Well Dear readers as work has been a little fraught over the last few days I thought I would share with you a post I wrote for a different blog from January last year (2015) about a trip I made to Cornwall. Mainly my mission was to see my daughter and some very dear friends but I also managed to visit a few rather special places whilst on my jolly to the captivating land of Kernow.
The first stop on my mini fortean foray was to visit the Men-An-Tol situated in West Penwith not to far from Penzance. So after popping into my good friend Sams place for a warming cup of tea, his family and some of mine headed out in convoy to visit the ancient site.
Sam had taken point and decided to make a quick stop off at Lanyon Quoit (pictured bellow).
The Quoit is actually at the northan part of whats believed to be a long barrow type structure and is said to have been a burial chamber or even some sort of mausoleum. There is an old legend that tells of giants bones being found buried next to the quoit and it is also sometimes known by some as the giants table. Another legend has no less than King Arthur sitting atop the stones to enjoy a meal, just before his last battle at Camlann. Also it is to this place that it is said Arthur will return to fight the last battle that will mark the end of the world.
So shortly after we arrived the sounds of barking hounds accompanied by the sounding of horns meant the local fox hunt was heading our way hopefully not in hot pursuit of any unfortunate creature, which is something Sam and I would of liked to have hung around for and perhaps had a polite word in the ear of the huntsman but as we had the kids with us we decided to move on as huntsmen aren’t always open to views that oppose their law breaking and cruel escapades.
After a small drive of only a few minuets we had wound our way through a few more Cornish lanes, where the hedges are made of granite, and had arrived in the small lay by that serves as a car park for Men-An-Tol.
We all made the short half mile journey up the old muddy, puddle filled farm track that leads from the lay-by to the field that housed the ancient monument.
These stones never fail to amaze me, all though they aren’t giants like some of our other neolithic monuments they are stunning non the less. Men-An-Tol, which means the hole stone was erected during the bronze age, and was first described and investigated by a Mr William Borlase a Cornish antiquarian, in 1749. Borlas suggests farmers had taken stones away from the site and its been purposed that these could have formed a circle around what we see there today. The purpose of this strange monument is of course unknown and open to speculations. Such speculations range from the usual calendar to some sort of place for fertility ceremonies. Local legend has it that if a woman passes through the centre stone backwards,seven times on a full moon she will soon fall pregnant. It was with this in mind that I didn’t let my eldest daughter climb through it, better safe than sorry.
Its is also known for its healing properties, another name for it locally is the Rickets stone and families would bring their children here to be passed though the centre stone and hopefully cured.
Yet another legend speaks of a Piskie living here that could heal your ills, magically of course.
Sadly we didn’t spot the Piskie, I suppose us lot trundling through the field is enough to send even the most magical creatures running for cover.
So now with lunch on our minds we set off over to Zennor and paid a visit to lovely little pub there that does rather agreeable food, as well as a nice drop of cider, and of course a trip to Zennor is never complete with out stepping into the church to visit the mermaid, strategically placed right next door to the pub. Sadly we were to be disappointed, the worst out come imaginable had happened, the pub was FULL!
But happily the church was open and I was lucky enough to be able to pop inside and take a picture of the old pew that has a lovely old carving of the mermaid on it.
Now legend has it that this carving was made to commemorate a local tale of a mermaid. The story goes that one day a very beautiful and well attired lady started occasionally to attend the Sunday services at the church, and it wasn’t long before her exquisite singing voice became the talk of the other parishioners, and as you may imagine she caught the eye of many a young suitor. But it was a handsome young man named Matthew Trewella who gained the favour of the young woman. It was said that Matthew had a singing voice surpassed only by the mysterious lady. The one Sunday after the service she was seen to give Matthew a smile and the smitten young man followed her towards the sea. He was never seen again.
After many years Matthews disappearance had faded from the memories of the locals until one day a ship had dropped anchor in a near by bay when a mermaid appeared and asked the captain to move his anchor as it was blocking the door to her house and her children and husband Matthew were trapped inside.
After taking a couple of photos of the carving and admiring the small church for a while our stomachs dictated it was time to go in search of an eatery that could accommodated our numbers, four adults and five children. This inevitably was a chain type pub that served something tasteless but filling. After we had eaten and the kids had run riot in the pubs play area we said our good byes and headed back to St Ives for the evening, where I was lucky enough to see yet another dear friend who I spent the evening with enjoying a glass or two of wine.
The day after I was particularly excited about that days excursion, a trip to Mawnan Smith, the home of the Cornish Owlman was on the cards. So after a good breakfast the car was once again winding its way through highsided Cornish lanes, and it wasn’t long before I was parking the car and exploring the grounds of Mawnan Church where the Owlamn was first reported.
Now we move on to everyone’s favourite winged zooform the Owlman of Mawnan.
Sunday was the day we were due to return to the city, and over a good breakfast we decided that a little detour to visit the scene of the Owlman sightings in Mawnan would be a good idea. Mawnan is a small village near the coast, not to far away from the town of Falmouth. So once more we made our way around small winding Cornish lanes and in just under an hour I was parking the car outside the Church where the creature was first spotted.
