Cleadon Cryptozoology
by Michael J. Hallowell

I think I've mentioned before in this column that South Tyneside, where I live, is the smallest metropolitan borough in the United Kingdom. I'm sure there are Walmart stores out there bigger than this little piece of England, and hence it never ceases to amaze me how many ghost stories, UFO encounters and cryptozoological encounters are generated within its precincts.

Recently, my attention was drawn to a story on a website concerning an encounter with a large, hairy biped near Cleadon Village. The encounter allegedly took place in 2003, and the witness apparently spied the creature running near some trees. On realising that it was being watched, the beast promptly disappeared behind the shrubbery and has, to my knowledge, never been seen since.

Cleadon Hills are picturesque, and the perfect place to get away from it all for an hour or two. Visitors can inspect the remains of the old Cleadon Mill, an attractive Victorian water tower and two old WWII gun emplacements. You might also see a Bigfoot-type creature if you're lucky. Or perhaps that should be unlucky, depending on your perspective.

Of course, it just isn't possible for a hairy hominid of that size to live for any protracted period of time at Cleadon. Within hours it would run short of food, and there just isn't anywhere for it to hide from Homo sapiens indefinitely. If there is an impressive-looking biped out there, then, I suspect it must be what my old friend Jon Downes from the Centre for Fortean Zoology calls a zooform; that is, a creature which looks as if its made from flesh and bone but which has the decidedly odd ability to appear and disappear at will. Zooforms, apparently, hail from a dimension or parallel universe markedly different to our own.

Back in 2003 I accompanied a team of researchers from the CFZ, including Jon, when we investigated a similar report of a Bigfoot-type creature in the vicinity of Bolam Lake in Northumberland. Again, there simply wasn't anywhere for such a creature to secrete itself without being seen before too long. However, there was no doubt that the witnesses were sincere and had obviously seen something beyond conventional understanding. Could Cleadon Hills be playing host to something similar?

Some years ago I investigated another cryptozoological story from Cleadon. It concerned a puma-like big cat that made numerous appearances over the course of several weeks. The beast was never caught, but there is no doubt that it truly existed. Years ago, after legislation concerning the keeping of dangerous animals in the UK was tightened up, owners simply released their exotic pets into the countryside. We now have breeding populations of several felid species in the wilds. My suspicion is that the Cleadon Big Cat had traveled down from County Durham to the south.

But a bipedal hominid is a different kettle of fish altogether, as they say, for it fits no known species. I used to be extremely jealous of researchers in the USA, for North America has vast tracts of land, relatively unexplored, where such creatures could live. We don't, but now I don't get jealous at all for the UK, although tiny in comparison, still seems to play host to such creatures anyway. It fascinates me to think that a sea-locked set of diminutive islands such as ours could contain strange, human-like creatures every bit as odd as Bigfoot. My colleague Nick Redfern, who now lives in Texas, wrote a book about such animals (Man-Monkey, CFZ Press, 2007) and the sheer volume of eye-witness testimonies make it hard to deny that something very odd indeed is going on in our woods and what precious little is left of our forests.

If any readers of this column know of such stories, I'd appreciate it if they'd get in touch...

Mike Hallowell, 2009

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