A Few Cornish Mysteries Part Two
As I promised a little while ago here is the second part of my blog about a few places I visited when I was last down in magical Cornwall visiting dear friends and family, a link to part one can be found HERE
Now we move on to everyones favourite winged zooform the Owlman of Mawnan.
Sunday was the day we were due to return to the city, and over a good breakfast we decided that a little detour to visit the scene of the Owlman sightings in Mawnan would be a good idea. Mawnan is a small village near the coast, not to far away from Falmouth. So once more we made our way around small winding Cornish lanes and in just under an hour I was parking the car outside the Church where the creature was first spotted.
The area around Mawnan has certainly been in use since the Iron Age and some claim that the church itself was built on a prehistoric site of some sort but so far I can find no evidence to support this. The village was possibly named after St Maunanus who im lead to believe was a Breton monk who came over from France in around AD 520. There are three churches in the area but the one that concerns us is the 13th century church of St Stephens for that is where the owlman was first seen.
It all started in April 1976, a year that would go on to see an exceedingly hot and dry summer as well as plagues of ladybirds. A paranormal researcher, street performer and loveable rogue who went by the name of Doc Shiels (and also self proclaimed wizard of the Weston World) was approached by a gentleman called Don Melling, who had been enjoying a holiday in the area. On the day in question Doc had been busking with his street theatre group at a street fair in the small town of Penryn, when as Doc puts it a “worried looking man” (Don) came up to him after locals told him of Docs involvement with certain other paranormal instances in the area, and recounted to him the following tale.
Don, his wife and their two daughters June 12 and Vicky 19 decided that on April 17 1976 they would enjoy a picnic in the woods near Mawnan. The children ran off to play amongst the grave stones in the near by St Stephens church yard whilst their mum and dad prepared their food.
It was then that the Owlman made his first terrifying appearance. The girls whilst playing said they heard a “funny noise
” and saw a large “birdman
” hovering over the tower of the church. Naturally the girls fled back to where they had left their parents and their terror was enough to convince their mum and dad to cut short the picnic and return to the campsite where they had been staying, and sadly the Melling family where so shaken by what the girls had experienced that they cut short their holiday and returned home to Lancaster.
June and Vicky’s sighting was to be only the start of the Owlman mystery and it wasn’t long before a report came in of another occurrence involving the feathered beast.
Just two months later on July 3 two more girls had an encounter with the creature. Sally Chapman and Barbara Perry (both aged 14) where camping together in the woods near the infamous church when they witnessed the creature outside of their tent, Sally said it was “Like a big owl with pointed ears, as big as a man. The eyes were red and glowing. At first, I thought that it was someone dressed up and playing a joke, trying to scare us. I laughed at it. We both did, then it went up in the air and we both screamed. When it went up you could see its feet were like pincers.
This incident again was reported directly to Doc Shiels and it must be mentioned that the girls had read a pamphlet about the original sighting, and even Shiels admitted that they may have been making up their story.
The next sighting was uncovered by Jon Downes, who is founder and director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology. This time we fast forward to 1989 when an individual called Gavin got in touch with Downes and claimed when interviewed that he and his girlfriend saw a creature with glowing eyes around five feet tall around the area of the other sightings.
Gavin told Downes that he was 12 years old at the time of the sighting and was holidaying with his girlfriend Sally also 12 and her parents. One particular evening the young couple were taking a walk along the wooded path that leads from Mawnan church to the coastal path. As it was getting dark the pair were using pocket torches that they had brought along with them in anticipation of bring out past dark. With Gavins torch lighting the way Sally let the beam from her dance in the branches of the trees until she caught sight something on a branch in front of them. The creature is described as being about five feet tall, “the legs had high ankles and the feet were large and black with two huge toes on the visable side. The creature was grey with brown, and the eyes definitely glowed. On seeing us, its head jerked down and forwards, its wings lifted and it just jumped backwards. As it did its legs folded up. We ran away.”
So what is the Owlman of Mawnan, is he a work of fiction that was created by the first two girls or was Doc Shiels responsible for spinning a tall tale, it wouldn’t take you long dear reader to find several articles on the internet that would certainly point towards him being able to concoct such a story and his credibility has been called into question on more than one occasion.
But if the stories are not inventions then what? Perhaps each sighting has been a misidentified creature, perhaps a real owl, zoologist and cryptozoologist Karl Shuker at least seems to think so and he suggests that an eagle owl would be the most likely culprit from some of the descriptions given.
Although rare in the uk and technically non-native they have from time to time been spotted, in fact there are reports of a few breeding pairs in scotland, at the time of writing, but these are rumoured to be captive birds that have been released for reasons unknown and certainly not through official channels.
So aside from the possibility that the sightings of the Owlman relate to an actual owl, what are the other suggestions? Well of course perhaps the wittnesses did see a beast that was a mixture of humanoid and owl in its form. It has been suggested that the owlman is some sort of paranormal entity that guards the area of the old pagan site that predated the church but as I remarked erlier there is no hard evidence of a prehistoric site on this spot that I have found although thats not to say there never was. There are legends around a lot of prehistoric sites that tell of supernatural creatures or monsters that or the areas guardians. In fact in part one of this post I mentioned the Piskie that is meant to dwell near the stones at Men an Tol and cure peoples ills, a very benevolent entity in comparison to the fear inducing Owlman.
Fact or fabrication will be up to you to decide upon yourself but either way it sure is a great story set in one of the most beautiful parts of the country and I urge you to visit the little church in Mawnan for yourself and take a little walk through the woods and who knows what you might meet there on a dark Cornish night.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Owlman then I can recommend the very well researched and written book by Jon Downes The Owlman & Others
it is a great read and will tell you all there is to know on the subject
as well as various other mysteries.
It was unfortunate that I was not able to spend much more than half an hour in Mawnan before we had to be on our way again. I would of liked to spend the night in the woods to see if the creature would appear and who knows maybe during the two weeks of British summer I may return and see what I can find. I will of course to you all about it!