Friday, 19 August 2011

The Warrington Man-Beast!

The town of Warrington, which sits on the banks of the River Mersey, is also a borough and unitary authority area of Cheshire. According to an obscure story from the 18th century, later repeated in Wally Barnes’ 1990 book Ghosts, Mysteries & Legends of Old Warrington, a terrifying man-beast once stalked a farm in Warrington. One such farm, once known as Peggy Gronachs Chicken Farm harboured a bizarre story which Wally Barnes was told of in the 1940s. According to Barnes, Peggy Gronach was ‘…the most evil, ugly and haggard old wretch ever seen in the vicinity.’

According to legend Peggy Gronach was a witch who escaped the original 17th century witch hunts which took place in Norwich. When Peggy moved to Warrington, she was the dread of the local community, her run down shack would spook many a passer by and no-one was ever brave enough to venture through the undergrowth. However, one day a group of young children were playing near the old farm and decided that, for a dare, they would approach the cottage. When they were within a few metres a terrifying roar emanated from the building and staring through the grime-laced window pane was a hideous face. Then, Peggy emerged from the farmhouse and began screaming at the children who, of course, fled the area.

When the terrified children returned home to their parents, they spoke of the great roar, to which their parents responded that the crone must have owned a ferocious dog. However, the children were adamant that what they saw peering from the house was a hair covered man with burning eyes, pointed ears and horns on his head.

However bizarre the report may have seemed, the following month, according to Barnes, ‘…a farmhand was driving a horse and trap about a mile from the cottage when without warning the horse reared up. The farmhand then saw a hideous ghoul-like creature under a tree ready to pounce.’

Local villagers began to spread rumour that Peggy Gronach had supernatural powers and that to explain the man-beast, they believed she could transform herself into the terrifying man-beast which had been reported around the area. Shortly after the farmhand’s encounter, a local farmer reported that one of his cows had been attacked. He found it dead and its head was hanging on my thread – only a very powerful creature could have committed such a crime. So, the local vicar, accompanied by ‘a gang of religious zealots’ visited Peggy’s remote cottage in the hope of driving her away from the village. However, upon arrival they found no trace of the old hag nor the hairy monster, the only sign that some ‘thing’ had been around was the carcass of a half-eaten goat.

There were no further sightings of the terrible monster, or Peggy Gronach, and the building was knocked down. Barnes however, ends the tale with a chilling climax, stating that, ‘Many years later workmen dug up the remains of a giant bullock – or was it a bullock ? Bullocks do not have human skulls. Think about it.’

This intriguing tale may sound far-fetched, but maybe, just maybe, out there in the sticks of old Warrington, there still lurks a frightful, hairy monster, a creature which, during the day either retires deep into the woods, or transforms itself into the shrivelled form of Peggy Gronach.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Book review: The Real Men In Black

Some of you may wonder why on earth I'm reviewing a book about MIBs - those mysterious, UFO-related Men In Black, on this website. Well, for one, the author, Nick Redfern, is a good friend of mine, and secondly, a new book by Mr Redfern, is ALWAYS something to look forward to. However, there is also a third reason for mentioning this book - because although Nick is a dab hand at shedding new light on the classic encounters with the mysterious men, he even manages to find reports of bizarre monsters and their sinister relations to those black-suited gents. Now, Men In Black are a strange brew - and they've always been connected to UFOs, and those intrepid investigators who apparently get too close to the truth - but of course much of this is simply folklore - and Nick goes a helluva long way to prove that the MIBs are far stranger than we originally thought. I've often believed that every time a new mystery hits this globe, we always...and I mea nalways, blame the aliens! It's true - whether it's crop circles - blame the aliens, or cattle mutilations - blame the aliens, Bigfoot - surely dropped from a spaceship, phantom airships - blame the aliens, people abducted from their beds - blame the aliens and so on and so on. Those poor extraterrestrial visitors have been given a hard time by us earthlings over the years, and the Men In Black have often been said to have infiltrated this void of 'ours' to warn us not to report our UFO sightings.

Nick Redfern has scoured the archives, scanned the once hidden documents, and interviewed countless witnesses and investigators, to attempt to uncover the bizarre truth - if there is one - behind these sinister agents. The likes of Bender, Beckley, Keel, and Barker get the coverage they deserve, after all, these type of guys introduced us to these men, but alongside Jim Keith's 'Casebook On The Men In Black', Redfern's new look at the mystery is destined to become a classic. This isn't any old book talking about conspiracy and UFOs, instead Nick looks at cases where researchers have even investigated 'monster' sightings and other mysteries, only to be warned off by the 'three men'. And after every case is picked to pieces and then evaluated, Nick isn't afraid to cast new theories on such an enigma, and shares my view that such figures of dread could in fact, like so many monsters, vampires, spirits and the like, be tulpas - or thoughtforms - weird manifestations that exist as the product of the human psyche, and which exist the more fear them. This complex theory may sound ridiculous to some, but they clearly fit alongside other social panics, suggesting that maybe, just maybe, these men and in fact many of the mysteries around us, cannot be blamed simply on those bug-eyed aliens we've feared since Kenneth Arnold's 1947 'UFO' encounter over Washington. The Men In black, albeit for a short while, were local bogeyman, the product of conspiracy, rumour and moreso fear - they were projections, and media creations, harbingers of doom, agents of misfortune - or were they ? Maybe, as Nick argues, such figures were harmless but born from the shadows of a slightly, already unhinged and paranoid mind.

Whatever your opinions on the MIB phenomenon, 'The Real Men In Black', for me anyway, caps off a limited run of books, which, over the years have gradually given us a brief insight into such mysterious phantoms. I believe that the Men In Black are from the same void as the Black-Eyed Kids, mad gassers, phantom clowns, bogus social workers and spectral assailants - but they do not appear if there is no-one there to see them. The Men In Black are a social construct, that have embedded themselves into world folklore. They are real, but only in the sense vampires and werewolves are, and yet such figures have become household names the world over, given them strength and occasionally, on dark and stprmy nights they step from the realm of fantasy into our houses and our nightmares, and then are gone, in the blink of an eye. My only hope is that Mr Redfern doesn't get a visit from the terrible trio, although if he comes to the door in his Ramones t-shirt and black jeans, they may in fact mistake him for one of them and ask him to join their peculiar posse! A fantastic book that breaks the mould. Rock on Nick!
'The Real Men In Black' is available from