are so afraid that some think it’s a werewolf, but more likely "the wild dog", as it became known, was a thylacine (Tasmanian tiger), escaped from a travelling menagerie.
After four months, someone shoots the beast and it is later put on display in Keswick museum. The carcass is thrown out a few years later.

Beast of Brassknocker Hill, Somerset, 1979

A couple from Brassknocker Hill near Bath notice that bark has been stripped from an oak tree outside their cottage—much more bark than any squirrel could manage—and in a manner that suggests an animal with teeth at least ten times bigger than a squirrel has been hanging upside down in the tree.
Soon after, people start seeing a bear-like animal with white rings around its eyes and huge teeth. By the end of the month, locals have reported fifty more tree stripping incidents.
The police attend one sighting and say it’s a chimpanzee, others claim it’s a spectacled bear. Both animals are well-known bark strippers with large teeth.
After the police sighting, the Beast of Brassknocker Hill disappears into the woods and is never seen again.

Fear Liath, Cairngorms, 1891-present

Fear Liath Brocken spectre
The Scottish Bigfoot. More often heard than seen. Loud, crunching steps on the rocks or ice, a malevolent presence, ghostly voices drawing the unsuspecting traveller to the edge of a dangerous ravine, and sometimes a brief glimpse of a ten-foot upright walking beast covered with short brown hair.
Ancient giant? Mountain panic, which can afflict people unused to being out in the wilds and in some cases cause hallucinations? Or are there still a few bears in the Cairngorm mountains 3,000 years after they were supposedly hunted to extinction?

Dire wolves in Northern Ireland, 2012-2015

Dire wolf
Prehistoric ancestors of modern wolves, dire wolves died out around 12,000 years ago, except on the TV show Game of Thrones where they feature as companions and are played by Northern Inuit dogs.
In 2012, hikers in County Fermanagh report seeing a pack of stocky wolf-like creatures with large heads. Three years later there’s another sighting of a similar beast, this time with white fur, near the border of County Laois and Offaly.
"Even modern wolves have been extinct in Ireland since the late 18th century"
Prehistoric dire wolves don’t look much different to modern wolves. But even modern wolves have been extinct in Ireland since the late 18th century.
There have been occasional sightings since, more likely of pet wolfdog hybrids, which can grow bigger and stockier than wild wolves, depending on the breed of dog that bore or sired them.
However, it must be said that the alleged dire wolf sightings happened only a year after the first episode of Game of Thrones appeared on British screens in April 2011.

Teggie the Welsh Nessie, Bala Lake, Wales, 1920s-present

Legend has it that a whole group of water creatures live in Bala Lake near Snowdonia national park in Wales.
Smaller than the Loch Ness monster, these creatures are said to resemble either large pike, amphibians or crocodiles.
An associated legend says that the mysterious beasts might just be descendants of seals supposedly trained by the military in this lake during the Second World War to plant limpet mines on enemy structures.
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