The following winged wonder only became known to me in mid-October 2007, when Jan Patience, acting editor of the now-defunct British monthly magazine Beyond for which I contributed a major cryptozoology article each issue, brought to my attention a truly extraordinary email that she had just received from a reader. At that time, I was preparing a lead article on lesser-known British mystery beasts for the next issue of the magazine, so the email reached me in time for me to investigate it further and include a full account of the case in my article (Beyond, January 2008), and it is this account of mine that I shall now quote from here.
Acherontia atropos, is nothing if not distinctive in appearance. A rare migrant to the UK, with a wingspan that can exceed 5.5 in and a weight that can fall little short of 0.1 oz, it is incontestably Britain's largest species of moth. Its plum-coloured, wavy-lined forewings and rich golden-yellow hindwings, not to mention its bulky body striped boldly underneath in dark brown and primrose bands, also render it one of this country's most attractive moths. Nevertheless, all of these features are eclipsed by a single, but very singular, additional characteristic - one which instantly identities this species and distinguishes it from all others in Britain, which has woven around it a near-indestructible web of folklore and fear, and which has earned it its extremely sinister-sounding English name.