THE HUNT FOR THE BOLAM “BEAST” – A PRELIMINARY REPORT. 17th – 21st January 2003Saturday 16th January 2021
NOTE: This is only a very preliminary report. We will be receiving more photographs and sketch maps over the next days and weeks, and will also be transcribing the witness interview tapes. The Twilight Worlds Paranormal Research Group based in South Shields have also been investigating the phenomena at Bolam, and although we collaborated on a small part of our investigations, we would suggest that you make regular checks on their website when it resumes to see the latest news.
This investigation could not have been possible without the help of Geoff Lincoln whose excellent website British Hominid Research covers the gamut of British man-beast sightings in far more depth than we do here.
Ray Wallace, one of the most controversial figures in American cryptozoology, died in November. In 1958 his construction company had been working at Bluff Creek in California. One of his employees found strange footprints apparently belonging to a giant ape. As veteran American Fortean Loren Coleman wrote in Wallace’s obituary:
“Wallace was to be involved with the local tales of hairy giants for the rest of his life. Allegedly in the later 1950s, for example, Wallace offered to sell Texas millionaire Tom Slick a captured Bigfoot. Wallace failed to produce the creature when Slick came up with an offer. Down through the years, Wallace would carry on pranks, be tied to carved fake Sasquatch feet, and produce and try to sell dubious photographs and films. He was a great letter writer and would pen long passages to magazine editors about this photographs or telling of how he knew a Bigfoot was nearby guarding a mine full of gold. After a while, most Bigfoot hunters and researchers took Wallace as merely a spinner of fanciful tall tales. Through his contributions to Strange Magazine, the Track Record, and indirectly to Fate Magazine, Wallace relished keeping his name in the limelight of the Bigfoot mystery.”
Although it is indisputable that Wallace was responsible for some pretty hefty hoaxing, in my opinion at least it would be facile to dismiss the whole Bigfoot phenomenon as merely been the result of one man’s mischievous sense of humour. Tabloid newspapers, however, love to see things in a black and white and love it even more if they can accompany it with a picture of a woman with big tits. Bigfoot is dead! Said the papers, and it was almost as if the phenomenon wanted to prove the legions of hack journalists wrong. Only two days after his death the first newspaper report in the UK surfaced describing an encounter with what some unknown media scribe described as “The Sherwood Forest Thing”.
Scottish Fortean researcher Mark Fraser described the initial encounter:
The Sherwood Forest “Thing” has apparently been sighted for many years and has now become part of the local folklore. One day, after hearing about the creature, two men, along with two friends, took it upon their selves to actually go out and hunt “the thing” down. The four men drove deep into the forest and lay in wait for the creature.
After about an hour they heard the sound of heavy footsteps approaching. As the steps grew louder and closer, the driver switched the lights of the car off. In the darkness, the men could now see two glowing red eyes, at about 8 feet from the ground, moving towards them from the depths of the forest. As the eyes and footsteps moved closer to the men, fear finally took over. The companions deciding not to hang around, restarted their car and drove off. As the vehicle moved away, the men could just make out a large, dark shape move up into the trees.
And this was only the beginning. Over the next weeks and months the United Kingdom was to be the host for the biggest Flap of man beast sightings ever recorded outside Asia. North America or possibly Australia.
Over Christmas Jon started collecting these stories, and when at the other members of the core CFZ faculty returned after their Christmas break, we had a reasonable size a dossier of sighting reports for them. His original plan had been to suggest a CFZ expedition to one of the hot spot of British BHM reports sometime in the early spring.
There has been a whole plethora off British BHM reports from Sussex, Lancashire, Cumbria, Staffordshire and Scotland as well as the aforementioned ones in Sherwood Forest. However, by far the most interesting were reports from a place called at Bolam Lake Country Park in Northumberland. They were interesting because there were so many of them. Even as we were putting together plans for a trip to Sussex in March more and more reports were coming in from the Bolam Lake area and it seemed increasingly obvious that we would have to go and visit the place to investigate them for ourselves.
We liaised with Geoff Lincoln, an absolutely invaluable researcher. We gave him our planned arrival time, and asked him up to see if any of the eyewitnesses would be prepared to speak to us. Much to our delight five out of six were. I think it should be noted, here, that the 6th is a soldier and with the burgeoning situation in the Middle East spiralling rapidly out of control, it would be completely unreasonable to expect a serving military man to be at the beck and call of four loonies from the CFZ.
Geoff Lincoln shows the CFZ Team the location of the first sighting
Serendipitously, we were able to stay at a house owned by our Co. Durham representative, David Curtis. He and his wife Joanne were absolutely fantastic all the way through our sojourn in the North. The only sad thing about our stay with them, was that Davy had to work most of the time and was not able to join us during most of our adventures.
