Friday, 30 April 2010

A Visit to Haunted Odiham, Hampshire

The little town of Odiham stands just south of junction 5,w here the A287 meets the M3 and is very possibly the oldest in the county. Long before either M or A roads were thought of the prehistoric trade track known today as the Harrow Way ran here. Archaeological digs have shown that people lived here when Rome was a group of mud huts on a bare hillside and Athens a huddle of hovels. The vast chalk pit just south of the town was being worked from about 1200bc. It was prized flint and greenstone that was traded along the Harrow Way, along with more perishable leather, livestock and cloth.

The High Street is among the widest in England, and its width is the first thing to strike a visitor. The roadway was made like this to allow a stagecoach pulled by a team of four horses to turn around, the coaching trade between London and the ports of the south coast being a major industry from medieval times to the coming of the railways. The George Hotel was long the most luxurious and prestigious of the inns that catered to the coach trade. The oldest parts of the building date back to 1540, though most of what stands today dates back to a major rebuilding that took place in the mid-18th century. So does the ghost.

As ghosts go, the one that lurks here is pretty scary. Fortunately it is most unlikely you will encounter anything more frightening these days than a particularly well cooked bit of seafood, but that is for later.

About 250 years ago, which is when the story of the haunting begins, the area around Odiham was not a particularly pleasant place to loiter. The village was nice enough, but the countryside around was the hunting ground of highwaymen, footpads and violent robbers of all kinds. By that date the hotel had already had a colourful history. It had played host to many important dignitaries on their way to London from the southwest. It also doubled up as the courthouse on occasion and was even the chosen home of wealthier French prisoners during the long wars of the 18th century.

In those days the George catered for the local gentry. Mindful of the unsavoury nature of the surrounding roads at night, the George kept a coach to hand to take its esteemed guests home if they stayed late and became rather the worse for wear. The coachman who ferried his merry customers home prudently kept a pistol under his seat in case he encountered a man of evil intent.

His new young wife, however, worried about him. Each night she waited in their room at the rear of the hotel anxiously listening out for the hoofbeats that told her that her husband was safely home.

One particular night she heard the longed-for hoofbeats and dashed to her door to welcome her husband. Opening the door, the poor woman was struck dumb with fright. There was no coach and no husband. Just a lone figure standing in the yard. The figure was a woman in a long grey cloak, but it was the figure’s face that held the attention. It was a great terrifying emptiness. There was simply nothing there - yet it managed to be ugly and filled with hate and evil. As the wife watched aghast, the hideous figure stared at her for seconds that seemed like hours. Then the spectral woman turned and drifted across the yard, disappearing into the shadows at the far end.

Moments later the coach pulled into the yard, the coachman safe and well. Despite this the man’s wife took the apparition to be a clear warning to quit the job at once. After some persuasion, her husband gave up his risky, if lucrative, duties and went to work at another inn where he was given employment safely behind the bar.

The hideous old hag has not been seen recently. Sarah, the receptionist, greeted me warmly when I called. She happily showed me round to the stableyard where the ghost lurked. It is now a cheery, open space which has lost whatever sinister atmosphere it might once have had. Tables protected by large sun shades are scattered about the yard, each with its complement of chairs - though there were no drinkers when I called as the weather was a bit nippy and a chill wind whipped autumnal leaves around the place.

Inside was another story. “We have our Cromwell’s Seafood Restaurant here now,” Sarah informed me. “Chef is very proud of it too. He gets all his fish and stuff in fresh every morning from the market - no frozen fish here, you see. He won’t have it. Would you like to see a menu?”

It seemed an offer worth investigating. So impressed was I that I at once put off my plans to visit the nearby haunted castle and settled down to a magnificent meal of Moules Breton - that’s mussels in cream sauce - followed by a lemon sole grilled to perfection. And the glass of chilled dry white wine helped as well.

I looked around the warmly comfortable restaurant as I contemplated the dessert menu. I could not imagine why the ghost had not returned since a refurbishment some 10 years back. Good place to come back to, it would be thought.

This is an extract from Haunted Hampshire by Rupert Matthews.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Ghosts of Lewes, Sussex

From the railway station head west along the High Street to the junction with the A277 Brighton Road. In front of you is Lewes Prison.

The authorities do not like to talk about the ghost here, but local gossip has it that one of the corridors is haunted by a man in Victorian-style prison garb. He is said to have dropped dead of a seizure upon seeing his son enter the same block as a fellow prisoner.

