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  • The Coalville Lioness April 29, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    You wake up at 2.00 AM and you hear an eerie moaning outside in the garden. You get out of your bed and walk over to the window and lift the glass. The cold of an English winters rushes over you and there, in the dark, between the W.C. and the geraniums, you spot a moving shadow. The ‘thing’ races, for a second, into the light and to your horror you find yourself looking at something large and white with an immense bushy tale. What is it?

    The description above relates to events at Coalville in Leicestershire in the English Midlands in January 1923. The town was gripped by monster fever: townsfolk reported that they had heard a strange moaning and the white skinned bushy-tailed creature was described by one witness who had looked out of her window at night. Tracks were also followed and they were allegedly larger than a dog’s and closer to those of a bear. Children refused to leave the house after dark and even adults were chary about walking around once the sun had gone down (Sun Ech 10 Jan 1923).

    The story briefly went national, even appearing in the Daily Mail and Punch: the Punch writer helpfully suggested that a local had been yodeling and some journalists (and locals?) talked of the Coalville lion or lioness. The police seem not to have taken the matter terribly serious. Some suggested that it was a lamb with a particularly bush tail; there was a joke in a court, 20 Jan 1923 Notts Eve Post, that shows that the local judiciary believed that it was, instead, a wandering donkey or even a dog. Of course, nothing was ever caught.

    So what had happened? Beach would guess that an eerie sound was connected to the sight of an unusual or a rather usual animal in the dark: though  the romantic in him naturally wants there to be a Coalville Lioness raising her young under a railway siding. But what is really interesting is the change in how these events were processed by working class populations.   Such stirs were common in midland and northern towns in the 1800s and were invariably put down to a local bogey: in fact, there are some very well documented cases of nocturnal donkeys and goats being misconstrued as devils or spirits. By 1923 blaming a bogey was just no longer credible and so the supernatural ceded to cryptozoology, while the terror remained… Beach has to confess. He prefers the supernatural every time.

    Other information on the Coalville Lioness: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com