Thursday, April 24, 2014

Creature of the Month: The Werecat of Britain by Nick Redfern

For decades, the British Isles have played host to a decidedly mysterious and marauding beast. It has become known as the “Alien Big Cat,” or the ABC. Some cryptozoolgists and monster-hunters suggest the puzzle is an even older one, maybe even dating back centuries. Regardless of when, exactly, the controversy began, the fact is that, pretty much every year, dozens upon dozens of reports surface of large cats roaming the wilder – and sometimes the not so wild – parts of Britain.

    Very often, the cats are described as being huge, muscular and black in color. This has given rise to the term “black panther,” which is actually incorrect, but frequently used by both the public and the press. It would be far more correct to suggest the creatures are probably leopards and jaguars displaying significant melanism – a condition in which there is an excess of a black pigment known as melanin.

    As for how such creatures have come to be seen across pretty much the entirety of the British Isles, the theories are as many as they are varied. Some researchers hold that the animals have escaped from private zoos and enclosures and are now living and thriving very nicely in the nation’s woods and forests.
  Others suggest that back in 1976, when the British Government significantly altered the rules and regulations governing the keeping of large, predatory animals, the owners of such cats – who couldn’t afford to pay the new fees – secretly released their pets into the wild. And, today, so the theory goes, what people are seeing are the descendents of those large cats set free in the 1970s.

    Other theories are far more controversial: one suggests the ABCs may have been with us since roughly AD 43, when invading Roman forces brought large cats to Britain in the form of mascots. Did some of those mascots escape and manage to survive and breed, largely undetected? Some say: Yes. Then there is the highly-charged theory that Britain has in its midst an unidentified indigenous cat – one that science and zoology have yet to recognize or categorize.

    Whatever the answer to the question of the origins of Britain’s ABCs, the fact is that their presence is pretty much accepted by the general public and the media – although largely not by the government, which prefers to play down the matter whenever and wherever possible. But they are not literal monsters: they’re simply regular animals, albeit seen in distinctly out of place environments, correct? Well…maybe not. They just might be monsters, after all.

    Although many ABC researchers cringe and squirm when the matter is brought up, the fact is there are more than a few reports on record that place the ABCs in a category that is less flesh and blood-based and far more paranormally-themed. There are cases of the ABCs vanishing – literally – before the eyes of astonished witnesses. People report large black cat encounters in old graveyards, within ancient stone circles, and even – on a few occasions – in association with UFO sightings. And then there is…something else.

    I have in my files four cases – spanning 1953 to 1988 – in which witnesses to ABCs described the creatures rearing up onto their hind legs. Yes, we are talking about nothing less than huge, black, bipedal cats. All of which brings us to the world of shape-shifters.

    Throughout history, folklore and mythology, one can find accounts of shape-shifting creatures, with the most famous example surely being the werewolf. The deadly monster of the full moon is far from being alone, however. In Africa, there are legends of werehyenas. Wererats have been reported in Oregon. Cynanthropy is a condition in which a person believes they can shape-shift into the form of a dog. And then there are werecats.

    Tales of werecats exist in numerous locations: South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Sometimes the werecats are nothing less than transformed humans. Leopards, lions, tigers and jaguars are typically the werecat forms into which a human shape-shifter mutates. Others are regular cats, altered by dark magic into something hostile and terrible. All of which brings us back to the werecats of Britain.

    As I noted above, the earliest case I have on file dates from 1953, specifically the month of August. The location: Abbots Bromley, a village in the English county of Staffordshire; the origins of which date back to at least AD 942. The witness was a now-deceased man, Brian Kennerly. In 2002, Kennerly’s family told me of how he often spoke of the occasion when, as he walked through Abbots Bromley on what was a warm, summer’s night, he was confronted by a large black cat – one that he described as the typical “black panther.”

    Not surprisingly, Kennerly was frozen in his tracks. His amazement turned to outright fear when the beast suddenly rose up onto its back limbs, giving it a height of around five and a half feet. The creature reportedly issued a low growl and flicked its dangling front paws in Kennerly’s direction. Notably, Kennerly’s daughter told me her father said that as the ABC rose up, “its back legs changed shape, probably to support it when it was standing upright.” A few seconds later, the creature dropped back to the ground and bounded out of sight.

    A similar report, this one from the centuries-old village of Blakeney – in the English county of Norfolk – occurred in 1967. In this case, the witness, who was driving to Blakeney on a cold, winter’s night, caught a brief glimpse of a creature standing at the side of the road that was eerily similar to the one seen by Brian Kennerly fourteen years previously. In this case, the woman said: “It stood like a person, but stooped, but had a cats head. Even the pointed ears.”

    The final two cases in my files are separated by seven years – 1981 and 1988 – but the location was the same: the German War Cemetery located within the heavily wooded Cannock Chase, Staffordshire. The Chase has long been a hotbed for weirdness: Bigfoot-type creatures, werewolves, huge serpents, ghosts, UFOs and much more of a supernatural nature have been reported in the depths of the Chase.

    As for the two reports of werecat-type creatures seen at the cemetery, one was a daytime event involved a beast that was black in color, taller than the average man, and seen leaning on one of the gravestones. That is, until it realized it was being watched and it dropped to all-fours and raced off into the trees. The second case concerned a van-driver crossing the Chase late at night and who was forced to bring his vehicle to a halt – very near the cemetery - as a result of the presence in the road of a huge black cat. It was a cat that stared intently at the shocked driver, until it “sort of jumped onto its back legs.” According to the man, Don Allen, the creature remained in view for no more than about twenty seconds, after which it headed towards the cemetery, making a curious “hopping and bouncing” movement as it did so.

    Are infernal werecats really roaming the British Isles? Granted, the number of reports is small. And yet, the witnesses – and, in the case of Briain Kennerly, his family – are adamant that what they encountered were large, black, upright cats that displayed vaguely human characteristics. Perhaps the old myths and legends are not just folklore after all. Just maybe, the monstrous werecat really does roam the old landscapes of the British Isles… 

Nick Redfern is the author of many books, including Close Encounters of the Fatal Kind due out June of 2014. He has appeared on more than 70 TV shows, including: Fox News; the BBC’s Out of This World; the SyFy Channel’s Proof Positive; the History Channel’s Monster Quest, America’s Book of Secrets, Ancient Aliens, and UFO Hunters; the National Geographic Channel’s Paranatural; and MSNBC’s CountdownNick writes regularly for UFO Magazine, Mysterious Universe, and Fate.


  1. Could at least one of them have been an ex-circus cat, trained to walk on its back legs? In Jim Brandon's "Weird America" there is an incident involving black big bipedal cats in California.

  2. Hey Ronan, I have to say the idea of big cats from a circus being trained to walk on their back legs and scare the life out of people in the UK, is even more bizarre than the concept of real Werecats! LOL. But, in the Fortean world in which we live, who knows?!


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