The area around Mawnan has certainly been in use since the Iron Age and some claim that the church itself was built on a prehistoric site of some sort, but so far I can find no evidence to support this but it has to be said that often in the U.K churches were built on top of sacred pagan sites as a way of suppressing the old religion in favour of the new. The village was possibly named after St Maunanus who I am lead to believe was a Breton monk who came over from France in around AD 520. There are three churches in the area but the one that concerns us is the 13th century church of St Stephens for that is where the owlman was first seen.
It all started in April 1976, a year that would go on to see an exceedingly hot and dry summer as well as plagues of ladybirds. A paranormal researcher, street performer and lovable rogue who went by the name of Doc Shiels (and also self proclaimed wizard of the Weston World) was approached by a gentleman called Don Melling, who had been enjoying a holiday in the area. On the day in question Doc had been busking with his street theatre group at a street fair in the small town of Penryn, when as Doc puts it a “worried looking man” (Don) came up to him after locals told him of Docs involvement with certain other paranormal instances in the area, and recounted to him the following tale.
Don, his wife and their two daughters June 12 and Vicky 19 decided that on April 17 1976 they would enjoy a picnic in the woods near Mawnan. The children ran off to play amongst the grave stones in the near by St Stephens church yard whilst their mum and dad prepared their food.
It was then that the Owlman made his first terrifying appearance. The girls whilst playing said they heard a “funny noise” and saw a large “birdman” hovering over the tower of the church. Naturally the girls fled back to where they had left their parents and their terror was enough to convince their mum and dad to cut short the picnic and return to the campsite where they had been staying, and sadly the Melling family where so shaken by what the girls had experienced that they cut short their holiday and returned home to Lancaster.
June and Vicky’s sighting was to be only the start of the Owlman mystery and it wasn’t long before a report came in of another occurrence involving the feathered beast.
Just two months later on July 3 two more girls had an encounter with the creature. Sally Chapman and Barbara Perry (both aged 14) where camping together in the woods near the infamous church when they witnessed the creature outside of their tent, Sally said it was “Like a big owl with pointed ears, as big as a man. The eyes were red and glowing. At first, I thought that it was someone dressed up and playing a joke, trying to scare us. I laughed at it. We both did, then it went up in the air and we both screamed. When it went up you could see its feet were like pincers.“
This incident again was reported directly to Doc Shiels and it must be mentioned that the girls had read a pamphlet about the original sighting, and even Shiels admitted that they may have been making up their story.
The next sighting was uncovered by Jon Downes, who is founder and director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology. This time we fast forward to 1989 when an individual called Gavin got in touch with Downes and claimed when interviewed that he and his girlfriend saw a creature with glowing eyes around five feet tall around the area of the other sightings.
Gavin told Downes that he was 12 years old at the time of the sighting and was holidaying with his girlfriend Sally also 12 and her parents. One particular evening the young couple were taking a walk along the wooded path that leads from Mawnan church to the coastal path. As it was getting dark the pair were using pocket torches that they had brought along with them in anticipation of bring out past dark. With Gavins torch lighting the way Sally let the beam from her dance in the branches of the trees until she caught sight something on a branch in front of them. The creature is described as being about five feet tall, “the legs had high ankles and the feet were large and black with two huge toes on the visable side. The creature was grey with brown, and the eyes definitely glowed. On seeing us, its head jerked down and forwards, its wings lifted and it just jumped backwards. As it did its legs folded up. We ran away.”
So what is the Owlman of Mawnan, is he a work of fiction that was created by the first two girls or was Doc Shiels responsible for spinning a tall tale, it wouldn’t take you long dear reader to find several articles on the internet that would certainly point towards him being able to concoct such a story and his credibility has been called into question on more than one occasion.
But if the stories are not inventions then what? Perhaps each sighting has been a misidentified creature, perhaps a real owl, zoologist and cryptozoologist Karl Shuker at least seems to think so and he suggests that an eagle owl would be the most likely culprit from some of the descriptions given.
Although rare in the UK and technically non-native they have from time to time been spotted, in fact there are reports of a few breeding pairs in Scotland, at the time of writing, but these are rumoured to be captive birds that have been released for reasons unknown and certainly not through official channels.
So aside from the possibility that the sightings of the Owlman relate to an actual owl, what are the other suggestions? Well of course perhaps the witnesses did see a beast that was a mixture of humanoid and owl in its form. It has been suggested that the owlman is some sort of paranormal entity that guards the area of the old pagan site that predated the church but as I remarked earlier there is no hard evidence of a prehistoric site on this spot that I have found although thats not to say there never was. There are legends around a lot of prehistoric sites that tell of supernatural creatures or monsters that are supposedly the areas guardians. In fact in part one of this post I mentioned the Piskie that is meant to dwell near the stones at Men an Tol and cure peoples ills, a very benevolent entity in comparison to the fear inducing Owlman.
Fact or fabrication will be up to you to decide upon yourself but either way it sure is a great story set in one of the most beautiful parts of the country and I urge you to visit the little church in Mawnan for yourself and take a little walk through the woods and who knows what you might meet there on a dark Cornish night.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Owlman then I can recommend the very well researched and written book by Jon Downes The Owlman & Others it is a great read and will tell you all there is to know on the subject as well as various other mysteries.
It was unfortunate that I was not able to spend much more than an hour in Mawnan before we had to be on our way again. I would of liked to spend the night in the woods to see if the creature would appear and who knows maybe during the two weeks of British summer I may return and see what I can find. I will of course tell you all about it!