Lair of the Beasts: A Monstrous Anniversary (Mania.com)
Date: Saturday, April 16, 2011
Although it was during the summer of 2003 that all Hell broke loose, next month – May 2011 - marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of a series of sightings of a strange creature, or creatures, said to inhabit a body of water in central England called the Roman View Pond. The mysterious waters in question sit on the fringes of the town of Cannock, Staffordshire, and are pretty much hidden by thick bushes that adorn the edge of a particular stretch of road called the A5.
In June 2001, I had the opportunity to speak with a local man named Rob Brooke who had seen in Roman View Pond – one month previously - what he described as a “four-foot [long] alligator swimming about.” Well, it’s certainly not every day that someone tells you they saw an alligator roaming around a decent-sized pool of water in England – which, I scarcely need to say, is hardly a nation known for having a resident population of alligators, large or small!
Well, I investigated the case to the extent that I was able, which basically meant carefully and faithfully scanning the waters with binoculars, night-vision equipment and a telephoto-lens-equipped camera for a couple of days and nights. It was all to no avail, however. And, anyway, only two-weeks later I moved to the United States to live; so I was hardly in a position to investigate the case to a significant degree, unfortunately for both me and Rob. The result: I have to confess that I eventually forgot all about it. Albeit, for a while, anyway.
But, in the hot summer of 2003, the tale – just like the beast itself – resurfaced from the dark depths. This time, hysterical rumors wildly spread around the town of Cannock to the effect that a giant, marauding crocodile was on the loose in Roman View Pond!
Local police, representatives of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), and the nation’s media all quickly descended upon the scene, as they valiantly and collectively sought to ascertain the truth about what, at a local level, fast became known to one and all as the “Cannock Nessie.”
Of course, the facts were somewhat more sober and down to earth. As my good friends Jonathan Downes and Richard Freeman of the British-based Center for Fortean Zoology demonstrated to practically everyone’s satisfaction when they visited the area at the height of the sightings, the “beast,” as the more sensationalistic elements of the press tirelessly insisted on calling it, was likely nothing stranger than a three-foot-long Spectacled Caiman – a crocodilian reptile found throughout much of Central and South America.
It was the conclusion of Jon and Richard that the unfortunate creature had probably been housed locally by an unknown exotic-pet-keeper – that is, until it grew to a point where it became completely unmanageable, and was then unceremoniously dumped in the pool late one night and under the protective cover and camouflage of overwhelming darkness.
Almost certainly, Jon believed, the creature would not survive the harsh fall and winter months that were destined to follow. And, sure enough, as the English weather changed for the worse, sightings of the mysterious beast came to an abrupt end. To this day, Jon is convinced that the bones of the crocodilian lay buried deep in the muddy floor of Roman View Pond.
Was this, incredibly, the very same creature that had been seen in the pond in 2001 by the aforementioned Rob Brooke? And, if so, how on earth had it managed to survive the equally cold winters of 2001 and 2002? Is it actually possible that the sightings of 2001 and 2003 were the result of two different animals having been dumped into the pool on two different occasions? My answer, today, has to be an unhesitating: “Yes.”
The intriguing affair most certainly provided both the folk of Cannock and its local media outlets with a good supply of monster-themed stories for a couple of weeks. The unfortunate reality of the situation, however, is that probably at least two exotic animals - that deserved far better fates than those that befell them - lost their lives due to the idiotic actions of an inexperienced animal-keeper who, when faced with trying to cope with creatures that had no doubt outgrown their tanks, chose to recklessly send them to their inevitable deaths in the Roman View Pond.
Nick Redfern is the author of many books, including the newly-published Space Girl Dead on Spaghetti Junction and the forthcoming The Real Men in Black.