Is This The Beast Of Bodmin?

beast

The beast?

According to ITV West Country, Henry Warren was taking photos of Bodmin Moor when this “mystery creature” pictured above jumped out in front of him and ran off. Could it be the legendary Beast of Bodmin? Probably not. 

In my opinion this is a fox – one without a bushy tail which is no uncommon among foxes (particularly if they have mange which, sadly, is also not uncommon.) There are a few things that jump out at me immediately upon viewing the photo of the alleged beast that convince me of this; it has a reddish coat, the front legs are those of a fox leaping as it runs (see below for a comparison photo), what at first looks to be a blunt cat-like head is actually an illusion caused by shadow cast on the foxes head as it looks away from the camera.

photo: Wikimedia
Fox Jumping. Look at those cute little paws! Photo: Wikimedia

There is also nothing in the background of the photo to provide a rough scale of the animals size (no trees, fences or walls), only bushes and shrubbery, so I do not believe that it is as large as we first assume it to be (think: Essex Lion which turned out to be a cat, for an example of a similar instance of this happening.)

Foxes are totally cool, but even so, I don’t think they quite qualify for “BEAST” status.

When is a cat not a cat?

cat ghost

When it’s a hardly visible line-shaped thing on a poor quality piece of footage that is 2 seconds long. That’s when.

To clarify for those not in the know, a piece of footage has been doing the rounds in the paranormal interest communities that it is claimed shows an apparition of a ghost cat running across the hallway. The footage was taken from an IR DVR camera in The Shanley Hotel in Napanoch, New York but what we see is a low quality copy of the original that leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

When I first read the story and saw the video on the WhoForted.com site I commented that it might be the product of ghosting which can happen on some CCTV and Camcorder systems, but having watching it over it could just as easily be a piece of lint floating on a breeze.

As my ghost research colleague, Bob Dezon, points out ‘without viewing the undegraded footage at full resolution, and unedited, we cannot be certain wtf caused this effect. Tis all supposition of what it could be, and what it “could be” is determined by the clarity of the original footage.’ Bob also pointed out that this effect could be created by shining a beam of IR light from behind the camera, but let’s not cast stones just yet.

In conclusion: This 2 second clip of a ghost cat isn’t that impressive and only becomes interesting when you allow yourself to wildly speculate.

The Animal Panel at QED

cat

It has recently been announced that I am going to be speaking on ‘The Animal Panel’ at the QED Conference in March 2012. This is the second QED conference and will be the second time I’ve spoken on a panel for them and I’m very excited to be doing so. I will be speaking alongside Deborah Hyde and Joe Nickell (who both have a lot more experience than I do).

I am quite a new comer when it comes to researching monsters (in any form). I’ve had my fair share of experiences researching the ‘beasts’ that are said to roam the English countryside and have an obsessive knowledge of all big cat sightings in the South of England because of the fear I developed after a big cat scare in the village I grew up in.

‘The Hilperton cat’ that started it all off

I was so petrified of the idea that a big cat could be in the village of Hilperton that I lived in until the age of eighteen that I would regularly have nightmares about it (and I still do).

My fear is mainly because I had two ‘cat’ experiences of my own at the age of seven that I rarely tell anyone outside of my family about. Maybe I shall share them with the panel? They still make me shudder to this very day.

When I first started learning about the rational causes for these reports and experiences it was people like Joe Nickell who inspired me to stop hiding under my duvet, and to go looking for the facts. Once you start rummaging it can be very hard to stop. Yet I also know just how real these scary experiences can seem because of my own scary experiences.

Monsters, they might not always be real, but they’re still scary. I am truly excited to be speaking as part of the Cryptozoology panel, you can find more details here on the QED website. 

Leave the ghosts alone

A follow on to this post: Leave the ghosts alone part II

I don’t believe in ghosts because of the lack of supporting evidence. I also don’t know what a ghost is because of the lack of supporting evidence for any one particular definition (and there are many definitions.) One thing I am certain of is that the majority of people who go ghost hunting believe they are communicating with the ‘spirits’ of the deceased. It’s evident in the apparent conversations they hold with what they think are spirits.

This raises numerous problems. The biggest problem being that most ghost hunters are being disrespectful and unethical with their intentions to communicate with the dead. I have had this problem with ghost hunting for a long time, ever since I first realised in 2007 that I was acting unethically. I’m writing about it now because today an article over at The Guardian about the discovery of a buried cottage and entombed cat discovered in the Pendle Hill area has brought out the Yvette Fielding wanna-be’s, who are drooling over the potential of chasing the ghost of a witch.

