Monday, January 31, 2011

Horse-Mutes, Water-Beasts and Curious Connections

Mike Hallowell discusses a new story of horse-mutilation in northern England that practically harks back to the infamous story of George Edalji.

In one of those Fortean curiosities, I used to live - for many years - only a 2-minute drive from where Edalji lived at the time of the 1903 horse-killings in the ancient hamlet of Great Wyrley that the man himself was suspected of playing a central role in.

And, literally - and I do mean literally - only about a 1-minute drive from the old Edalji residence is a body of water known today as the Roman View Pond.

It was from there, in the hot summer of 2003, that hysterical rumors wildly spread around the nearby town of Cannock to the effect that a giant, marauding crocodile was on the loose.

Local police, representatives of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), and the nation’s media all quickly descended upon the scene, as they valiantly and collectively sought to ascertain the truth about what, at a local level, fast became known to one and all as the “Cannock Nessie.”

Of course, the facts were somewhat more sober and down to earth. As my good mates Jonathan Downes and Richard Freeman of the Center for Fortean Zoology demonstrated to practically everyone’s satisfaction when they visited the area at the height of the sightings, the “beast,” as the more sensationalistic elements of the press tirelessly insisted on calling it, was likely nothing stranger than a three-foot-long Spectacled Caiman – a crocodilian reptile found throughout much of Central and South America.

It was the conclusion of Jon and Richard that the unfortunate creature had probably been housed locally by an unknown exotic-pet-keeper – that is, until it grew to a point where it became completely unmanageable, and was then unceremoniously dumped in the pool late one night and under the protective cover and camouflage of overwhelming darkness.

Almost certainly, Jon believed, the creature would not survive the harsh fall and winter months that were destined to follow. And, sure enough, as the English weather changed for the worse, sightings of the mysterious beast came to an abrupt end. To this day, Jon is convinced that the bones of the crocodilian lay buried deep in the muddy floor of Roman View Pond.

Forteana is, undoubtedly, full to the brim with curious twists, parallels, turns, and connections!

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