This is not the time nor the place he gave a long, imaginative, travelogue style description of what was essentially a very tedious journey up the M1. However, we arrived in Seaham late on the Thursday night, and after a few pints at The Dawdon Miner’s Welfare Club across the road from our lodgings, we collapsed into our beds and prepared ourselves for the first proper day of our adventure.
After a series of fairly dull misadventures, we met Geoff Lincoln, and Gail-Nina Anderson (a member of the CFZ Board of Consultants), and we made our way in convoy to Bolam Lake itself. It would be nice to say that we were overwhelmed with a spooky feeling, or that the genius locii of the location was in some way redolent of Fortean freakiness. But it wasn’t. It was just what one would expect from a heavily wooded country park in the North of England in the middle of January – cold, wet and grey.
The location of the first sighting
Another view of the same site
the arrow indicates where the eight foot figure was seen
Geoff showed us three of the locations where these things had been reported. We carried out a thorough series of photographic mapping exercises, whilst Jon stayed back at the main car-park and did his best to fend off the incessant inquiries from the local press. Just after lunchtime a TV crew from Tyne-Tees Television turned up and filmed interviews with the investigation team. It was only after they had gone that we realised that something rather strange was happening.
Although we had tested all of our electronic equipment the night before, charged up batteries where necessary, and put new batteries in all of the equipment which needed them, practically without exception all of our equipment failed. My laptop, for example, has a battery, which usually lasts between 20 and 35 minutes. It lasted just three minutes it before conking out. Admittedly, I received an enormous number of telephone calls during our stay at the Lake, but not anywhere near enough to justify the fact that I had to change handsets four times in as many hours. The batteries in both Geoff’s and our tape recorders also failed. It seemed certain that there was some strange electromagnetic phenomenon at work here.
Bolam Woods – the home of a monster?
The media circus comes to town
Late afternoon we drove to a local pub where we met our first witnesses. Like all the other people we were to meet over the next few days they requested anonymity, and therefore in accordance with our strict confidentiality policy, we have respected this. Naomi, and her son had been visiting Bolam Lake only a few days before. Not believing any of the reports which had appeared in the local media, the they were both appalled and frightened when – whilst walking across the car park itself – they had seen a huge creature standing motionless in the woods. They described experiencing a intense feeling of fear and trepidation, and rapidly left the area.
They were incredibly co-operative, and agreed it to come back to the lake with us the next day to stage a reconstruction similar to those done on the BBC television programme Crimewatch.
Then we drove to South Shields where Jon gave a briefing to a detachment of from the Twilight Worlds Group who had kindly agreed to help us in our investigations on the next day.
Briefing the team from Twilight Worlds
Jon had a call time of 5.30 the next morning, and a taxi took him to a lay-by I 500 yards up the road from the Bolam Lake car-park, where he did a two and a half minute interview for the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. One thing of great importance happened during the half-hour or so he spent shivering by the side of road waiting to speak to the `beeb`. Just before dawn the rooks which live in a huge colony in the woods started the appalling row which is presumably the corvid equivalent of the dawn chorus. Suddenly the noise stopped. Jon heard a brief succession of booming noises- like a heavily amplified heartbeat from a Pink Floyd record – before the rooks started up again. It is unclear whether these noises came from the vicinity of the lake itself or were made by the incredibly Heath-Robinson set-up of satellite dishes, and recording equipment which was loaded in the back of, and on top of the BBC man’s car.
During the taxi journey back to Seaham the driver remarked on the peculiar behaviour of the rooks, and said it that although he was a country man himself and had spent his whole life living in this area he had never heard anything quite like it.
No sooner had Jon arrived back at base, than it was time for the entire C F Z expeditionary force to drive to the outskirts of Newcastle where, we met Geoff and a second witness in a cafe attached to a garden centre. The witness, Neil, had been fishing at Bolam Lake one night four or for five years previously. Together with two companions he had been making his way back to the car-park when they encountered a huge, dark man shaped object about 8 ft in height with what he described as sparkling eyes. The three fishermen did not stop to investigate but ran back to the car. However, this was by no means the only encounter that Neil had got to report to us. Together with one of his companions from the first adventure he had again been night fishing at Bolam Lake during the summer of 2002. They had been camped out on this occasion, and had heard noises, which they assumed, were from an enormous animal moving around in the bushes outside their camp. Deciding, that, discretion was the better part of valour they decided not to investigate but when they broke camp the next morning they found that fish in a bait tin had been taken, and there were signs that something very large had been moving around false the vicinity of their camp.
Possibly the most astounding story that he had to recount had taken place a couple of summers before our visit. He had been in the woods at the opposite side of the Lake with his girlfriend. They had been making love, when his girlfriend told him that that she could see we what she thought was a man in a monkey suit watching their sexual adventures intently from behind a bush. Neil, unsurprisingly looked around the area. but could find nothing.
