It’s fair to say that, as someone who writes books on strange creatures, I’m often on the receiving end of strange stories. Some tales are stranger than others. Beyond any shadow of a doubt whatsoever, the absolute weirdest report to ever reach me is that of a woman named Pauline Charlesworth.
According to Pauline, it was a bright, summery day in July 1986 that her strange encounter occurred. As she worked on Saturdays, Pauline explained to me when we met in 2001, she had a regular day off work during the week, and had chosen this particular day to prepare a picnic-basket, and take a trip up to the Castle Ring – which is an ancient hill-fort constructed more than two thousand years ago. It is located on the fringes of the Cannock Chase, a heavily-wooded area in the English county of Staffordshire.
On arriving, she prepared herself a place to sit, stretched out a blanket on the ground and opened up her picnic-basket that contained drinks, fruit and sandwiches. For more than an hour she sat and read, but then something very curious happened.
It was as if, Pauline explained, she was sitting within the confines of a vacuum and all of the surrounding noises, such as the birds whistling and the branches of the trees gently swaying, stopped - completely.
Pauline also said that “what was there wasn’t quite right.” By that statement, she explained: “The best way I can describe it is to say it was like I wasn’t really on the Chase but it was as if I was in someone’s dream of what the Chase should look like: as if it was all a mirage; but a good one.”
Then, out of the trees, came a horrific form running directly towards her. It was, said Pauline, a man. The man, however, was quite unlike any that she had ever seen before. He had long, filthy hair, a matted beard, and a “dumpy” face that was far more prehistoric than modern in appearance.
He was relatively short in height, perhaps no more than five feet two inches, and was clad in animal skins that extended from his waist to his knees, and with a long piece of animal skin that was draped over his right shoulder. In his right hand, the man held what were undoubtedly the large antlers of a deer that had been expertly fashioned into a dagger-like weapon that looked like it could inflict some very serious damage indeed.
Pauline said that it was very difficult to ascertain who was more scared: her or the man. While she stared at him in stark terror, he eyed her curiously and in what Pauline described as a disturbing and sinister fashion. On several occasions he uttered what sounded like the words of an unknown language: “It was like he was angry and firing questions at me,” she added. But that was not all.
In the distance, Pauline could hear other voices getting ever closer and closer and that collectively and ultimately grew into a literal crescendo. And then she found out the source of the noise: through a break in the trees came perhaps thirty of forty more similarly clad people, some men and others women and all chanting in an unknown and presumably ancient tongue.
It was soon made clear to Pauline that some sort of significant ceremony was about to take place inside the Castle Ring - and she, no less, was right in the heart of the brewing action. The men and women all proceeded to sit down at the edges of the Ring.
One man, much taller than the rest and who she assumed was the “leader of the group,” marched over to her and said something wholly unintelligible; but that she understood by the curt wave of his arm meant that she should get out of the circle.
This she quickly did and retreated with shaking legs to the tree-line. For more than fifteen minutes she sat, transfixed with overwhelming terror by the sight, as this curious band of people continued to chant and sway in rhythmic, hypnotic fashion.
Then, out of the sky, came the most horrific thing that Pauline had ever seen in her entire life. It was, she recalled, a creature about four feet in height, human in shape, with oily, greasy black skin, thin arms and legs and a pair of large, bat-like leathery wings. And, just for good measure, it had two hideous, red, glowing eyes, too. “It was like the devil,” recalled Pauline, perhaps with a high-degree of understandable justification.
The creature slowly dropped to the ground and prowled around the Ring for a minute, staring at one and all and emitting hideous, ear-splitting shrieks. Suddenly, seven or eight of the men pounced on the creature, wrestled it to the ground, and bound it firmly with powerful ropes.
It writhed and fought to get loose and tore into the flesh of the men with its claws; but was finally subdued and dragged into the forest by the same tribe-members. The remainder of the party followed and Pauline said that the strange atmosphere began to lift and the area eventually returned to its original normality.
For several minutes she stood her ground, too afraid to move, but then finally returned on still-unsteady legs to her blanket and quickly scooped up both it and her picnic basket and ran to her car.
Of course, the skeptic would say that Pauline’s unearthly experience was merely the result of a bizarre dream – or the absolute worst of all nightmares, perhaps. And maybe that really is all it was.
More than a quarter of a century later, however, Pauline herself is still convinced that something very strange and diabolically evil occurred on that summers day in long-gone July 1986, and that she was provided with a unique glimpse into Staffordshire’s ancient past.
And why am I mentioning this now? Well, the good news is that Pauline has just signed a book-deal for a full-length book that will reveal additional portions of the story, as well as a wealth of additional monstrous events that Pauline claims to have been witness to.
I’ll keep you posted on all developments.
Nick Redfern’s new book, Monster Files, will be published by New Page Books on May 22.