Well, I said that I was going to publish the details of the latest wave of British werewolf sightings to my blog next week; however, a bit of free time came along this afternoon, so here's the story a few days earlier than expected.

Britain has a long history of lycanthropy - from the tale of the notorious Flixton Werewolf that terrorized the north of England more than a thousand years ago, to the strange sagas of the Hexham Heads, the Abbotsham werewolf, the wild Wolfman of Lynton, and countless others.

But quite possibly nothing compares with the incredible wave of wolfish-weirdness that has recently descended upon Britain's Cannock Chase - a large area of forest land in central England, and a location that has become a veritable hotbed for encounters with big cats, ghostly black dogs, Bigfoot-like entities, and now werewolves.

The Chase is located only about 4 miles from where I used to live; and so I know the area very well, having spent a considerable amount of time there investigating the strange beasts said to roam those darkened woods (for my forthcoming book on the subject that will be published by the Centre for Fortean Zoology's CFZ Press, and titled The Lords of the Gray Woods: Strange Creatures of the Cannock Chase).

Last summer, startling reports surfaced of a wild wolf on the loose in the vicinity; however, if the current spate of sightings prove to be accurate, then that wolf might be a little more monstrous than has been previously assumed.

On April 26, 2007, the Stafford Post newspaper (which covers the area in question) stated the following: "A rash of sightings of a 'werewolf' type creature prowling around the outskirts of Stafford have prompted a respected Midlands paranormal group to investigate. West Midlands Ghost Club says they have been contacted by a number of shocked residents who saw what they claimed to be a 'hairy wolf-type creature' walking on its hind legs around the German War Cemetery, just off Camp Road, in between Stafford and Cannock. Several of them claim the creature sprang up on its hind legs and ran into the nearby bushes when it was spotted."

The newspaper continued:
Nick Duffy, of West Midlands Ghost Club, said the stories of werewolf sightings in Chase area were something that he had encountered before. He said: "The first person to contact us was a postman, who told us he had seen what he thought was a werewolf on the German War Cemetery site. He said he was over there on a motorbike and saw what he believed was a large dog. When he got closer, the creature got on his hind legs and ran away."
The Post quoted Duffy as adding that: "I've spoke to many witnesses and I know when they are putting it on. But what struck me as strange about this was the way he told it. I'm in no doubt that he was telling the truth."

The creature was also apparently spotted by a scout leader walking over the forest land earlier in April. The man, who the Post stated did not want to be named, said he saw what he initially believed was a large dog prowling by the bushes. It was only when he got into his car to drive away that he realised something weird was afoot.

He said: "It just looked like a huge dog. But when I slammed the door of my car it reared up on its back legs and ran into the trees. It must have been about six to seven feet tall. I know it sounds absolutely mad, but I know what I saw."

And this week, both the Chase Post newspaper (whose official website is home to countless weird animal reports from the area) and the Birmingham Post ran the following story:
A tribe of subterranean creatures who surface on Cannock Chase to hunt for food could be behind a rash of 'werewolf' and Bigfoot sightings near Stafford. And the mysterious beings could also be responsible for a string of pet disappearances, it has been claimed.

West Midlands Ghost Club, our area's top paranormal investigation group, say they have been contacted by a number of shocked eye-witnesses who claim they have come to face to face with a "hairy,wolf-type creature" at the beauty spot. A scout leader and a local post man are amongst the "credible" witnesses to contact the club.

Theories behind the sightings range from a crazed tramp to aliens. But now another paranormal expert has put forward the theory the sub-human beast is not a werewolf at all - but a Stone Age throwback. The investigator, who wishes to remain anonymous, told us : "Strange sightings in this area have been made over many years by civilians, military, police, ex-police and scout leaders on patrol. Some incidents have been reported and logged but others not - some people don't want to be classed as mad."
The newspapers elaborated further: "The strangest rumour has come from a senior local resident who believes the mysterious intruders to be subterranean," he told us. "The creatures have made their way to the surface via old earthworks to hunt, for example, local deer."

And, on the surface, the far-fetched tale could be easily dismissed. However, the Post's source added: "It's a fact that there has been significant mining activity under Cannock Chase for centuries. And it's a fact there is a high rate of domestic pet disappearance in the area - especially dogs off the lead...just ask anyone who walks their dog near the German War Cemetery..."

Well...I'm not quite prepared to say that monstrous, hairy beings dwell deep below the Cannock Chase in some dark, cavernous abode, but there is no doubt that the cemetery in question (photograph above; copyright Nick Redfern) has been an absolute beacon for monstrous and weird activity for the last two decades.

And, it's certainly the case that the area has been the site of animal (particularly deer) mutilations, and tales of marauding "things" lurking in the woods.

Whatever is going on, it seems that something is being seen; and as someone who has undertaken a wealth of investigations into werewolf and wolfman encounters, I shall be following this story very closely. Indeed, as soon as I get the chance, I shall be back, descending on the area once again myself.

All comments, encounters, reports and opinions are welcome here at this blog!

If you decide to check out the story in person for yourself, remember to keep a careful watch if it's a full moon...