We then continued to the lake. Neil had been amazingly co-operative, and had, like Naomi, agreed to stage a reconstruction with us. At the lake we liaised with the team from Twilight Worlds and began a series of exercises, which but would take up the rest of the day. Geoff had noted, the previous week, a series of apparently artificial tree formations similar to those “Bigfoot Teepees” noted by researchers in the United States. A particularly good selection of photographs of such formations can be found on The Texas Wildman Project site.
Geoff points out one of the “teepees”
A close up of one of the “teepees”
This tree trunk – with a diameter of approximately 5 inches
appeared to have been wrenched into this position.
It is unlikely that the cause was wind damage because surrounding foliage was unharmed.
Together with a team from, Twilight Worlds, Geoff and Graham went off to map these formations and make a photographic record. They also took with them a Twilight Worlds member trained in using their EMF meter, together with a dowser. After our electrical mishaps of the previous day, we wanted to find out whether there were, indeed, any abnormal EMF fields in the area. Neither investigator found any unusual readings.
Our next task was to stage a reconstruction of Naomi’s a sighting. Again a full photographic and video record was made, and EMF readings were also taken. Again no unusual readings were made either by the EMF meter or the dowser. We then repeated the exercise with Neil and reconstruct his first sighting.
Naomi shows Richard the location of her sighting
At about half-past four, one of the members of Twilight Worlds, reported seeing something large, human shaped and amorphous in the woods directly in front of the car park.
As the dusk gathered at about 5 o’clock, Jon again heard the raucous noise of the rooks that he had reported. just before dawn. Suddenly, once again, they fell silent and one of the Twilight Worlds members shouted that she could hear something large moving around amongst the undergrowth. Jon ordered all of the car drivers present to switch on their headlights and to put them on to full beam. He did not here any noise in the undergrowth although other people present did. Eight people were watching the woods and five of them, including Jon saw an enormous man shaped object run from right to left, disappear, and then a few moments later run back again.
Two images taken seconds after the evening sighting
When the expedition returned on Monday, they conducted experiments to find out exactly how far away the creature – if it was a creature – was from the excited onlookers. Using Richard Freeman as a model, Jon made a fairly accurate estimate that the creature had been a hundred and 34 feet away from him at the time of his sighting. He also estimated or that the creature had run along a distance of between 12 and 18 feet.
About five minutes after his sighting, he wandered across the car-park to the location when Naomi had reported seeing the creature. There, he too, felt a sensation of intense fear and quickly returned to his companions.
Richard sets a sand-trap for footprints
unfortunately it was unsuccessful
After an incident like that, anything else would have been an anti-climax. However, Geoff Lincoln took the CFZ team to interview two further witnesses. The first was a young man living in the suburbs of Newcastle. Geoff and Richard visited him at his home and he told of his encounter with an enormous man shaped being next to a hollow tree in the woods, some months previously. The incident had taken place whilst he had been walking his dog. He had been so frightened by his experience that he refused to ever go near the lake again.
This witness reported his sighting near a hollow tree
John Fuller stands next to the tree stump for scale
Finally we went to another pub where we met another man called Neil. He had been with the first Neil at the time of his initial sighting. We were all impressed by his sincerity and by the way that he corroborated his friends’ testimony in what seemed to us, at least, to be a very natural and uncontrived manner.
After a day off we returned to the lake on Monday morning. We carried out if so photographic survey of the final two sighting locations. We also carried out the aforementioned experiments to ascertain – as far as is possible – the size of the thing that had been seen on Saturday night, and also its distance from the eyewitnesses. As in both the dowsing and EMF scans had been remarkably unsuccessful, Mike Hallowell from Twilight Worlds, together with Graham Inglis and Richard Freeman tried to scan the era for magnetic anomalies using a pocket compass. Mike registered a strange magnetic anomaly at the location of the fisherman’s first sighting. However, it must be reported, that when the team tried to replicate this later in the day, they were unsuccessful.
The location of the fishermen’s second encounter
That evening, together with Gail and Geoff, we interviewed a final witness. A woman and her late Fifties, who had been visiting the lake about five years before with her son who was then 11 years old. Like Naomi, and Jon, she reported intense feelings of – not exactly hostility, but what she interpreted as a message not to investigate a peculiar tree formation any further. She discussed these tree formations at some length. Like Geoff, she had been surprised to find them at several locations throughout the woodlands.
Our work finished, after a further days R&R in Newcastle and at the, Dawdon Miner’s Welfare Club, we returned home. We would like to thank the management, the staff and the members of the club from the bottom of our hearts. Not only had they made us welcome, and been friendly and kind, but they even gave us gifts of food and allowed us on nearly every evening to make use of their telephone for the purposes of carrying out radio interviews. There is a little bit of the corner of the collective heart of the CFZ, which will for ever be Dawdon.
Over the next few days we will be transcribing, the interviews, and posting relevant excerpts on this website. This is only the first investigation in what is planned to be a year-long foray around BHM hot spots in the UK. We hope that we shall be publishing a definitive account of our adventures together with an attempt at analysis before the end of the year.