The UK boasts many weird and wonderful supernatural stories. Many of them focus on bizarre things that aren’t human; be it cryptozoological creatures or folkloric figures. As you might imagine, for writers, it’s a veritable treasure-trove of inspiration; hence several have featured in my books!
The Eerie Beings of the South-West
I don’t know if it’s something to do with the remoteness of the Southwest, or its unusual landscape (think craggy, windswept moors, stretches of deserted beach, ancient woodlands, and remote villages that time forgot). Whatever it is, the area seems to have more than its fair share of curious, creepy creatures… and here are a few of the best ones.
- The Knockers. Even the name is a bit unsettling, isn’t it? Go back to the 15th-19th century, and the Southwest had one major industry – tin-mining. Thousands of men, women and kids in Cornwall and Devon worked down these mines, and were frequently disturbed by strange knocking noises deep within the rocks.
The miners believed these were tiny sprites, who would either lead them to discover a plentiful seam of ore, or lure them to their deaths. As such, they were enormously respectful of the creatures. Nowadays, scientists believe the knocking sounds were caused by pockets of air within the stone – but personally, I think the old story is much more fun.
- Fairies. Cornwall has the honour of having had the most fairy sightings over the years; with some accounts dating back centuries. What’s particularly interesting is that they differ considerably; with some reporting encounters with tiny, leaf-sized entities, and others coming face to face with 15 ft giant fairies. I know which one I’d prefer!
- Piskies. You really can’t beat the name ‘piskie’, can you? Tee hee! These little chaps all wore red caps, sported generous beards, and were notoriously mischievous. However, despite being rather naughty, they also did numerous kind deeds for the people that lived close to them, such as looking after crops and helping out those who were ill. It’s hardly surprising that they were much loved by the people of the Southwest, who occasionally left gifts out for them.
- Spriggans. If only one could say the same of a spriggan. These hideous creatures had withered little bodies, with huge, bulbous heads on top. Worse still, they liked to plague neighbouring humans with ill fortune; killing their crops, raising storms, and even kidnapping babies. Eek.
- The Black Shuck. The Black Shuck is one of my personal favourites – if for no other reason than it inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write Hound of the Baskervilles. According to legend, this enormous dog roams Dartmoor, complete with vast black body and frightening red eyes. Some locals believe that he’s a portent of death, and a bad omen for anyone who looks upon him.
- The Owlman. In the 1970s, some poor girls were out camping in Cornwall, and happened to spot a rather terrifying creature by a local church; which looked like a cross between an owl and a man. Later, it also rocked up outside their tent, which must have been unpleasant, late at night.
Have you got a favourite mythological creature? If so, do let me know! I love any sort of supernatural stories and am always on the lookout for fresh inspiration...
Dr Ribero’s Agency of the Supernatural – The Case of the Green-Dressed Ghost, is available to buy – you can do so here (US) or here (UK). Also, The Case of the Deadly Doppelganger is now out, and can also be bought on Amazon, and other bookshops in the US.