We’re getting close to All Hallows Eve, the time of year when the veil is said to be thinnest between the spirit world and our own. A time when there might be more bumps in the night and more beings about ready to bother us.
One person who knows more than many about strange phenomena is Deborah Hatswell. After an incident in her teens where she encountered a huge hairy creature in some bushes, she’s dedicated her life to investigating incidents involving Cryptid creatures, from UK Bigfoots to dog headed men, getting thousands of testimonies from witnesses on their first hand experiences with strange phenomena.
We took the opportunity to sit down with Deborah to talk to her about that terrifying first encounter from her youth, the evidence she’s found on her journey and the details of some of the strangest accounts she’s come across.
The MALESTROM: Tell us about the incident in the early 80s that first piqued your interest in the paranormal?
Deborah Hatswell: A lot of people ask me if I was interested in the subject, but as I kid I didn’t pay much attention to the paranormal. I was quite a studious girl, but also rebellious, If I didn’t want to go into school I didn’t go in. On this occasion it was mock exam time in May or June, but I’d done mine the year before, so me and my friend didn’t go in that afternoon.
We’d gone into the country park that faced our school. It’s an old manor house that had been left to rack and ruin, all of the gardens were really overgrown. There was this little place where we used to duck in called the ivy den, you could see out if any teachers were coming, but you couldn’t see into it.
We were in there giggling, having a laugh and I noticed something moving out of the corner of my eye. As I caught this movement I made eye contact with something and that something lent out of the bush at me. We both saw him and in a slit second I pushed my friend to the floor and I was up and running. I thought it was going to reach out and grab me and pull me in.
TM: Did you get an estimate of the scale of this thing?
DH: His face is burnt into my mind. I’ll never not be able to see that face again. I didn’t see his full body, so I can’t comment on that, I saw him from mid chest upwards. He was neanderthal looking, ape like, very broad shoulders, thick muscle. His jaw muscles stood out to me more than anything, again very thick and muscular. It had human looking teeth, no canines. Similar to a human but on a much bigger scale.
Back then there was no internet or anyone I could ask if they’ve seen anything like that. Now all these years on I did find other people in my town that had seen it. Someone contacted an American chap in 2012 explaining an experience she’d had in Lancashire in 1984 when in her 30s. As chance would have it I’d worked with this man and he messaged me to say I needed to see this.
She was walking her dog in January and this thing stepped out from where I’d seen him. She saw all of him. She said he was covered in hair, naked with male genitalia. A bit of a pot belly and a hunched back and she described his face in a very similar way to what I saw.
TM: Was the face hairy?
DH: No, his face wasn’t. He had leathery skin as if he’d lived outside his entire life. I wouldn’t say he was old, I know that might sound silly, but he wasn’t ancient. The only hair he had on his face was similar to a 15-year-old boy who has a bit of hair on their chin. It wasn’t thick. But the face was a hominid type of look. For a long time I was looking for people who’d seen cavemen, cause I couldn’t think what he might have been.
It was years later when I heard about Bigfoot in passing that I thought it rang a few bells. I started looking into that and came across a case called the Sykesville Monster. It was in America, a number of witnesses had done a police photo fit of the creature they’d seen. I was at home with my husband around 2013, this face popped up on my laptop and I was transported right back there. I was crying my eyes out. My parents and daughters knew, but I’d never opened up much about it to him. I was a wreck.
At that time I wouldn’t even go camping or to the park, so my husband said you either have to put it away forever and we never speak about it again or do what you always do and run at it and find out as much information as you can get. I had actually been doing that on the side for a number of years, mainly looking for someone that had seen him in that park. But what I found was other witnesses in the UK in other areas.
One was Charmaine Fraser, an academic who lives in Scotland. Aged 8 she was at her grandparent’s farm. She was coming down their long drive with the family dog to get a newspaper. All of a sudden the dog starts to react really badly and she looks and sees this 8-foot-tall figure with its back to her, completely hair covered and looking like he was examining the leaves on a tree. She started screaming and ran home.
She had another experience there when her family were picking raspberries. They heard this really strange howling call as she described it. The grandparents gathered them up and took her home where they gave her a talk about the ginger rah that the grandma had seen and she was told to stay out of the woods at night. As you can imagine with her academic mind she’s searching anything she can find to try and find others who’d experienced similar things.
TM: In a way you’ve tried to move forward past the trauma of that event through research and arming yourself with all the knowledge out there.
DH: I didn’t even go back to that park till I was in my thirties. I went back with my husband and put him where the thing was. I could measure that he was at least seven-foot-tall in height.
