In her 1883 book, Shropshire Folklore, Charlotte Sophia Burne detailed a deeply curious tale of a bizarre, ghost-like ape encountered near woods surrounding an old stretch of English canal:
"A very weird story of an encounter with an animal ghost arose of late years within my knowledge. On the 21st of January 1879, a laboring man was employed to take a cart of luggage from Ranton in Staffordshire to Woodcock, beyond Newport in Shropshire, for the ease of a party of visitors who were going from one house to another.
“He was late in coming back; his horse was tired, and could only crawl along at a foot’s pace, so that it was ten o’clock at night when he arrived at the place where the highroad crosses the Birmingham and Liverpool canal."
Suddenly, said Burne a fast-moving animal leapt out of the shadowy trees and propelled itself aboard the cart, sending the horse into a state of frenzy. The terrified man attempted to hit the creature with the horse-whip, only to find – to his horror – it passed right through the ape-style entity’s body, suggesting it was something paranormal, rather than flesh and blood.
Burne continued: "The poor, tired horse broke into a canter, and rushed onwards at full speed with the ghost still clinging to its back. How the creature at length vanished, the man hardly knew. He told his tale in the village of Woodseaves, a mile further on, and so effectively frightened the hearers that one man actually stayed with friends there all night, rather than cross the terrible bridge which lay between him and his home."
Since then, the beast has become legendary in the area. It is known as the Man-Monkey. And, apparently, this apparition-like monkey is still around. Indeed, I have dozens of reports in my files, but one most definitely stands out in the creepy stakes.
Bob Carroll told me that from the age of twenty-five until his late forties he had worked as a truck driver – and, in the period from 1970 to 1977, specifically for a well known English paint manufacturing company. By the time of the interview, Bob was unable to recall the exact date of the incident at issue which he wanted to discuss with me, but he was pretty sure that it was either January or February of either 1972 or 1973, but certainly no later.
It was the early hours of the morning, and Bob was driving to a spot where he was due to make a 6.00 a.m. delivery, having picked up a supply of paint from a depot in the city of Leicester the previous evening. Everything was completely normal until he came upon that accursed bridge.
Stressing that "it was all over in a few seconds," Bob said that it was his natural instinct to slow down as he reached the bridge; but as he did so, he was shocked to see from his cab ‘"a hairy little man come storming through the trees and vanish down the canal."
Bob was both surprised and amazed by the incredible speed and apparent agility of the beast as it bounded across the road and was subsequently, and quickly, lost to sight. He estimated its height was four and a half to five feet at the very most, and that it looked "well built," and was covered in what looked like black / blue colored hair or fur. He did concede, however, that: "Maybe that blue tinge was from the headlights though; it’s hard to say now after so long."
Stressing that he had "always been a gung-ho type," Bob pulled over to the side of the road, quickly turned on the hazard-lights of his truck, and ran back to the scene of his bizarre experience. "I was bloody daft," he told me, with hindsight, "because I say that I pulled over; but, really I was practically just stopped in the lane. If anyone had come along speeding around the bends there would have been a hell of an accident."
Fortunately, on a fairly remote country lane well into the early hours of the morning, such a calamity did not occur. Bob quickly peered over both sides of the bridge; however, the total lack of light made any attempt to see much of anything tangible nigh-on impossible. But there was one other odd thing that Bob was keen to tell me:
"The only thing that did happen at the bridge was I heard a noise while I was looking over the bridge. If you asked me to describe it – and my sister will verify I said the same to her years ago – I would say it was just like a baby crying. But it sounded a lot louder, and like it was evil or not right. And I got a funny feeling hearing it. It was almost like by sounding like a baby in trouble, it was trying to get me to come down to the canal; like it was luring me."
Probably very wisely, Bob did not act upon the beast’s cunning and macabre ruse. And neither should you, if you ever visit that terrible bridge!
Nick Redfern is the author of many books on strange creatures, including Monster Diary, Wildman!, and the forthcoming Monster Files.