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  • The Monster of Ryde October 14, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    Some weeks ago Beach had some fun running through twentieth-century British monster stories. Here was one of his favourites. It has everything: a lion’s head, big tracks, a creepy cry and became part of a war-time propaganda campaign. We are at Ryde on the Isle of Wight off the coast of southern England: it is December 1939, the fourth month of the Second World War.

    Mystery animal in woods on outskirts of Ryde Has Lion’s Head and weird cry. Mystery surrounds the identity of a large shaggy coated animal which is haunting thickly wooded country on the outskirts of Ryde. The animal leaves huge pad marks, measuring roughly six inches in length by four inches in breadth. It has been feeding on freshly trapped rabbits and is so strong that it not only carries off the rabbits but also uproots the stakes and bears off the trap as well. Weird screams at night and the crash of a heavy body through the undergrowth has been identified with the animal. The country is densely wooded in this part, and scarred with gullies affording ample cover. Sometime ago a woman walking in the district was terrified by what she describes animal with a lion’s head. It appeared suddenly from some bushes; it vanished as quickly as it had appeared. The other day. while snow was falling, a Ryde man came upon large tracks freshly made in the same neighbourhood. Armed with a gun he followed them to a point where they vanished, the animal having apparently jumped the fence into the undergrowth. Marks of long claws were found in the snow and on the barbed wire of the fence were strands of black hair inches in length. [Ports, Ev New, 30 Dec 1939, 5]

    The story continued in the press 23 Mar 1940 in Australia, though this time Beach is borrowing from a clipping sent into CFZ.

    So we have gone from a lion to a feline Alsatian: interesting. Beach’s absolute favourite monster or Ryde story though is the news that Mussolini’s Radio Rome, broadcasting propaganda to Britain and the other democracies reported that the Isle of Wight had been thrown into a panic by this unlikely creature! It would be nice to have the original Italian reports here.

    The monster was allegedly killed, though frustratingly no one seems to have ever established what it was. Perhaps they had other things to worry about like the Luftwaffe.

    The ‘Isle of Wight monster’ is dead. It was shot yesterday in a copse near Bembridge. For more than six months it had been sought in the woods between Ryde and Osborne House [i.e. between Ryde and Cowes], where it had often frightened women and children. The animal resembled a large fox about the head, but had a shaggy mane. The rest of its body was almost hairless. Its paws were the size of a man’s fist. Those who had seen it prowling say that its movement were slow and. deliberate.

    What was this thing: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com

    31 Oct 2017, Floodmouse write: I would bet it actually was a lion. Well-fed male lions will have a black mane, with the rest of their body covered in short light-colored fur. It does have a narrow tail. I wouldn’t quite describe its face as “fox-like,” but if I had never seen a lion before, maybe that is a comparison I would make. That all raises some interesting historical questions. Had people on the Isle of Wight in 1945 ever seen lions, in films or picture books? I remember even during my childhood in the 1960s, most books I saw didn’t have much in the way of pictures because the cost of printing pictures was exorbitant. “National Geographic” magazine was a big thing because it was all pictures, and pictures of exotic places, but I don’t know if anyone in Isle of Wight in 1945 would have access to such a thing. I know they had films, but especially with older people, would the films they had seen happen to have included safari scenes or travelogues? The other question is where a lion would have come from. It must have come from a private zoo. Was there some large landowner who released all the animals from his private zoo and went to the U.S. or Australia when the war was breaking out? Interesting. PS This is a sort of postscript to the earlier comment I sent.  I thought of two popular culture examples of lions being mistaken for dogs.  One is in a recent Jackie Chan movie called “Kung Fu Yoga.”  The other is in a children’s book called “The Little White Horse” by Elizabeth Goudge (the “little white horse” is actually a unicorn, and the great “dog” at the fireside is actually a lion, which is elevated to the same mythic status as the unicorn since it normally doesn’t exist in England except as a symbol).  I also remember something about those Chinese sculptures that look kind of like lions and kind of like dogs, but the details escape me.  (The point of this being just that people have mistaken lions for dogs before, if they are not familiar with actual lions.)