And speaking to other people helped. You realise you’re actually a bit stronger than them, because you’ve been through that stage. So you can give them a bit of validation and hopefully some answers. Don’t get me wrong it doesn’t bother some, they see it as a one off event. But it’s life changing for many.
TM: You’ve found that Bigfoot and similar creatures are encountered worldwide?
DH: I don’t think there’s a country in the world where I haven’t spoken to a witness about a bipedal creature. A Bigfoot, a Dogman a werewolf or something along those lines. And they are very normal everyday individuals, police officers, grandmothers, people that you’d believe in court on a witness stand, but you may not believe in real life as the experiences they’ve had are so indescribable it’s hard to get your head around it. But what happened to me was so impossible, I can’t judge anyone else.
TM: What evidence have you found particularly compelling? Maybe photos or footprints that have been found.
DH: There are a number of private investigators that are not overly keen on sharing. I understand that in the UK, but it’s come to the time where we need to be sharing. We need to be taken seriously. There are a number of footprints. They’re different to the American Bigfoot ones, a big squared off ‘Patty’ print that can look like it’s been stamped in from above.
You have to understand the foot and how it works. We go heel to toe as a human being, So, we should be seeing movement within a print. The ones from the UK tend to be much more human like but much larger. One was 16 inches in length. Which is large, but not out of proportion for something that might be seven-foot-tall.
There was one video on YouTube taken by a wildlife photographer in Wales filming a tree branch that had been tied into a knot. He put it on his channel and someone messaged him saying what’s that gorilla at the bottom of the tree? And when you followed the tree down there was a dark figure at the bottom.
Evidence is out there, but it’s very difficult to get people to sit down and share it in the UK. Mainly because people get ridiculed. But I have seen a change, people are coming forward who weren’t previously.
TM: Are sightings more prevalent these days?
DH: Since the subject has become more popular we’re getting reports of sightings and things that happened to people from the 70s, 80s and 90s. They’ve come across something and thought that’s similar to what happened to them. Also ease of report these days has changed things.
When my incident happened in the 80s there was nowhere I could report it to. There was only the Fortean Society and they just laughed in my face and slammed the door. I knew then that I had to save these reports as otherwise they’d fade into obscurity.
TM: Do you make a distinction between the so called Dogmen and UK Bigfoot? Or are they all filed under Cryptids?
DH: What I do, when a witness comes to me, if they’ve seen exactly what I’ve seen and they call it a ghost, that’s how I put the report out there. That’s their experience. Back in the day I’d only take descriptions of ape-like creatures. I’d come across the odd report that you might describe as a Hammer House of Horror werewolf and I poo-poohed them the same as everyone else did.
But one day I spoke to a very erudite witness who told me straight up, Deborah if you saw what you saw you’ve no right saying that I didn’t see what I saw. She was absolutely right.
So, I started taking them seriously and I’m glad that I did, because the descriptions are very different. To break it down with Bigfoot you get your typical American sasquatch, 9-foot-tall, no neck, the one we all know. Also in the UK you get your caveman type, that’s the same across the world. Much shorter, more human looking, very neanderthal.
With the Dogmen you get the horror style ears on top of their head, snouted nose, canine teeth, upright on two legs or down on all fours, paws and a tail. So, definitely canine. Then we have what I’d call a wolf-headed man. Same again that’s ears on top of head, snouted, canines, everything you’d say about a wolf, but with a human body. Hands and feet, no tail, very muscular and hair covered.
Then we have the ones people describe as a hybrid or super-sized Dogman. Much bigger, ten-feet-tall, thick more like a minotaur. Someone described one to me as having nostrils flaring. These are often sighted on military defence land.
One guy called it the Beast of Stone. He described a creature of 8-feet-tall that just walked out into the middle of the road, stood there and watched the car. He said it had a kind of arrogance to it like he was in the wrong place, like he was annoying this creature.
What’s really freaky is eighteen years later when he meets his wife, they’re courting and have a chat about if they’ve ever seen anything weird. She says, you won’t believe me, but when I was a girl of 18, I was driving into Stone and this thing stepped out of the bushes and stood in front of the car. She said he went white. Then he became annoyed, he thought she was taking the mick and she’d heard him say it. But she assured him she could take him to the exact place she saw the beast. They’d both seen the same creature. Him when he was 8, her when she was 18 and they ended up married!
