Today I went foraging in our local woods in search of cones, beech kernals and other natural materials with which to incorporate into my Austrian Spicecraft decorations.
The woods were dark and wet underfoot but undeterred I ventured further and further away from the hamlet in which I live. Being on my own I felt a little nervous especially as I have only just discovered two stories about this very place:
In December 1904 the local farmers reported the loss of the loss of their livestock, so serious that many sheep were being stabled at night to protect them. A shepherd found two of his flock slaughtered, one with its entrails hanging out, and all that remained of the other was its head and horns. Many of the sheep had been bitten about the neck and the legs – common with an attack made by a wolf.
Hysteria soon set in. During the night, lanterns were kept burning to scare away the wolf, and women and children were ordered to keep to the busy roads and be home before dusk.
Through December and over Christmas, the hunt for the wolf continued. Livestock was still being attacked, and on the 29 December the wolf was witnessed jumping a high wall.
Eventually the body of a wolf was found 30 miles away, but evidence of wolves was still around our local area.
Some locals believed that there wasn’t just one wolf, but a whole pack living in the nearby woods. Further ideas suggested that the town had its very own werewolf!
The attacks suddenly stopped and nothing more was mentioned until decades later.
Everything died down until 1972 when apparently two local boys dug up 2 ancient stone heads about the size of tennis balls – very close to where the sightings of the first wolf had been all those many years ago.
A few nights after the discovery, a neighbour was sitting up late with her daughter when both of them saw what they described as a ‘half-man/half-beast’ enter the bedroom. Although both mother and daughter screamed in terror, the creature seemed disinterested in them and walked off down the stairs. It was heard to be ‘padding down the stairs as if on its hind legs’, and the front door was later found open.
Eventually a professional took an interest, believing them to be at least 2000 years old. This person had not heard of anything of the strange goings-on and took the carved heads home with her to the south of England.
A few nights later at around 2.00am, she woke from sleep feeling cold and frightened. Looking up she saw a strange figure in the doorway of her bedroom;
It was about six feet high, slightly stooping, and it was black, against the white door, and it was half animal and half man. The upper part, I would have said, was a wolf, and the lower part was human and, I would have again said, that it was covered with a kind of black, very dark fur. It went out and I just saw it clearly, and then it disappeared, and something made me run after it, a thing I wouldn’t normally have done, but I felt compelled to run after it. I got out of bed and I ran, and I could hear it going down the stairs, then it disappeared towards the back of the house.
Scared, but intrigued, she simply put the event down to a nightmare, but when she later returned home with her husband, , they found their teenage daughter, distraught and in tears. After some coaxing she managed to explain the reason for her state, and Anne suddenly realised perhaps she had not been dreaming the night before. As Berenice later told, she had returned to the empty house at 4.00pm and opened the front door with her key. As it opened she saw a large shape rushing down the stairs toward her. Halfway down, the thing suddenly stopped and vaulted the banisters, landing with a soft thud like a heavy animal with thickly padded feet.
Believing the problem to be associated with the ancient artifacts she got rid of the heads and the strange wolfman never returned!
These two stories were in my mind and every creak of a branch or crack or a twig made me extremely nervous!
Needless to say I made a hasty retreat – pinecones will have to wait for another day!