 To reach the battlefield, walk north along Brighton Road, bearing left along a surfaced drive signposted to the racecourse. The battle took place on the open downs beyond the racecourse. Otherwise, turn right along Western Road. The bookshop on the right, on the corner with Keere Street is haunted.

The ghost here is a charming and friendly old gent who potters about the building as he did when this was his home. He is seen most often upstairs, but ventures downstairs on occasion. Customers have mistaken him for a member of staff and tried to ask him a question about the stock, only to have the figure vanish abruptly from sight.

Continue along the High Street, passing the castle on the left. Turn left up Fisher Street to find the police station.

The ghost here is both a mystery and a clearly identifiable figure. He is tall with hair that is just beginning to grey at the temples. The ghost is dressed quite clearly in the uniform of a Chief Inspector from the 1950s and is seen so distinctly that one witness stated that he would have recognised the ghost if he had known him. And this is the mystery. The ghost has been appearing off and on ever since he was first seen in 1962. However, he does not resemble any known Chief Inspector living or dead. Who he might be is a total mystery, as is why he haunts this police station.

Retrace your steps along Fisher Street, over the High Street and along Station Street to return to the railway station.

This is an extract from Ghost Walks in Sussex by Rupert Matthews.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Phantoms in Rochester, Kent


The main entrance to Rochester Castle is through an ancient archway off The Esplanade, close to where that riverside road meets the A2 on the south side of the bridge over the Medway.

Civil War came to Rochester in 1264, causing a haunting that has persisted ever since.

King Henry III ran a corrupt government in which favoured courtiers helped themselves to the wealth of the kingdom and justice was available only to those who could bribe the right official. The situation was made worse by the fact that many of those lining their pockets so dishonestly were the French relatives of Henry’s queen, Eleanor of Provence. In 1258 the nobles of England met in solemn conference at Oxford and, inspired by Simon de Montfort the Earl of Leicester, they drew up rules to ensure fair, honest government and forced Henry to sign them. In 1264 Henry hired an army of French mercenaries and repudiated his agreement. War broke out.

Rochester Castle was held for the king by Sir Ralph de Capo, who had with him in the castle his betrothed, the beautiful Lady Blanche de Warrenne. Earl Simon moved to besiege Rochester and among his army was one Sir Gilbert de Clare. As ill fortune would have it, Lady Blanche had previously been betrothed to Sir Gilbert, but had broken off the engagement due to his violent temper.

After a siege of some weeks, Earl Simon learned that King Henry was at Lewes with an army much smaller than his own. Sensing a likely victory, Earl Simon abandoned the siege and marched off towards Lewes. As the army marched away, Sir Ralph sallied out to harry his enemies and recover what he could in the way of looted livestock and the like. Seeing this, Sir Gilbert led a small force that battered their way into Rochester Castle, slamming the gates behind them and declaring the castle now held for Earl Simon.

Sir Ralph, at once, rode back toward the castle, but it was too late. He arrived to see his beloved Lady Blanche high on the battlements of the keep fending off the unwanted advances of Sir Gilbert. Without hesitating, Sir Ralph put a bolt into his crossbow and sent it flying at Sir Gilbert. The bolt, however, glanced off Sir Gilbert’s armour and instead struck Lady Blanche. The unfortunate lady died within seconds.

It is the phantom of Lady Blanche who returns to the battlements of Rochester Castle. She appears with long, flowing dark hair which waves gently in a summer’s breeze, no matter what the actual weather may be. He long, pale gown flutters loosely as she paces back and forth along the battlements. She usually appears for only a few seconds at a time, but often enough for there to be no doubt about her presence.

Leave the castle by the way you entered, turning sharp right up a steep, narrow lane named Bakers Walk. At the top of the hill bear right around the castle walls into St Margaret’s Street. Rochester Cathedral is on the left.

Just as persistent as the phantom Lady Blanche is the genial old gent who potters about the burial ground of Rochester Cathedral, over the road from the Castle. This elderly man in a dark suit is seen walking quietly around as if searching for something. He is, in fact, searching for his own tomb. He searches in vain for it is in Westminster Abbey, not here. The ghost is none other than Charles Dickens, the great Victorian novelist. Dickens grew up in Rochester in grinding poverty. At the age of 11 he was put to work in a factory, earning just six shillings per week to help the family finances. As he walked to work each morning, Dickens passed a fine house at Gad’s Hill, Rochester, which he thought the most lovely the world. In 1857 he bought it with money earned by his writing and lived there until his death in 1870.