Another recent sighting I got in was from a civil servant in Wales during lockdown. When he was a kid there was a certain place in the woods where the kids would play on this farm. He had a serious accident during lockdown which stopped him from working and he’d been stuck in his house at that point for 14 months.
He’d got to the point where he was cracking up and his friend suggested a drive to the woods, take a flask and some butties and he’d pick him up in an hour or two. So, that’s what happened and he was sat on a log on a really nice day and was remembering things he’d forgotten. By the way he has no interest in the paranormal or UFO’s, he’s a very analytical man.
Anyway, he notices a movement to his right hand side and looks over. His exact words to me were, “Debbie this is f**king impossible. You’re going to think i’m an idiot. But it was a wolf and it stood up on two legs”. I asked for a description and he said it wasn’t frightening in terms of snarling and looking angry, but the sheer presence of it and that it’s something that’s not meant to be real and couldn’t be there was deeply unsettling. He left the woods that day, walked out of his job and put his house on the market. He was too frightened to remain in that area.
TM: That’s extreme!
DH: It is extreme. I’ve worked with him over the last 12 months and we’ve managed to get him back into work and he’s now moved house. We’ve got him out on short dog walks, but haven’t yet gone back to that set of woods yet. The idea is to try and get him back to where he was. I’ve also put him in touch with other people who’ve seen similar things but are much further along on their journey. They can at least assure him that it just gets easier.
TM: You’re providing a valuable service in terms of helping people come to terms with their experience and releasing that trauma …
DH: I understand what it’s like. When I was 16 my parents moved to a beautiful house in the middle of the country, but I stayed in the town and moved into a tower block, because as far as I was concerned the thing I saw was behind every tree.
It helps to talk about these experiences. There’s a lady in the North East called Karen who’s happy to talk to anyone about her experience, because like me it terrified her.
When she was six she was playing out with a number of older girls building a swing on a tree in a country park. She looked up the tree and saw what she described as a wildman rather than a Bigfoot. He was more like a caveman sitting up in the tree holding something like a bone or a tool of some kind. What terrified her most of all was that the older girls couldn’t see him. That’s what frightened her most. A bit like me she doesn’t remember running home, I think that’s the trauma.
TM: Do you think some can see things that others can’t. Almost like their able to tune into different frequencies?
DH: Some people yes. When interviewing witnesses a number of years ago I used to let them get to the end of their tale and then I’d ask if anything else strange had ever happened in their lives. Some have a life long series of events from being a very small child in the bedroom right the way through to adulthood. Maybe they’re using a peripheral part of their brain that can pick up on something in an area.
Looking at psychic ability as a natural sense, back in the day that sense would have kept you alive. I think we all have it to a degree, but some have it more. The more you accept it the more phenomena seems to come to you. I’ve never seen a UFO, i’ve never even necessarily seen a ghost. It’s always been Cryptids for me.
There’s a lady in Dartmoor and she’s been hunting The Beast of Bodmin Moor her whole life. She’s in her 50s. She lived at the time in Woody Bay and when you look on the map it’s right on the cliff coast and surrounded by forest, there’s nothing else out there. She was living in an abandoned hotel. She told me she’d walked this land her entire life, camped on Dartmoor, she wasn’t scared of anything.
Her husband wasn’t well and he’d been told to stop smoking and she kept catching him having a cigarette. One night she came downstairs about 10:30 and saw her husband was smoking. She was so annoyed she stormed out of the house and shouted to the dog to come with her. The dog balked at the door and wouldn’t go with her, which made her even more annoyed.
She stormed down the lane walking in temper and suddenly realised that there was something up on the embankment at the side forcing the sheep down the slope and there was a very strange clicking noise going on. Whatever it was there were other similar creatures down on the other embankment. They were driving the sheep down there.
She got an overwhelming feeling that she’d walked into a really dangerous situation. I found other accounts online from exactly the same place and whatever was happening was always in January and February. So, if we’re looking at a flesh and blood creature, is it moving through that area at that time of year and looking to hunt? All of the reports are canine. If it’s spiritual or interdimensional, is there something about that area that enables them to come in? My skillset is about trying to work that out.
TM: Lots of Cryptid reports suggest they may be interdimensional entities and there are often UFO sightings registered in the same areas. What’s your best guess as to what these things are?
DH: For a very long time I was chasing an ape. Something that we had in the UK, but just didn’t know. I won’t say in a concrete way what they are as I don’t know. What I saw looked flesh and blood, but I know from all the reports over the years many seem more paranormal, whether vanishing or appearing in front of people.
