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  • Cornish Bear Monster? June 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    dark night

    Strangehistory has given previously some space to the Cornish ‘Methodist metaphysician’ Samuel Drew (obit 1833). Last time Samuel Drew had been accused, almost certainly falsely by Wikipedia, of witnessing a ghost army. This time Samuel’s witnessing of the paranormal can be substantiated as it appeared in his biography, the author, his son, having apparently taken the material from his father. The text that follows was written by the son (misleadingly in the first person), with reference to others who had heard the tale, as close to his father’s words as possible. SD was at this time a young man apprenticed to a shoemaker. We are in the 1770s or 1780s.

    There were several of us, boys and men, out about twelve o’clock on a bright moonlight night. I think we were poaching. The party were in a field adjoining the road leading from my master’s to St Austell, and I was stationed outside the hedge to watch and give the alarm if any intruder should appear.

    St Austell is a town in Cornwall and Beach might note that poaching expeditions often led to paranormal encounters, perhaps simply because they were tense affairs that took place at night.

    While thus occupied [as a look out] I heard what appeared to be the sound of a horse approaching from the town, and I gave a signal. My companions paused and came to the hedge where I was, to see the passenger. They looked through the bushes, and I drew myself close to the hedge, that I might not be observed. The sound increased, and the supposed horseman seemed drawing near. The clatter of the hoofs became more and more distinct.

    Beach was expecting a headless rider and some smugglers, but not a bit of it.

    We all looked to see who and what it was, and I was seized with a strange, indefinable feeling of dread; when, instead of a horse, there appeared coming towards us, at an easy pace, but with the same sound which first caught my ear, a creature about the height of a large dog. It went close by me, and as it passed, it turned upon me and my companions huge fiery eyes that struck terror to all our hearts. The road where I stood branched off in two directions, in one of which there was a gate across. Towards the gate it moved, and, without any apparent obstruction, went on at its regular trot, which we heard several minutes after it had disappeared. Whatever it was, it put an end to our occupation, and we made the best of our way home.

    One site has suggested that this is a Cornish black dog, but SD compares it to the size of a dog, he does not say it was one. The fact that it also had a ‘regular trot’ and that its ‘clatter of hoofs’ could be so clearly heard suggest something else. But what? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Readers are welcomed to explain this in supernatural or biological terms. You might want to read on before declaring it an porcupine that jumped ship off Land’s End. Enter the bear.

    I have often endeavoured in later years, but without success, to account, on natural principles, for what I then heard and saw. As to the facts, I am sure there was no deception. It was a night of unusual brightness, occasioned by a cloudless full moon. The creature was unlike any animal I had then seen, but from my present recollections it had much the appearance of a bear, with a dark shaggy coat. Had it not been for the unearthly lustre of its eyes, and its passing through the gate as it did, there would be no reason to suppose it anything more than an animal perhaps escaped from some menagerie. That it did pass through the gate without pause or hesitation I am perfectly clear. Indeed, we all saw it, and saw that the gate was shut, from which we were not distant more than twenty or thirty yards. The bars were too close to admit the passage of an animal of half its apparent bulk; yet this creature went through without effort or variation of its pace.

    There is a final interesting passage, missed on the few occasions that this passage is quoted:

    Whenever I have read the passage about the ‘lubber fiend’, in Milton’s L’Allegro, or heard the description given of the ‘brownie’ in the legends of other days, I have always identified these beings, real or imaginary, with what I on this occasion witnessed.

    L’Allegro includes the most famous description in English of a solitary fairy. Note that Drew goes on to note that he stopped poaching after this experience: he invested it with some sort of moral quality then.

    29 June 2015: LH writes: I had to search for possible ‘fits’ for the creature described in Cornish Bear Monster since I really need to pay bills, do laundry and go to the grocery store. The creatures description reminded me of animals that are now extinct in the UK but I’m not a paleontologist so I can’t be sure if I’ve chosen the correct beast. I think Drew may have seen a wisent aka the European bison. Wisent are extinct in the UK unless someone reintroduced one from the continent. They are massive hoofed mammals, males can weigh up to 2,200 lbs, that could resemble a bear if it were dark and the observer had never seen a bison before. I’ve read about people who claim to have seen ghostly horses, ect; maybe he saw a ghost wisent? He may have associated it with brownies since he was obviously doing something illegal and believed the beast and/or apparition was sent to give him the “gold cure”.

    VB wonders: could this be a wild boar? They were extinct in Britain at this time but we know that some were kept in menageries. The trotting, the size, the red eyes all match.

    KMH: I would say that the experience of Samuel Drew was paranormal. What he saw was a black dog with firey red eyes and shaggy fur. The dog was being chased by someone on a horse, hence the sound of hoofs.  Red eyes are a frequent feature of paranormal animals, especially canines and bigfoot, and indicate a demonic presence. The actual physical episode would have happened perhaps many years earlier.  The black dog would have been caught “poaching” and was running for his life from the person or persons on horseback. If he didn’t escape it would explain why the episode was being repeated as a tragedy for the dog,  perhaps this time for the boys’ benefit.  (Tragedies can cause a lot of repeats in order to clarify everything and resolve the tragedies to the extent possible.)