The Deadly Chicken Lizard of Hampshire

The Deadly Chicken Lizard of Hampshire


Strange Beasts

JON KANEKO-JAMES tells us the Cockatrice was a monstrous beast far more dangerous than religious zealots in 1533

1533 and Britain was entering the first stages of the Reformation. The Priory at Wherwell, Hampshire, had escaped relatively untouched by the reformers. Unfortunately for them, something far darker was hatching.

Down in the vaults of the Priory’s Minster, the Prior’s aged cockerel, nearing the end of its life, had found a cool, dark place to lay an egg. There in the darkness it laid a single yolkess sphere, with a tough skin like a serpent’s egg, and quietly expired. Serpents and toads made their homes in the cool damp of the chapel’s crypt, strangely drawn to sit on and incubate the egg… and all too soon, it hatched.

Instantly a terrible poisonous vapour started to seep out of it’s mouth and nostrils, killing the crypt rats and driving everything else out of the chamber. The Cockatrice, barely six inches long, feasted on the days old body of the Cockerel, hissing at the footsteps of the unsuspecting monks above it.

It was a nightmare thing: standing on two upright legs, like a chicken, with the feathered upper body and beak of a bird, a crown of wattles on its head. It’s lower body was a long, writhing serpent-like tail. It ate anything it could: carrion, scraps, corpses and other serpents. And it grew.

Soon the beast was four feet long, and its powers were terrifying. It could kill with a look, or a bite, and even a weapon that contacted it would become poisoned, killing its wielder… if he even survived to attack, seeing as it had an aura of poisonous vapour that killed anything near it. The vapour even spread as far as the Priory’s crops, killing plants and weeds alike. Blackened, rotting stems and barren soil formed a desolate ring around the priory. At first the Prior and his monks tried to pray for the creature’s death. The same tactic had worked when God had incubated a Cockatrice in the vaults of 9th Century Rome, a punishment for the City’s Godlessness. Pope Leo IV had led a campaign of prayer and fasting that had done the thing to death. Unfortunately, the same tactic did not work for the monks of Wherwell.

The Prior contacted the Abbot and received permission to offer a reward of money, and four acres of land to anyone who could slay the beast. Countless locals tried, coming from as far as Bristol, Southampton and London. All of them died. Eventually a local man, named Green, took up the challenge, and lowered a mirror into the vault. Bestiaries said that the Cockatrice’s reflection would kill it, but they proved to be false. The mirror did, however, prove to be the Cockatrice’s undoing.

Green let in just enough light to the crypt that the Cockatrice would be able to see itself in the mirror, and although it didn’t die it did give a terrible hiss and immediately begin attacking its reflection, taking it for another animal. The two fought, Cockatrice and reflection, for hours, almost a day, before the beast (which was now four feet long) finally collapsed of exhaustion.

Green was mindful of a passage from the poet Lucan where a Moor had killed a Cockatrice with a spear, only to be killed by its poison when he retrieved his weapon, so he positioned himself above the animal and dropped the spear on it, piercing its heart and leaving the spear where it stood.

The Cockatrice let out one more terrible hiss of pain and rage, and rattled its final breath. The Prior was elated, and stayed true to his word, granting a parcel of land that is called “Green’s Acre” in Wherwell to this day.

JON KANEKO-JAMES is one half of Boo Tours, which runs ghost and supernatural tours around London, including talks about human skin covered books. Check out Boo Tours website is here. JON also has a new ebook, The Sleepless Man, which is a gritty urban fantasy exploring the suburban hell and squalid desire of the Selkie Wife myth. For more details visit here.

View Comments (1)

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: The Deadly Chicken-Lizard of Hampshire | The Devil's Davenport

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Jon Kaneko-James is a London-based writer, with a particular interest in the history of magic and the medieval church. He works as a tour guide at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and maintains his own small guiding company called Boo Tours.

More in Folklore


6 Magical Places to Visit from the life of St Patrick

Sarah Blair-Dickinson17th March 2015
Saint Patrick

17 Things you didn’t know about Saint Patrick 

Ann O'Regan16th March 2015

Ireland’s 7 Darkest Goddesses

Ann O'Regan14th March 2015
Irish Vampire Dearg Due

The Deadly Lure of the Irish Femme Fatale

Ann O'Regan12th March 2015

Spooky Twitter Talk with Pollyanna Jones

Staff Writer11th March 2015
Morgan Le Fay

Morgan Le Fay, the woman who stole Excalibur

Nia Jones8th March 2015
Welsh cottage

Meet the Welsh goblin called Bwbachod

LH Davies1st March 2015

9 Weirdest Welsh Mythical Creatures

Nia Jones1st March 2015

10 werewolf titbits to make you howl!

Kaja Franck11th February 2015
Order Zombie Bites from Amazon

Zombie Ireland: A Bite of Superstition

Ann O'Regan14th November 2014
known as Gan Ceann

Ireland’s Headless Horseman – The Dullahan

Ann O'Regan11th November 2014
St Columba banishing Loch Ness Monster

St Columba and the Loch Ness Monster

Guest Writer8th November 2014