As he lay dying, Dickens asked to be buried here, but a grateful nation decided to give him a grander burial in London instead. No wonder he returns here to search for his tomb. Presumably he is unhappy that his final wishes were not respected. The phantom Dickens is seen quite often, but never for very long. He ducks out of sight within seconds of being seen.

The cathedral itself is one of the oldest in England. It was founded in 604 by St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury. That early church burned down in the 11th century and was replaced by a massive Norman-style building which was extended in the 13th century to create the church as it stands today, give or take a bit of Victorian work. 

Leave the Cathedral and turn left, walking south along St Margaret’s Street with the castle on your right. About 150 yards south of the castle stands the Cooper’s Arms public house on the right.

The Cooper’s Arms is one of the oldest secular buildings in Rochester. It was built in the 14th century as the cooperage, where the barrels were made and repaired, for the Benedictine monastery that then occupied this area of the town.

The phantom is the shade of one of the medieval monks who used to frequent the building. For some reason he is seen only in the autumn, and then usually only once or twice each year. His appearance is, however, dramatic enough to make up for its infrequency. He walks into the bar by striding through a solid wall, where there was once a doorway. Having thus startled anybody in the bar at the time, the phantom monk looks around with distinct disapproval before turning around and returning whence he came.

Whether the ghostly monk disapproves of the secular use to which the old building  is now put, or if he disapproves of something that existed here when he was alive, nobody can tell.


This is an extract from Ghost Hunter Walks in Kent by Rupert Matthews

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Ghosts of Culpepper's Dish, Dorset


This short walk takes in varied woodland scenery from mature oak forest to sterile commercial pine plantations. There are impressive views and enclosed forests. Much of the undergrowth in the southern part of the walk is composed of rhododendrons and, at the appropriate time of year, these make a truly spectacular display of blooms. Of the three phantoms that may be encountered here, by far the most famous is Lawrence of Arabia whose house at Cloud’s Hill is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public during the summer months.



The Walk

1) Park in the small car park owned by the Forestry Commission which is located on the lane which turns east off the B3390 just south of Affpuddle and runs to Bere Regis. As you exit the car park on to the lane, Culpepper’s Dish is behind the hedges directly in front of you. This impressive hollow is exceptionally steep and very deep. It is possible to climb down into it, but this is a scramble and the ground is very slippery when wet. Great care should be taken. Having viewed the dish, return to the road and turn right.

This stretch of road is haunted by a small group of ghosts which can be both seen and heard. Tramping steadily along the lane in perfect step with each other come four men carrying a coffin on their shoulders. There are no other mourners accompanying this cortege. It can only be assumed that this is the recreation of some funeral from long ago which ended at the little church in Turner’s Puddle, for there is no other cemetery within easy reach in the direction the men are walking.

2) About 50 yards from the Dish this lane is crossed by a footpath. This is part of the Rambler’s Association’s Jubilee Trail. Turn left along the path signposted to Morton. Follow the path downhill and across a patch of open heathland. Cross the first track the path meets, but turn right along the second track. A few yards along this track, look down the slope to the left to see the sinister waters of Rimsmoor Pond.

The stories that swirl around this bleak place are many. The pool is said to be bottomless and its waters are strangely deadly for no fish or other water creatures are to be found in its dark, silent expanse. There is said to be a malevolent spirit lurking here that lures passersby to their deaths. It was one such death some years ago that led to the haunting of this dismal place.

A young man from Briantspuddle was returning home after a convivial evening out with friends and foolishly chose to ride back by way of Bryants Heath, and to skirt the waters of Rimsmoor Pond. What happened exactly willl never be known. The young man never came home, nor did his horse. Next morning his friends set out to trace his steps. When they reached the high ground above the pond, they saw the ground had been torn up by frantic hooves and the bushes torn aside as if some dreadful fight had taken place. Ominous skid marks showed where the horse had slid down the steep slope, straight into the waters of Rimsmoor Pond. Of the man and his horse there was no sign, just the empty wind blowing across the dark waters.

To this day the fading light of evening will sometimes show the doomed young man riding along the path towards Rimsmoor Pond. As he reaches the top of the rise, the ghostly man glances down towards the pond with a look of horror. Then he vanishes. Whatever happened to him was frightful. Best to avoid this spot after sunset.

3) Return to the road, turn right and walk about 300 yards before turning left to return to the car park.