It’s strange behaviour considering that no paranormal activity has been reported at this discovery – and the only thing to link it to a ghost is outdated and inaccurate folklore. To investigate such a thing as a ‘paranormal researcher’ is illogical.

Pendle Hill has long been a focus for ghost hunting groups because of the folklore and the infamous witch trials and executions that took place there.

I don’t know how the two examples, Don Philips and Richard Case, operate and the ways in which they work – but the fact they’re investigating a ‘case’ where there’s nothing to investigate calls into question why they’re even bothering and is an excellent example of the eagerness of thrill seeking ghost hunters to jump on the potential of a spooky story simply because of associated folklore.

It’s not just that though. Many other teams and individuals (not necessarily the two mentioned above – I don’t know…), go crawling all over Pendle Hill trying to challenge the ghosts of the witches to do something to them in vain acts of ghost hunter bravado. It’s horrible, especially when you consider the fact that the majority of them truly believe they are speaking to the spirits of the deceased.

Even though they’re being illogical they’re also being extremely disrespectful.

I used to behave in a similar manner… when I was 18 and 19. Then I grew up and stopped trying to be some sort of paranormal super hero. It’s not okay to behave this way, the potential thrill and confirmation bias is not worth more than some respect for the deceased and their surviving family. It is not worth more than the ethical behaviour a ghost hunter owes the location owner and those they are misleading through their behaviour.

I do not believe that the spirits of the so-called witches are still on Pendle Hill. I do not believe they do exist, I do not believe they can exist, but those who go looking for them do. I think there is something very wrong with this behaviour – to pursue what you genuinely believe is the earth-bound spirit of a person who was executed, or died in such horrendous circumstances for no real crime is horrid. To taunt them and challenge them is even worse. It doesn’t make you very special. In fact, I think it makes you a bit of a coward.

Not only that, but it makes potentially makes you a closed minded and illogical researcher. 

If you genuinely believe that the spirit of a deceased person is still here they should be left to rest in peace, or at least treated in a respectful manner.

Leave the ghosts alone. 

That lion

Tweets spread quickly today after nationalrainenq, the twitter account of ‘National Rail’, tweeted ‘Passengers are currently unable to alight from trains at Shepley due to reports by police of a lion in the area.’

a screen capture of the tweet about the lion
It was then tweeted that the police had given the all clear and that passengers were allowed to leave the train as usual, and this evening an article appeared on The Guardian site entitled ‘Train affected by lion ‘sighting’. It stated:

Inspector Carlton Young, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “We’ve had unconfirmed reports of a lion or a lion cub in the area. We’ve had officers looking around. At the moment we’ve had nothing confirmed and we’ve not located anyone who is claiming to have lost an animal.”

Officers believe the woman – who claimed to have seen a lion on Penistone Road, Shepley – was a genuine caller. Around 12 officers were dispatched to look for a lion along with a police helicopter.

Insp Young added that the search would be resumed on Monday if there were any more reports.

It’s not unusual for people to think they’ve seen something that looks like a big cat. It happens quite often and I have blogged before about my research into a case of such a thing happening in Wiltshire recently.

Often the reports of big cats are misidentifications of other animals as big cats, such as large dogs or actual domestic cats (which was the case with the big cat spotted in the village I grew up in. A photo taken of a cat in a field that was reported to be a panther was actually a domestic cat), or sometimes the cats can be actual big cats that may have escaped or been illegally released from a private collection.

The interesting thing that happens once these cases hit the newspapers though is a sort of echo effect that sees people interpret something they see as a big cat when they normally wouldn’t have done. The recent case of ‘The beast of Trowbridge was a great example of this.

I myself fell victim to the echo effect created by the reporting of The Beast of Trowbridge after seeing a black animal running along the canal near my home, I remember being so shocked I couldn’t move as I thought ‘oh my god! I’ve seen the cat!‘. A few seconds passed and the ‘cat’ came back into my view and I realised it was actually a black whippet off of its lead. I haven’t ever been as scared as I was in those few moments. Had I not stuck around to see it again and recognise it as a whippet I would probably still believe I had seen a panther yards from my home.

I am not denying that there are big cats in the wilds of England, in fact it’s very likely that there are, however there is also no denying that the way that cat sightings are reported in the media has a lot to do with the amount of cat sightings that are reported. Not only that, but I can remember a ten year old Hayley Stevens being terrified of going outside after it was reported in the local paper that a panther had been captured on camera in the village she grew up in…

p.s. don’t panic. IF a big cat is out there, they’re usually quite elusive creatures that wont bother you unless you bother them or make them feel threatened. Big cats also have large territories, so several sightings could actually be just one cat rather than loads.