Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

PAUL SCREETON: The Gornal Monstrosity

It was a creature more evil-looking than anything the inventive brain of an autjor of horror stories could ever hope to conceive.

If Truth be stranger than Fiction then you needlook no further than the "Gornal Monstrosity" for unquestionable proof.

Just another Gornal legend, you may be tempted to scoff. Believe me it is no legend. People to whom I have spoken have seen it, handled it, and recoiled from the sheer loathsomeness of this 'Thing' which was a direct contradiction of all the laws of orderly Nature.

True, this horribly grotesque creature is no more. Who, on earth would wish to preserve such a vile specimen of flesh and blood? But we do have faded photographs to prove that this was no figment of a distraught imagination.

Let me outline the relevant facts.

Herbert Stevens was a jobbing farm labourer who hired out his skills to local farmers. Work must have been a little scarce because in the mid-1880's Herbert was working as a 'Night-sile mon' for Sedgley U.D.C.

For those who are too young to comprehend I shoud explain that a 'night-sile mon' was one one who cleaned out earth-closets in those far-off days before deep sewerag and flush lavatories. It was an unpleasant and smelly job, hence the need to do the work in the small hours of the morning.

Herbert was busily occupied with the task of employing one particular earth closet. He lowered his long-handled earth ladle into the messy, murky depths. In the dim light he thought that he saw something move. "A large rat", he told himself.

The creature was still moving around in the scoop when Herbert brought it to the surface.

Much to his astonishment he could see that it was certainly no rat. He peered closer. in many ways it resembled a new-born child. Then he began to realise that the grotesque form was something, the like of which, he had never seen before..

He cleaned the 'thing' up as best he could then hurried around to the local doctor. Doctor St. Ballenden. The monstrosity was still showing faint signs of life. Dr. Ballenden quickly sent for two specialists but despite their efforts at ressucitation, the 'thing' expired.

Herbert took it to his home in New Street, Gornal Wood. Older Gornal readers may recall the Stevens family of New Street. Mrs Stevens sold fish and chips, grey 'pays', grorn puddin' and faggotts from the spotlessbrew-'uss which was attached to their cottage.

But back to the monstrosity. In the seclusion of his home Herbert was able to examine it even more closely. He could scarcely believe the evidence which lay before him.

The creature had eight legs, four tails, three bodies, eight teeth, a miniature elephant's trunk at the back of its head, a dog's upper jaw, the lower jaw of a pig, and four ears. A pinky-silvery fur covered it's body and during it's brief life it had surveyed the world through two pairs of eyes.

That, of course, was a century ago, but for many years afterwards the monstrosity was preserved by the Stevens family.

Sixty-six years old Jack Stevens, of Ladbrook Grove, Lower Gornal, is a grand-nephew of Herbert. He confirmed that he had seen and actually handled the 'thing' many times. "It was no more than nine or ten inches long", he told me. "And however much you examined it it was difficult to believe that such a monstrosity had ever existed".

Active pensioner, Mrs. Vera Beardsmore, who lives in Plank's Lane, Wombourne is old Herbert's grand-daughter. She is a cousin of Jack Stevens, and she, too, has vivid recollections of her grand-father's loathsome keepsake.

She, too, has handled it, examined it and, as a young child, she has recoiled from the sheer horror of it's loathsomeness.

Moreover, in her well-documented family scarp-book she has preserved an actual photograph of the creature. Two photographs, in fact. They were taken by a relative and depict the front and back view of the 'Thing'. Unfortunately, the pictures are not of the quality one would like but they still show sufficient detail to indicate the grotesqueness of this barely believable freak of nature.

From the recesses of their memories some readers may be able to verify the existence of the 'Gornal Monstrosity'. Herbert Stevens often hawked it around the Gornal and Sedgley pubs. Urged on by curiosity many people made the pilgrimage to see it at the Stevens' home in New Street.

Somewhat understandably the 'thing' suffered an ignominious end. It came to be regarded by succeeding members of the family as a creature of ill-luck and sometime after old Herbert's death it was thrown on to the fire, where, aided by the draw plate it was quickly reduced to little more than a memory.

Do you remember the old horror films about werewolves and vampires and such creatures. At the end of those films, and to prevent us from having nightmares, a comforting voice would try to reassure us that ''That there were no such things''.

Well as far as the Gornal Monstrosity is concerned "There was such a thing".

* Note: This article originally appeared (exactly as reproduced) initially in Black Country Bugle for December 1985. It was monitored by Paul Lester to Paul Screeton, who reproduced it in his magazine Folklore Frontiers, issue No. 34 of December 1998.

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