This is an extract from Ghost Hunter Walks in Dorset by Rupert Matthews.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

A Ghostly Duke in York

Seen rather more often is the tall gentleman in a rich velvet jacket festooned with lace who haunts the Cock and Bottle pub. This is George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham who lived in Yorkshire in the later 17th century and was a frequent visitor to the inn. Like others in his family, Villiers was remarkably good looking and possessed of such wit and elegance that he was said to be the most charming man in England.

Buckingham fought bravely for King Charles I during the civil war and lost his estates when Parliament won the conflict. The restoration of Charles II in 1660 saw Buckingham reclaim most of his wealth and lands. After the years of penury and exile, Buckingham decided to enjoy his new position to the full. The scandals and debauchery that followed became legendary and put a severe strain on his friendship with the new king – though Charles II was himself no stranger to riotous living. George wrote amusing and popular plays, chased actresses and fought duels with a determination and that amazed people.

It was after getting involved in politics and finding himself on the losing side in a bitter dispute in 1673 that Buckingham gave up his life at court for a more relaxed, though scarcely more sober lifestyle in Yorkshire. There he made frequent visits to York to indulge his tastes for fine wines, food and women. He must have liked the Cock and Bottle, for his ghost has been appearing there ever since his death in 1687.


This is an extract from Ghosthunters Guide to England by Rupert Matthews. 

Friday, 16 April 2010

Where the Devil got the Friar

There is something irresistible about ghostly clergy. Every part of Britain has its tales of phantom monks, spectral nuns and unearthly vicars. Herefordshire is awash with them. It can sometimes seem as if almost every village has is ghostly monk or nun flitting about.

Quite why this should be is not entirely clear. Being devoted to the sacred things of life, the clergy have no obvious reason to be more prone to return as ghosts than anyone else. If, as some believe, ghosts are the wandering spirits of the uneasy dead, then the clergy should not really feature at all.

Others believe that ghosts are more like recordings of dramatic events that are somehow held in the walls of houses or the stones of the landscape. These recordings are imprinted by the strong emotions of those involved in events and can be replayed back if the conditions are right. The recording then appears as a ghost. Again, clergy are not noted for their tempestuous lives so why they should imprint their emotions on the landscape more often than others is not clear.

One ghostly friar whose story has survived for centuries was the anchorite of West Hide Wood, near Tillington. Exactly when this rather worldly cleric lived in unknown, but given that his job was to tend the small shrine that lay in the woods it must have been before the Reformation.

Whenever he lived, the friar was fond of slipping away from his religious duties to attend the gambling and drinking that went on in Tillington. One day the friar had completed his devotions and settled down to lunch when a passerby told him that a badger baiting was due to take place that afternoon and invited him to come along. The friar refused, knowing that he had more prayers to say for the souls of the departed that particular day.

But then what should come snuffling into his little chapel than a badger. The friar could not pass up such a chance. He hurriedly grabbed a sack and bundled the badger up. Then, forgetting his duties, the friar slung the badger over his back and hurried off toward Tillington.

The Bell Inn has traditionally claimed to have been the venue for the badger baiting, and for what happened next. As the friar walked along he thought he heard a voice coming from the sack, but discounted this in his haste to get to the Bell. He trotted up to the pub and the crowd of drinkers gathered outside calling out that he had a fine, strong badger in his bag. The friar then put the bag down and opened it. Out sprang the devil himself shouting “Daddy calls”. He then grabbed the friar and both of them disappeared in a ball of flame before the startled eyes of the drinkers.

To this day a ghostly monk may be seen hurrying toward the Bell Inn at Tillington. The rotund figure scurries along as if in a great hurry. He stops just outside the inn, and then vanishes into thin air.

The locals have a saying “where the Devil got the friar”, which means that something has been achieved by trickery or deceit for the Devil got the friar by tricking him into abandoning his religious duties.

This is an extract from Haunted Herefordshire by Rupert Matthews.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Warrior Ghosts at West Tump, Gloucestershire


War has rumbled back and forth across Gloucestershire for centuries. Castles and fortifications of all kinds mark the passing tide of battle as key river crossings and routes through the hills need guarding from enemies and rivals. Standing on the border between England and Wales, the county has seen more than its fair share of raiding and invasions between the two nations.

