Some of my fellow Wiltshire residents have been very, very naughty people and I am not amused. The Wiltshire Times recently broke the story that the legendary Beast of Trowbridge had recently been spotted in Winsley by a couple who were out walking. The beast is thought to be some type of a big cat – a puma or panther. It has been seen in various areas in and around Trowbridge, the county town of Wiltshire, over a number of years and is quite an interesting social phenomenon if nothing else. I can remember the early reports of the Beast that originated from the village of Hilperton (where I grew up) that sits on the outskirts of Trowbridge. I grew up having bad dreams about the beast being on the prowl nearby, and this is why I am always interested when the legend raises its head each time.
The Wiltshire Times story about the most recent sighting of the Beast reports
A Winsley couple had quite a shock when they encountered the infamous beast of Trowbridge on Saturday morning. Herbert and Doreen Smith were walking in Murhill Woods, at around 10.30am, when they spotted the big black cat.
Down the years, the creature, which has been described as being a puma or a panther, has been spotted in Trowbridge, Staverton and Westbury Leigh amongst others places. Mr Smith, 71, who lives in Winsley, said: “Our first impression was sheer astonishment, we really could not believe our eyes at what we were seeing. The animal was eating what we believe it had just caught.
Winsley is very close to where I live and even closer to where I work, so I was extremely interested in this sighting. The photo that was attached to the story (as seen at the top of this post) shows a dark coloured animal with a long curved tail, it’s head bent towards the ground as though it is eating or sniffing something, just as Mr Smith reported. However, my initial thoughts were that this was some sort of dog – a German or Belgian Shepherd perhaps, that had been misidentified. I haven’t been able to really look into this though because I have been busy preparing for a talk I am delivering in Stockholm next week.
However, thanks to the detective work of John Nuttall of the Lancashire Anomalous Phenomena Investigation Society (LAPIS) I don’t have to do any digging because he has cracked this case wide open.
The photograph wasn’t even taken in Winsley… hell, it wasn’t even taken in the United Kingdom and is, in fact. a still from a trail cam set up in Lapeer County, Michigan to try and observe Cougars in the wild there. It would seem that Herbert and Doreen Smith have saved a copy of this photo, added a fake date stamp to it, and made up a back story to go along with it.
I don’t know if Mr & Mrs Smith even exist, I don’t know the details of how they reported this to The Wiltshire Times, and I don’t know the motivations behind hoaxing such a sighting – for a laugh, perhaps? Or maybe just because they could? Either way, it’s a pretty crap thing to do. I will chase this up with The Wiltshire Times on Monday morning to see if they will run a follow up story on this hoax.