Bernard Sell, our man in London and my co-author of Monsters! (Plug! Plug! Plug! Buy it, already!), sends us this post on The Beast of Bodmin Moor. What follows is a tale of crytpids, Alistair Crowley, and urinary urgency. If we here at Strange Horizons can offer you any advice at all, it is this droplet of Holmesian wisdom: do not go out on the moors at night...or in the afternoon in a Hyundai.
All through Cornwall, the great phantom cat, known as the Beast of Bodmin preys on local cattle and local locals. I arrived at around 1 p.m., so I did not expect to see it.
First of all, it’s remote. To get there, you have to drive, and driving in Cornwall is more than just adjusting to driving on the left side of the road or navigating roundabouts. No, no. Oftentimes, one of the big hazards in Cornwall is driving down narrow roads, and by narrow, I’m talking about roads barely wide enough for one vehicle, let alone two. You learn to memorize where the pull-offs are when you see them, in case there’s a car bounding toward you beyond the next hill.
Proud of myself for getting from Bodmin to Port Isaac to Camelford without killing anyone or nicking any parked vehicles or pedestrians, I drove down what seemed to be the world’s longest private alley, unable to see the sun for long stretches due to the overgrowth above my head.
Leaving my hired car, I reached Bodmin Moor. I have never seen a moor in person. They are reputed to be windswept. They are not incorrect. The view opened out on three tors, (which are something something), Showery Tor, Little Rough Tor, and Rough Tor, ‘rough’ here pronounced as ‘row.’
I have had some hiking experience, but it never ceases to amaze me how something that looks quite near is actually quite far, and something that doesn’t look that steep is going to kill your quads. Check and check. Also, news flash—I am not as fit or athletic as I was 20 years ago. Did not help.
Once I reached the iconic Showery Tow (check this), I was fit for the cardiac unit. In revenge for my misery, I decided to flout the dangers of the moors and relieve myself on it.
This may not have been the smartest idea. This was the land of the Beast, remember?
Once I did so—I kid you not—the wind off the Celtic Sea picked up, and man! it was cold. It may have been a coincidence, but it didn’t subside until I had come off the hills and crossed the heath.
The story doesn’t end here. I got into the rental Hyundai and guess what?
It wouldn’t start. It had been functioning perfectly until then.
But no big. Irritating, certainly, but a coincidence, right?
I was fortunate enough to mooch a ride into Bodmin from two elderly Samaritans, who were unable to get a signal on their mobile at Rough Tor, as it so happened. On the way, we got to talking, and asked me about what I was doing in England. Researching for supernatural comedies, I said.
The old man asked me if I knew who Alistair Crowley was.
If you know who he is, as I do, then you will understand my reaction of, “Well, of course. It all makes sense then.” If you don’t, check out some information about him here.
Alistair Crowley was known to have gone up into the Tors and performed dark rituals there. Some speculate that the Beast of Bodmin is somehow a product of these malefic rites.
Did old A.C. not appreciate where I drained my lizard? Is he the reason the winds picked up, that my car wouldn’t start, that I couldn’t get a mobile signal?
By the way, did I mention that I’ve developed a cold all of a sudden?
Actual purported photo of The Beast of Bodmin Moor.
Jon's two-cents: I have no doubt that there is a Beast of Bodmin Moor, perhaps several of them, really. They are panthers brought from elsewhere in the world. For a time in the late 19th Century, it was fashionable for the elite and wealthy of the British establishment to own pets from exotic locales. These pets, often big cats such as panthers, inevitably grew larger and became too much for both house and home. The owners then turned them loose into the moors. These big cats are adaptive and have managed to survive in small pockets.
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