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Shropshire Union Canal man-monkey, Richard Svensson

Illustration of the man-monkey by Richard Svensson.

The man-monkey was a cryptid primate or zooform reported from Staffordshire and Birmingham in the United Kingdom in the late 19th Century.[1][2][3] It is also referred to as the man-monkey of Staffordshire, Old Ned's devil, and the Shropshire Union Canal man-monkey.

The man-monkey was allegedly reported from a stretch of the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal, now part of the Shropshire Union Canal, several times in the 19th Century, but the most famous sighting occured at 10 pm on the evening of 21 January 1879. According to Charlotte S. Burne, who investigated the event only a few weeks after it occured:

...Just before he [the eyewitness] reached the canal bridge, a strange black creature with great white eyes sprang out of the plantation by the road-side and alighted on his horse's back. He tried to push it off with his whip, but to his horror the whip went through the Thing, and he dropped it to the ground in his fright. The poor tired horse broke into a canter, and rushed onwards at full speed with the ghost still clinging to its back. How the creature at length vanished the man hardly knew. He told his tale in the village of Woodseaves, a mile further on, and so effectually frightened the hearers that one man actually stayed with his friends there all night, rather than cross the terrible bridge which lay between him and his home. The ghost-seer reached home at length, still in a state of excessive terror (but, as his master assured me, perfectly sober), and it was some days before he was able to leave his bed, so much was he prostrated by his fright. The whip was searched for next day, and found just at the place where he said he had dropped it.[4]

Several days later, the eyewitness was visited by a policeman, who was under the impression that he had been robbed. When he told the policeman what had actually happened, he replied, disappointed:

Oh, was that all, sir? Oh, I know what that was. That was the Man-Monkey, sir, as does come again at that bridge ever since the man was drowned in the Cut![1]

A very similar beast was reported near the end of the 19th Century, by a man named Ned. Whilst driving a pony and trap on Rolfe Street in Smethwick, outside Birmingham, he heard a strange noise behind him, and was leapt at by an unusual-looking animal, which he fought off and killed with his horse-whip. He animal was placed on display in a glass case in the Blue Gate pub on Rolfe Street, and was dubbed "Old Ned's Devil" by the locals.[1]

George Eberhart suggested that the original canal man-monkey was a ghost or apparition, i.e. a zooform, but also categorised it as a wildman. The fact that the second animal was killed shows this one at least was flesh and blood.[3]

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Shuker, Karl ShukerNature: A DEVIL OF A MYSTERY FROM SMETHWICK karlshuker.blogspot.com [Accessed 5 February 2019]
  2. Shuker, Karl (1999) Mysteries of Planet Earth
  3. 3.0 3.1 Eberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology ABC-CLIO, Inc. ISBN 1-57607-283-5
  4. Burne, Charlotte S. (1883) Shropshire Folk-Lore
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