But the oldest fighting ghosts of Gloucestershire date back to a time long before either England or Wales had ever been thought of. Deep in the dark Buckle Wood south of the village of Birdlip the undulating ground is the site of the well known West Tump long barrow. The barrow dates back to around 2,700BC, or thereabouts, and was the burial place for generations of a royal family. Originally the barrow was around 50 metres long and some four or five metres tall, edged with a dry stone wall and guarded at one end by a pair of upright monoliths. Over the millennia the stones fell and tree roots undermined the earthen mound until it was virtually impossible to distinguish it from the surrounding, entirely natural undulations.

Then, in 1880 the archaeologist G.B. Witts stumbled across the barrow and decided to excavate. He found within it a chamber containing the remains of at least 20 individuals jumbled together, including both men and women. Whatever grave goods had been buried here had rotted away long ago. The presence of two 'horns' of piled up soil reaching out to enclose a form of courtyard in front of the monoliths marked this as one of the Cotswold-Severn Group of ancient barrows, a specific design widespread around this area.

His excavation finished, Witts retired to Oxford with his finds to clean them up and evaluate them before putting them into storage in a museum. Back at the West Tump, however, things were happening. Locals walking through the woods began reporting seeing strangers lurking among the trees. At first dismissed as gypsies or other travellers, the men caused sudden alarm when four were seen at once - and all were carrying spears.

The ghosts of the disturbed occupants of West Tump Barrow, for there was now little doubt among locals that the strange men were just this, seemed to mind their own business. They are still seen, though not so often as they were when the Tump was freshly disturbed. Standing among the trees in the heart of the dark wood, the warriors mount guard equipped with spear and shield. But whatever, or whoever, they are guarding has been removed from the ancient barrow and now lies in a drawer at a museum in Oxford.

This is an extract from Haunted Gloucestershire by Rupert Matthews

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Reincarnation

Most of us are kept busy enjoying or enduring our everyday lives, too frantic to hear the quiet inner voice that speaks of another place, another time. But for a minority of people, details of a previous existence encroach on the present, making a strong case for the principles of reincarnation.

Several major faiths, including Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and others give credence to life after death. Buddhists have a similar but not identical philosophy of re-birth, although Tibetan Buddhists invest heavily in the idea of reincarnation in order to identify legitimate heirs to the role of Dalai Lama.


Search for the Dalai Lama

Tenzin Gyatso, today’s Dalai Lama, is believed to be the reincarnation of his predecessor. Indeed, he was born in the same year his predecessor died (1935), to a peasant family in north-eastern Tibet. A Buddhist dignitary trying to divine the identity of the new Dalai Lama had a vision in which he saw a monastery. Aides were given detailed descriptions of the monastery and dispatched across the region to find it. They discovered one that fitted the description in Taktser. There they encountered a two-year-old boy who demanded the rosary being worn by one of the party that had once belonged to the deceased Dalai Lama. When he correctly identified the men in the deputation by name and rank, it was deemed that he was the embodiment of the Dalai Lama. He was finally enthroned in 1940.

There is a growing body of evidence in the West to say that earthly life after death is a reality. Two methods have been used to gather examples of past lives: regression through hypnosis in adults and the spontaneous recollections of young children, whose previous lives remain fresh in their memories.

Psychologist Helen Wambach carried out a ten-year survey of past-life recollections among 1,088 subjects. With the exception of only eleven people, the descriptions given about minute details of past lives, including kitchen utensils, clothing and footwear, were uncannily accurate. She found that the majority of the lives described were in the lower classes, reflecting the appropriate historical distribution. She also discovered that 49.4 per cent of the past lives were female and 50.6 per cent were male, reflecting the correct biological balance. Although she started out as a sceptic, Wambach became convinced by the evidence in front of her. In 1978 she declared: ‘I don’t believe in reincarnation — I know it!’


Celebrity Reincarnation

Among the celebrities of today are several who are convinced they have lived before. These include Sylvester Stallone, who thinks he has been here no less than four times in the past, and was on one occasion guillotined during the French Revolution. He also claims to have been a boxer who was killed by a knockout punch in the 1930s. Actor Martin Sheen talked of being a cruel US cavalry soldier who was trampled to death by a horse. Today he has a loathing of horses, which might be linked to his past life experiences. Singer Englebert Humperdinck thought he once ruled the Roman Empire, while pop goddess Tina Turner has been told she is a reincarnation of the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut. Shirley MacLaine also claims numerous past lives, among them a Moorish girl living along a pilgrim trail in Spain. Under hypnosis, movie star Glenn Ford was able to speak fluent French, since one of his past lives was spent as a French cavalryman in the reign of Louis XIV.


