Are big cats the new UFOs? Or are they the extraterrestrial pilots of the Flying Saucers, or perhaps Black Triangles? Are we being invaded by felines from Outer Space? (And wasn’t that the plot of a sixties Disney movie?).
I ask because we are in the middle (or perhaps end?) of a Big Cat flap. For many years now, long before I became ASSAP Chairman: in fact long before I had any role at all, I have posted in this group every paranormal related news story I see. A lot are pretty dismal, but as Charles Fort wrote “one measures a circle beginning anywhere” and so I am inclusive in my trawl, and try to avoid any prejudice. The good news about this approach is I get a pretty good feel for how things are, and what changes.
When I was young it was all The Beast of Bodmin: Dartmoor, Exmouth and other wild places were rumoured to have exotic big cats prowling them. Now doubtless this does actually happen from time to time; http://scotcats.online.fr/abc/realcats/index.html has a good list — but generally these cases never resolve in to actual carcasses or recaptured beasts.
When I was young the fashion for Joe Exotic style dangerous pets resulted in the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976
— and everyone said that many owners turned beasts out in to the wild and there they roamed and bred.
I am a bit cynical about this explanation: I strongly suspect if large numbers of big cats existed there lack of road sense would result in a lot of insurance claims as cars got wrote off in the same way deer and badgers often damage vehicles and kill motorists all the time. (c.400 collisions and 12 to 20 drivers or passengers killed a year in the UK by deer. I have seen estimates of up to 50,000 badgers killed by cars — and the odd wallaby.
So am I suggesting they are ghosts? No: though the Big Cat sightings share some attributes. I actually think lycanthropes more likely– I mean if were-pumas are a — oh OK, maybe not.
So are they physical beasts? I am keen for ASSAP to get out their and look. My own family had two separate big cat sightings in 80’s Suffolk, and one produced definite tracks. So spoors can be located, sightings recorded, trailers set up. If you are keen to be part of this initiative drop me a line at email@example.com
So are they real, mistaken sightings of normal cats and dogs, some weird paranormal thing manifesting as a big cat or just modern folklore? I don’t know: all of the above and recently a wave of clumsy fakes. I mean it sounds reasonable they could be real: they seem to cluster in fairly wild areas (and Milton Keynes) and lockdown has tempted a lot of rare animals out of hiding and right up to our towns. Is this why we are suddenly seeing them?
Or is it simply that bored with coronavirus and the dismal state of British politics the papers are desperate for news worth printing? How many ghost/ufo/monster stories you get in a region often depends on the local journalists and how interested the Editor is in running such: in the 18th and 18th century ghost stories were very rare in papers and often explained away. It might be that now any sighting with a photo is deemed newsworthy — and it may be some agencies pay for them and aggressively promote them. I know not.
Still back in 2010 there was a cartoon strip going around that said the camera phone had conclusively proved ghosts aliens and cryptids do not exist, because everyone now has a camera on them all the time and yet where are all the photos? Well here: hundreds of ’em.
But wait: why are they all so terrible? Out of focus, blurry etc? Partly the problem here is that most people seem incapable of getting good shots with their camera phone, and that in the excitement of the moment faced with the primal fear of being eaten, well they are even worse. Also I have a black cat the fearsome Cuddles-Caligula: photos of him often look like a black blob. So I tend to think criticism of the quality of photos is misplaced; my wildlife photography is not much better.
So what is going on? I don’t know, but we need to start by mapping the sightings and developing a research strategy. How do you think ASSAP should address the mystery big cats? All opinions welcome!