Mawnan in Cornwall, England. An old, small and rural parish. Your typical quaint English village looking out over the sea. But in 1976, this unassuming slice of Eden became infamous after a sighting of a mysterious winged creature. Between four and seven feet tall with a 10 foot wingspan. The head of an owl with glowing red eyes. Covered in grey feathers with black talons. An aggressive beast known to hiss at intruders in its territory. Possibly feeding on rodents and even humans, usually the elderly and children. Its very presence is said to cause one to become lightheaded. No wonder it’s better known as the Death Raptor…
April 17, 1976. 12-year-old June Melling and her 9-year-old sister Vicky, on holiday, are walking through the dense woods of Mawnan. They reach the old, old village church. Suddenly, they see a large winged creature hovering above the church tower. Frightened, they run back the way they came, through the dark, dark woods, and they tell their father what they saw. They are so scared they decide to end their holiday three days early. And whilst travelling back home, June draws an image of the mysterious beast.
Only two months later, 14-year-old Sally Chapman and her friend Barbara Perry were camping near the church. Chapman heard a hissing sound. She turned around, saw a huge owl with glowing red eyes and pointed ears. It flew up into the air and the young girls saw huge pincer like claws. They drew what they saw that night and what they drew closely resembled the Melling drawing. By the end of 1976, the story of ‘Owlman’ had become well known around Cornwall. A new legend had been born.
Many thought that these reports were hoaxes because in both incidents, the girls reported what they saw to the same man, Tony Shiels. A man notorious for his hoaxes. Yet two more sightings were reported over the next two years, again by women. But in 1989, a young man and his girlfriend claim to have seen the creature, the first sighting reported to someone other than Shiels. Five feet tall. Legs and ankles. Grey feathers. And those damned glowing red eyes. Many have interviewed the couple and most believe they are not lying.
But the story didn’t end there. Six years later, in 1995, a female tourist from Chicago, America, wrote to a small Cornwall newspaper claiming to have seen a ‘man bird thing, the size of a man, with a ghastly face, a wide mouth, glowing eyes and pointed ears; it had huge clawed wings and was covered in feathers of a silver grey colour.’ She says it saw her, rose into the air, and floated slowly and ominously toward her. She ran for her life. She described it as a ‘vision from hell.’
The last confirmed sighting was in 2009, by a 12-year-old girl known only as ‘Jessica’.
Some suggest the sightings are a ‘quasi-animate thought from the manifestations created by the subconscious mind of a lonely traveller.’ Others suggest supernatural goings on. Some suggest a hoax or even misidentification. And some wonder why all but one sighting has been by women. It’s all very, very strange. In truth, we’ll likely never know what this creature is. But it’s certainly highly interesting.
So I’ll give this creature a 60 on my patented Cryptid-o-Meter, putting it fourth in the list with the Lake Worth Monster still bottom and the Beast of Exmoor still holding top spot.
The Owlman. A fascinating cryptid indeed…
Images: 1 & 2) Two artist’s impressions of two different interpretations of the Owlman (credit: cryptidz.wikia.com & horrorpedia.com), 3) The infamous Mawnan Church and its tower (credit: americanmonsters.com)
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