Lair of the Beasts: Beware of the Big Gray Man (Mania.com)
Date: Saturday, September 10, 2011
Ben Macdhui, at 1309 meters, is the second highest mountain in the British Isles and lies in the heart of the Scottish mountain range known as the Cairngorms. The mountain is comprised of a high plateau with a sub-arctic climate and is often covered in snow for months at a time. Weather conditions can be extreme and unpredictable.
Sadly the Cairngorms have been defaced by ski-lifts and restaurants but until recently remained remote, and require considerable physical effort and mountain craft to navigate successfully. The wild nature and relative inaccessibility of the area has contributed to their popularity, and the Cairngorms have been a playground for climbers, walkers, skiers, naturalists and those who love the high and lonely places for hundreds of years. Ben Macdhui has several spellings and its English translation is Gaelic for hill of the son of duff.
But there’s far more than that to Ben Macdhui. The mountain is the reputed home of a vile and terrifying man-beast: the Big Gray Man, as it has become infamously known. Indeed, while on Ben Macdhui, witnesses to the phenomenon known as the Big Gray Man describe how they have variously encountered footsteps, a sensation of a “presence,” occasional sightings of a large humanoid creature, and an overpowering sense of panic.
The experience is terrifying enough to compel witnesses to flee in blind terror, often for several miles. Given that this takes place on rocky, dangerous ground, and often in misty and snowy weather conditions, we should not underestimate the power of the experience. A solitary witness usually, but not exclusively, experiences the phenomenon.
I have been to the Cairngorms on a number of occasions, but, taking into consideration the fact that I am not a skilled (or even a remotely-skilled) mountain-climber, it would be complete folly and sheer lunacy on my part to even begin to try and scale the huge peak. Not to mention that it would be a waste of time and money for the emergency-services that would almost certainly have to come out and rescue me.
But, one person who has dug deep into the puzzle of the Big Gray Man is author and paranormal investigator, Andy Roberts, who has been good enough to share with me his huge mass of data on the Big Gray Man that, in the surroundings of the mountain range, makes for eerie and thought-provoking reading.
Although the first recorded Big Gray Man experience did not take place until 1891, and was not made public until 1925, according to Andy, there are antecedents to the matter that set the phenomenon in some geographic, folkloric and historical context.
Hugh Welsh, camping with his brother by the summit cairn of Ben Macdhui in 1904, heard the type of footsteps that later became synonymous with the Big Gray Man. They heard the noise both at night and in daylight, describing it as being like “slurring footsteps as if someone was walking through water-saturated gravel.”
Welsh also recalled that they were, “frequently conscious of ‘something’ near us, an eerie sensation of apprehension, but not of fear as others seem to have experienced.” They questioned the head stalker at Derry Lodge who told them, “That would have been the Fear Liath Mor you heard.”
Fear Liath Mor is Gaelic for Big Gray Man and, if this account is true, then it is the first known reference to the Big Gray Man by name.
That it was suggested as an explanation by a local stalker may indicate a larger body of tradition regarding the Big Gray Man that has gone unrecorded. Since then, near-identical encounters, with the Big Gray Man have proliferated on Ben Macdhui.
To this day, the Big Gray Man remains a monstrous conundrum…
To learn much more about Andy Roberts’ research into the Big Gray Man of Ben Macdhui, see his book Strangely Strange, But Oddly Normal, which contains a definitive, excellent paper on the mysterious affair.
Nick Redfern is the author of many books, including the recently-published, The Real Men in Black.