I wrote a piece about Cannock Chase some time ago, skimming briefly over all the different weirdness associated with the place, and promised to focus on each aspect in more detail. So far I've only written about the lost cave of old Dick Smee so it's time to redress the balance.
Cannock Chase has gained a reputation for being the alleged home to a host of strange creatures, or cryptozoids. The ubiquitous “Alien Big Cat” has become a part of modern British folklore seemingly everywhere you go, and of course Cannock Chase has had it's fair share of sightings. In one of the most bizarre monster mashups I've ever heard of, a local man claimed to have seen a Bigfoot staring at him with glowing eyes next to Castle Ring. A paranormal investigation group didn't believe it – because they told him what he'd seen was actually an Alien Big cat perched on the branch of a tree!
The most iconic of the various cryptids claimed to be roaming the Chase has to be the Pigman, first reported in 1993 by a retired couple making their way back to their car at the Castle Ring car park. They had just made it out of the trees in time as darkness had almost completely fallen and were walking past the Ring when they both heard some odd scrambling sounds in the trees. Someone or something was following them, and they sped up a little. The man looked to his left and saw something, possibly a person, seemingly on their hands and knees. Then he saw the face and head of this person, a long conical snout and tiny bead eyes, while dressed in old “rural” clothes. They quickened their pace even more as they approached their car and the thing seemed to stop. As they jumped into their car and the lady fumbled to start the engine they both looked back along the track they just been on. There it was, standing up, around seven feet tall and with the definite head of a pig, and as the man pulled the door shut they both heard it let out a blood curdling scream as if a squeal and a roar were mixed together.
After this story was featured in local news outlets it made it into Fortean Times, where it's readers offered several explanations for the frightening apparition. Local folklore has always claimed that secret experiments were carried out at a military establishment on Cannock Chase during the Second World War, with the focus being the creation of human/animal hybrids. Pigs were apparently the choice of animal, with the easy takeup of pig parts by the human body in transplants offered as evidence. They say a local woman was spiked at a local pub and taken to the secret laboratory where she had a fertilised egg or a pig/human embryo inserted inside her. The unwitting surrogate mother delivered the experiment by ceasarian and it was raised to childhood at the base. Somehow the thing escaped and made it's home in the woods, perhaps living in some of the abandoned mines on the Chase. If this story were true then the Pigman would have been in his late 50s around the time of the Castle Ring sighting – or 180 in pig years!
I suspect the story was put out there to deter local boys from coming up to the various military areas on the Chase during the war, as it seems so far fetched yet frightening enough to scare children. But what did the couple actually see? While there's is the most well known account of a Pigman sighting on Cannock Chase, it isn't the only one. One friday evening in 2010 a young man walked into the forests of the Chase with a group of friends to camp out. They intended to drink and chill out while cooking on a big open fire. All went well until one by one the lads began to make their excuses to leave as dawn approached. Most of them claimed to have to be at work on that saturday so off they all tramped. Our witness was gutted as he had gone to great lengths to set their camp up with various tarpaulins and hours worth of work had gone into cutting up firewood. After fruitless phone calls and messages to everyone he knew, the young man accepted that nobody was interested in a second night of camping so returned alone to the woods to retrieve all his gear and see if he could hack a night there alone.
He parked at Castle Ring and headed down the path into the forest, cutting the corner off by walking through the trees until he reached the main track. He lit a cigarette to calm his nerves then carried on. As he neared the main path he thought he saw a big dog sniffing around a tree there. Thinking a ranger might have discovered his campsite he paused, crouching behind a tree. The dog was indeed huge, very pale, but with unsettlingly long hind legs. He then thought it might be a feral pig or something as this was clearly no dog. Then it stopped sniffing and was still. The lad knew then it had smelt his cigarette smoke, and it looked up at him. It rose, standing up on it's hind legs, a freakishly tall deformed human body with the definite snout of a pig. It charged at him up the slope and the young man ran for his life. Terrorstruck, he ran straight past his car and on to the nearest houses, only returning to get it some hours later. When he returned to the campsite with a large posse of friends and a couple of dogs a few days later they found the place wrecked, with gear strewn around everywhere. Most of the food was gone.
It seems such a ridiculous idea, but the Pigman stories persist. Mountain bikers have claimed to have seen bizarre pale creatures in the ferns as they rode past, and Staffordshire Police do have reports on file. I can't imagine something of that size actually living on Cannock Chase in secret, so if it does exist – perhaps it is paranormal in origin, an apparition that appears only at certain times? I have camped out wild in Cannock Chase myself and didn't experience anything, and this was disappointing as along with the Pigman the area boasts tales of Black Eyed Children, UFOs, panthers, bigfoot, ghosts, a mind control weaponised tower, werewolves and the more earthly hazard of marauding bikers carrying out bloody rituals!
Take care if you head into Cannock Chase, if you don't encounter the Pigman who knows what else might be following you...
The walk past Castle Ring
Castle Ring from the air showing the route most people were taking when they saw Pigman