The Many Mysteries of Cannock Chase
Updated: Oct 2, 2021
Cannock Chase is a large area of forest and heathland that sprawls around the edge of the city of Stafford. I can barely do justice to the huge amounts of history, folklore and the paranormal that saturate this place in one post but I'm going to outline some of it here and return to specific places and events in later posts.
Castle Ring is what remains of a large Iron Age fort and for a lot of visitors is their starting point for a walk. Members of the Celtic (or Brythonic) tribe known as the Cornovii are thought to have built and lived in it and the earthworks are still impressive today. Strange lights have been seen hovering over the marshy interior and it was also the location of an alleged encounter with the infamous Pig Man – more of him later!
The Chase was used as a training ground for the British army during both world wars, with barracks being built and mock trenches dug out. Several war memorials and two cemeteries stand today, including one for the Katyn Massacre of Polish prisoners which contains soil from the forest in question encased within. The extent of the old barracks building was recently revealed by aerial photography and Lidar, along with the rediscovery of a scaled down model trench network constructed by German POWs who were held on the Chase.
Dick Slee was an old man who lived as a hermit in total solitude near the mansion of Shugborough Hall. He was a former labourer for the Marquis and was allowed to retire quietly and build himself a turf covered cave with only an adopted pet hare for company. As you'd imagine, tales will be told about a solitary hare owning old man living in a hovel and tending a herb garden, so more of old Dick in a later post. Suffice to say, when the old man passed away his hermitage became a magnet for relic hunters, reducing it to barely a depression in the ground today.
Now to more eerie aspects of Cannock Chase – and there are plenty! The Pig Man is said to be an unholy union of man and swine, wearing some semblance of human clothes, that follows walkers as they return to their cars along the wooded tracks. First reported in the Fortean Times some years ago he has made sporadic appearances since then, often letting out a blood curdling squeal. There are several theories as to his origins, including links to the aforementioned military buildings, even a wild story that he was the result of experiments involving human/pig hybrids!
The most visible landmark on Cannock Chase has to be Pye Green Tower, a huge concrete radio station built as part of Britain's cold war communications backbone. Conspiracy theories and rumours abound, including claims that the tower is one of the infamous “numbers stations” still transmitting strange coded messages in a child's voice today, as well as reports of “black helicopters” buzzing the area. An iconic building, visible from Birmingham right across to the Peak District.
The Black Eyed Children are another Cannock Chase phenomena, walkers have reported approaching a lone little girl to ask if she was alright, only for her to turn around, speak to them in a frightening distorted voice and stare with completely black eyes. Both girls and boys have been reported – who or what are these things, assuming they even exist at all?
The “Dogman” is fast becoming a part of the canon of paranormal culture and cryptozoology of the Uk in general. Cannock Chase was ahead of the game here, with actual credible accounts being recorded as far back as the 1970s. In 2007 a scoutmaster saw a large wolf like beast lurking around the German war cemetery – frightening enough – but it then reared up on it's hind legs and loped off. That same year a postman claimed to have seen a similar creature, again walking on hind legs, and up to seven feet tall. A possible connection with these sightings occurred in 2006 when dozens of motorists reported witnessing a very large wolf running across the M6 motorway near Cannock!
UFOs have been reported for decades over the Chase, from simple balls of light to huge cigar shapes, prompting the MOD to launch an investigation in conjunction with Staffordshire Police, according to declassified documents. They have been seen all over the Chase area, not just near Pye Green Tower, and I guess the large expense of open land with no light pollution or drones does lend itself as a good place to look out for such things.
A walk on any part of Cannock Chase is as good a day out as you'll find, regardless of any paranormal goings-on, but do take care if you're out there!
If you like these posts you'll like my new book The Mystery Of Mercia, with a chapter dedicated to an investigation of Cannock Chase. To order visit our shop.
Pye Green Tower
The Forests of Cannock Chase
Pye Green Tower up close and personal
The German War Cemetery, site of the most Dogman appearances
Castle Ring from above - photo not mine