We accept the theory they could be flesh and blood or interdimensional and then we look at every single theory on the spectrum and offer that to the witness and they will make up their mind as to what works for them. For me I think Bigfoot is a neanderthal or a cousin of humans.
The Dogman creatures I believe are interdimensional. There’s a theory out there that they are EME’s. Electronic Magnetic Entity, which is the belief that there are beings coming to our world that use the Earth’s magnetic grid to appear in any form they desire. So, this is the Quantum World, where and being you see, ghosts, Bigfoot any entity is being used for or against you. Say it fed on fear, it would appear to you as the most frightening thing you could imagine.
I think some witnesses are experiencing this, it’s being shown in a way they can say this is 100% a Bigfoot. I’ve spoken to some witnesses who said their being first looked like an alien grey, then it changed it’s appearance. Or it changed from looking like a man to a Dogman. That’s obviously what a flesh and blood creature can’t do. There’s thousands of cases of this.
Other cases include Dogmen like creatures that change into anamorphous black shadow, which is terrifying. Then there’s the people in woodland that hear themselves being followed, footsteps, branches breaking, but when they look round nothing is there.
One man described several invisible monkeys scurrying up a tree, almost like the film Predator. An invisible life form that you can sense but not see. Those things are far more scary to me.
TM: I just wanted to go back to when you mentioned Earth’s magnetic grid, or the Earth energy. Lots of reports seem to centre around Ley Lines and Stone circles. Have you seen this correlation?
DH: I have. When a report comes in I put it on a map. That enables me to look and see exactly what’s happened in that area. There are certain areas in the UK, like Stonehenge, where these reports were being made. As an experiment I picked 20 locations off the map at random and looked at whether they were near standing stones or burial mounds and I found something in all of them.
Even if they were just flesh and blood creatures, could they use them as land markings or migratory route? These places also had a high yield of UFO sightings and multiple reports of missing people, what I would call areas of high strangeness. Take Cannock Chase, where you have over 23 early sites. No one knows who built the Castle Ring. The first report of a Dogman creature there was in the 1800s.
Doing the research also led me to find that all these sites have military defence land next to them. At Cannock Chase you have the Pye Green telecommunication tower and the German war cemetery. Look at Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire. Reports have been coming in since the 60s of this creature who can cloak its shape, can be up on two feet or down on all fours. One man saw it climbing up the cliffs. There’s an old RAF base there.
I thought can I find another report closer to the next RAF base which was Saltfleet Marsh. We had a report there in 2000 of a couple walking their dog who see a creature coming running at them. Are these creatures being made on military sites? It’s just another pattern that crops up, ancient sites, military defence land and for some ridiculous reason golf courses.
TM: I wanted to ask you about one specific case, The Beast of Winter Hill. The reports on that are fascinating …
DH: I first started looking into that when a case turned up in the 90s. There wasn’t a whole lot of nightclubs around the area back then. If you left a club about one in the morning and still wanted party you might go up to Winter Hill. That’s what the witness did that night.
She was up there with around 6-8 of her mates by the Chinese Gardens there. They’d all parked their cars in a circle and had music blaring. She decided to go for a wee. She walked off to a decent spot away from everyone, then noticed around 20-30 yards away something looking at her from some bushes, it took her a few moments for her eyes to adjust but from what she told me she said what she saw was huge, she said the head was big, but the body on the ‘thing’ was huge.
I asked her what ‘it’ looked like, she said she saw it for around 10-15 seconds in all and from what she could make out ‘it’ looked like a cross between a man and a bear, she described it has having the sort of body a huge hairy man would have but the head was that of a bear and it had a snout, the head was covered in hair.
At this point once she’d gained her senses and tidied up her clothing she turned to run, as she turned she snapped her ankle and let out a scream of pain and fell to the floor. One of her friends heard her and ran over and picked her up, she was crying and in lots of pain so they carried her back down and took her to the hospital.
After hearing her story I started asking local farmers if they’d ever seen anything on the land. I soon found a number of reports that fitted with what she’d described. And it’s not just Winter Hill, that area is teeming with reports. Maybe it has an unusual energy.
In 2012 there was a lighting of the beacons for the Queen’s Jubilee. Everyone was going up there. One woman walked up there with some friends and her dog. Nothing happened while up there, but when walking down hill the god started to growl at something they couldn’t see. They saw a thing jump over a wall. It jumped like a cat, but it wasn’t a cat, it was black, very thick set and without a tail. It frightened them, but they got down the hill and didn’t think much more of it.