This is an extract from the The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal by Rupert Matthews .

Monday, 5 April 2010

The Early Days of the Australian Yowie

There have for many decades been reports coming out of the wooded hills of eastern Australia reports of a creature that is sometimes called The Hairy Fellah, but which is now more properly termed the Yowie. The word Yowie grew out of just one of the many Aboriginal terms for this creature current in New South Wales. Other words from the various Aboriginal languages include gulaga, thoolalgal, doolager, myngawin and joogabinna – and reports come from across the continent.

The Aboriginal beliefs in this creature are diverse and often feature elements of the supernatural. One group, the Dulugars of the Suggan Buggan, were not only inclined to kidnap human women for the purpose of mating with them, but would do so by flying through the air. The Yalanji people, on the other hand, think that the Quinkin is taller than a tree. The Yaroma travelled in pairs, standing back to back and moving in a series of great leaps. It had a mouth so large that it could – and did – swallow men whole. Clearly these stories owe much to myth and folklore, but that does not mean meant that there is no basis of fact behind them.

The very few reports of sightings of a Yowie, or similar creature, to come out of Aborigine people before their areas were overrun by European settlers talk of a rather more mundane creature. Black Harry, a leader of the Ngunnawal people, reported that in about 1847 he had seen a group of warriors attack and kill one of these creatures on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. He said that the mystery creature was “like a black man, but covered all over with grey hair”.

By the time that European settlers were moving into Aborigine lands during the 19th century, the picture had got a bit confused. A hugely popular book of the time, Gulliver’s Travels, talked about an entirely fictional race of hairy giant men called Yahoos who lived on an island in the Pacific. Some of the early settlers began to refer to the mysterious large hairy creature reported by Aborigines as “Yahoos” and assumed that they were talking about hairy giants, even if the evidence did not support this.

In 1848 W. Sutton reported that one of his shepherds and come across a “hairy man” in the Bush near Cudgegong, New South Wales (NSW). The man’s dogs had run away from the creature, which then wandered off. In 1856 William Collin was camped near Port Hacking in New South Wales when they saw a “wild man of the woods”. In 1860 a Miss Derrincourt saw “something in the shape of a very tall man, seemingly covered with a coat of hair ... a Yahoo or some such.” In 1871 George Osborne was riding through Bush near Avondale, NSW, when he watched an ape-like creature climb down from a tree. In 1876 on the Laachlan River no less than nine Europeans saw “an inhuman, unearthly looking being bearing in every way the shape of a man with a big red face, hands and legs covered with long shaggy hair. The head was covered with dark, grissly hair, the face with shaggy, dark hair, the back and belly with hair of a lighter colour. This devil-devil, or whatever it may be called, doubled round and fled.”

In 1882, came the first clear description of this mysterious animal from a European. H.J. McCooey came across a creature near Batemans Bay, NSW. “My attention was attracted,” McCooey wrote, “by the cries of a number of birds which were pursuing and darting at it. It was partly upright, looking up at the birds, blinking its eyes and making a chattering sound. The creature was nearly 5 feet tall and covered with very long black hair which was dirty red or snuff colour about the throat and breast. Its eyes, which were small and restless, were party hidden by matted hair. The length of the arms seemed out of proportion. It would probably have weighed about 8 stone.” McCooey threw a stone at it, and the creature ran off.

In 1912 Charles Harper was camping out on Currickbilly Ridge NSW with two companions when they heard a “low rumbling growl” coming from the darkness. One of the men threw a handful of twigs on to the embers of the camp fire, causing flames to spring up and illuminate the creature that had been making the noise. Harper later recorded it as being “a huge man-like animal growling, grimacing and thumping his breast with his huge, hand-like paws. I should say its height would be 5ft 8in to 5ft 10in. Its body, legs and arms were covered with long brownish-red hair which shook with every quivering movement of its body. The hair on its should and back parts appeared in the light of the fire to be jet black and long; but what struck me as most extraordinary was the apparently human shape, but still so very different. The body frame was enormous, indicating immense strength and power of endurance. The arms and forepaws were long and large, and very muscular being covered with shorter hair. The head and face were small but very human. The eyes were large, dark and piercing, deeply set. A most horrible mouth was ornamented with two large and long canine teeth. When the jaws were closed they protruded over the lower lip.” The creature stood watching the men for a few seconds, then dropped to all fours and raced off in to the bush.

This is an extract from Bigfoot and other Mysterious Creatures by Rupert Matthews.