Cryptid Profile: The Owlman (AKA: The Cornish Owlman or The Owlman of Mawnan)
In April 1976, Don Melling and his family were out on holiday from Lancaster, England. Their chosen destination for the Easter weekend was the somewhat small village of Mawnan, a civil parish in south Cornwall, England. The village was the perfect choice for a quiet holiday as it was home to just over 1,300 residents (at the time), showcases famous Victorian gardens, and allows tours of its notable historical churches. This quiet Easter getaway of ‘76 would go down in history as one of the Melling’s most memorable trips, but not because of the local flowers and architecture, no. This trip would be remembered because of a frightening monster known as The Owlman.
On April 17th, while spending the day at their holiday cottage, Don Milling’s two young daughters, June (12) and Vicky (9), asked to go exploring in the woods. Not concerned with any dangers the area might possess, Don allowed his two children to go off alone. While out on their walk, the two girls came upon Mawnan Church, an old stone church with a cemetery on its grounds and a high tower at its end. Feeling the need to play, the girls made their way to the church. But as they ventured closer, they caught sight of something unnatural flying in the air above the tower. Frightened beyond belief at what they were seeing, the girls turned around and ran as fast as they could back to their parents. When they arrived back within the safety of their fathers arms, they explained to him what they saw.
The large creature flying above the church tower was described as looking like a large man, covered in feathers, and in possession of two large wings. The feathers were dark gray in color and appeared to also be black in some areas. The huge monster lacked noticeable facial features and hands, but possessed long feet with large talon like claws.
After hearing the description of what his daughters had witnessed, Don Melling took his children to the police station to report their sighting. After they were done, he promptly had his family pack up all their belongings and they soon left Mawnan. So unnerved by this experience the family was that they cancelled their holiday three days early. The Owlman incident would be investigated by the local police, but the investigation would turn up nothing.
Three months later on July 3rd, two 14yr old girls by the names of Sally Chapman and Barbara Perry asked Barbara’s parents (as Sally was staying with them) if they could go camping in the woods near Mawnan Church. Again, not fearing any danger in the area, the parents allowed their children to go off alone. That night, as the girls were preparing to turn in, Sally Chapman stood outside the tent alone.
With her back turned towards the woods, Sally began to hear an odd hissing sound. Curious as to what it was, she turned around and made eye contact with a large figure with red eyes. Sally froze in terror and watched as a large, man-like bird that resembled an owl stretched out its wings and hissed at her. Barbra, who was still inside the tent and growing more curious as to what was making that sound, stuck her head outside and also saw the large beast. With two sets of eyes now upon it, the Owlman flapped its wings, let out a hiss, and took off into the sky.
The creatures long taloned feet snapped as it flew higher into the dark sky and eventually out of view. Terrified, the girls remained in their tent until first light. The next day, the creature would be sighted by multiple people around the woods near Mawnan Church. But just as fast as it arrived, it would once again go quiet, not being seen for another two years.
In June of 1978, a woman referred to as Miss Opie claimed to have seen “a devil” fly up within the trees surrounding the Mawnan Church. It was described exactly the same way as the previous sightings, a large man-like owl with red eyes, dark feathers, and large feet with sharp talons. Later on in August, three young french college girls staying at a boarding house in Mawnan would have an encounter with “a very big furry bird, with a gaping mouth and red round eyes”. Sightings such as this would continue on for years to come. All describing the same creature and all placing it within the same general location.
With quick sightings of the creature happening quite frequently and becoming so common, the legend of the Owlman was starting to lose credibility. Many thought these sightings were just extreme cases of misidentification on the part of the witnesses, but all that would change in 1989 when a young couple would have an encounter with a creature that was not so easily explained by simple misidentification.
While out exploring the Mawnan woods in hopes of actually finding the Owlman, a couple who have been referred to as Gavin and Sally, actually found it. The young man stated that as they were walking with only a flashlight, they came upon a large tree with a dark colored object sitting within the branches. Curious as to what it was, they approached the relatively low branch and shined the flashlights beam upon the object. As soon as the light came in contact with the unknown thing in front of them, it began to move. The creature stretched out its human shaped body and appeared to be nearly five feet in length, it unfolded its large brown and gray colored wings which possessed no hands, it wrapped its black taloned two-towed feet (which were attached to unnaturally long ankles) around the thick tree limb, and jerked its head downwards and towards the terrified young couple.
The light of the beam illuminated the red within the creatures eyes and showed its large gaping mouth. In a matter of seconds, the Owlman jumped up off the branch, folded its legs up towards its body, and took off into the night sky. Terrified at what they had just witnessed, Gavin and Sally fled the woods.
Sightings would continue on into the 1990′s with one such notable one coming from a female tourist from Chicago. The young anonymous witness (who happened to be a student working at the Chicago Field Museum) claimed to see a large”bird man” with a white face, wide mouth, glowing eyes, and clawed wings in 1995. She described it as nothing less than a “vision from hell”. More sightings would take place in the 2000′s but they would become few and far between, only one every few months and eventually just one a year, if that. Because of this, some say the Owlman is finally gone from Mawnan, but others think it is just waiting, biding its time until the moment is right to make itself known again.
So what could the Owlman be? Some researchers feel that the Owlman is in the same family as the Mothman of North America. Both creatures are described almost identically as they are large man-like winged creatures that posses glowing red eyes and are dark in color. Believers in this theory of winged humanoids also feel that the natural environment changes whenever these creatures are near. Local animals begin to act weird, bad luck takes over nearby towns, and the weather starts to grow colder much sooner than normal.
Other researchers feel the Owlman might actually be nothing more than a real owl. Cryptozoologist Karl Shuker theorizes that what witnesses could have actually been seeing was just an oversized Eagle Owl. The common members of this species are native to England, grow upwards of 3ft tall and possess a 6ft wingspan. Others have been recorded as having wingspans totaling nearly 7ft, so it would not be that unbelievable to think that a single bird within the area could have possibly grown to never before seen lengths upwards of 6ft or more and been in possession of wings nearing 9ft or larger. These “freaks of nature” are quite common in the animal kingdom and overly large animals are encountered quite frequently by scientists and the general population.
Then there are the researchers who feel that the Owlman is nothing but a well played hoax that got way out of hand and spread like wildfire. Once the story started making its way through the village of Mawnan, others wanted to get in on the joke and started reporting false sightings and encounters. Eventually the stories became so prevalent that the Owlman took on legend status and the creature become real to all those within the area.
-The Pine Barrens Institute
*Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_of_Tears