She was in work on the Monday and another girl in their party had been up with them on the hill that night. She asked her out of curiosity if she’s seen anything strange that night. The other woman thought she’d heard her talking about what she saw.
When her friend was walking down from the hill that night with friends something followed them down. They were shadowed all the way down off the hill. So two different sets of friends who hadn’t spoken to each other both experiencing the same thing at the same time. So, that can’t be one creature. They both went down different ways. It was a full moon that night
Fifteen sheep were found last year, not with a cat or domestic dog bite, but something else. Two men were up there rabbiting and they stepped on a sheep carcass. He said it was still steaming and had been pulled apart and the ribcage snapped. They shined their torches into the darkness. They caught eye shine out there at about 7-feet-tall and at that point they started being growled at. They were growled at all the way back to their car. They wouldn’t go back up there for a long time and one of the guys is ex-army.
There’s a place nearby called Pickering’s Farm, that actually has a pub on the lane nearby called The Black Dog as there’s been so many sightings. A couple were driving a car and something ran out at the side of the farm. It was a big thick black muscular looking dog. They hit it with their car and there was no noise. They jumped out and there was nothing anywhere, not a mark on the car and the dog had vanished.
We looked at other reports on that road. A number of gentlemen are wild camping and see strange lights in the trees, almost UFO like. A couple driving a car, see what they believe is a rave, with lights in the trees. They get out of the car to take a look and these lights keep moving further and further away. It seems the area around Rivington Pike has a lot of paranormal activity going on.
TM: Is there a state of mind that maybe helps people to see this phenomena?
DH: I think a lot of people see these creatures when they’re at their most relaxed. They might be walking a dog, out on their bike, hiking. Are we able to easier see things when we’re in a self hypnotic state? When we’re more opened up to things.
TM: Is that the same with ghost sightings or just Cryptids?
DH: Yes. Ten people could go into some woods and nothing. Then the eleventh person goes in and they get this activity. Is it the time of year? Is it the person’s own energy? I wouldn’t class myself as a medium, but I do pick up strange energy. The more you use your senses the more heightened they get.
I’ve been on investigations and got nothing, then someone else has gone in and they’ve got everything I wanted. So maybe that particular person has effected the energy in some way? Maybe someone with abilities acts as a beacon to draw phenomenon to them?
One of the things I try and tell people now with experiences they have with say a ghost is to stand their ground. If you don’t run what happens? If something happens to me I try and keep my feet to the floor in the hope I can see the phenomena through.
TM: Do you get scared on your investigations?
DH: I try and stay as grounded as I can because I don’t know anyone in the UK that has ever been attacked. But not even on investigations, if I book a camping holiday with my husband, I know what area has what creature in at what time. We went to Wales in May, I thinking on the drive down about a Dogman report nearby where we were going.
I have to push it to the back of my mind. It doesn’t frighten me, but I’m not silly either, if I walk into a situation where I felt unwelcome I’ll leave.
Certain places have bad energy, Bempton Cliffs was one of them. I stayed back in the carpark for that investigation. Something there made me feel like chucking myself off the cliff. It worried me how many people had felt that horrible feeling there.
TM: What have you learned from your years of research? What are the biggest takeaways?
DH: The thing I’ve learned most is not to question. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m on a paranormal investigation and I hear a knock or a voice I will try and totally debunk it or be left with an anomaly. But if I’m sat there and something happens, like I hear a knock on the wall, I don’t question it away anymore. I accept it.
The other thing is, I didn’t realise how many ‘ordinary’ people have had experiences. I used to think it was this minority of people that had these events, but it isn’t. It’s across the board, there’s no typical type of witness from the most closed minded to the most accepting.
Another question that rarely gets asked is why did that creature show itself? Why did it not just stay hidden? The guy I mentioned earlier sat on a log in Wales, if that creature had stayed hidden for two more minutes, he’d have walked out of there and he would never have seen it. His life wouldn’t have been effected.
If the thing I saw didn’t show itself, my life would have been completely different. Why are they showing themselves? And why more? UFO reports are on the increase. Paranormal reports are on the increase. Everything is on the increase. We can put it down to ease of sighting, but I feel that there’s a big change coming about in humanity. We’re at a tipping point.
So, don’t be close minded about these things. Everyone has a story to tell about a strange experience, I’ve not met a person yet that hasn’t. There’s millions of untold stories still out there.
Find out more about Deborah’s investigations from her Website, Podcast, YouTube & Facebook and you can support her work & get exclusive content by visiting her Patreon.
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