The Legend of the Cornish Owlman
NIA JONES tells the terrifying tale of the Cornish Owlman!
With sightings as far back as 1976 and as recent as 2011, reports of an Owlman stalking and terrifying a rural Cornwall village churchyard and woods after dark draws many parallels with the folk law of The Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, a story that inspired the 2002 film The Mothman Prophecies.
The Owlman Of Mawnan or The Death Raptor, has been described as a grey/dark brown feathered, 5 -6 feet tall creature, its feet clawed with hybrid owl/humanlike features. With a wingspan of approximately 10 feet, a loud hissing / screeching noise accompanies the spectre, its large eyes glow a fiery crimson.
The first sighting of the Owlman took place on April 17, 1976, June and Vicky Melling (aged 9 & 12) and their family were on their Easter break in Mawnan Smith, they saw a “bird man” hovering over the tower of Mawnan Old Church. Running to the police station the girls were taken into different rooms and independently drew a similar image of what they saw. So frightened by their encounter the family cut short their holiday.
The spring weather in Cornwall was unusual that year, cold snaps and then heat waves. There was a spate of UFO sightings and animals behaved oddly; there were feral cats and more dog attacks than usual. It has been debated whether Mawnan Church is actually built on a ley line, (a line that links several ancient sites) and the appearance of the Owlman may be a product of the earth’s energy. Others have speculated the creature was invoked by occult rituals from as far back as 1937.
Dictating similar qualities to The Mothman legend, the similarities stop when it comes to creatures supposed intentions. The Mothman has been perceived as some kind of omen for a disastrous event (like the Silver Bridge collapse in 1967), but the Owlman is seen as a malevolent entity, possibly a manifestation of a demonic Phoenician owl god, whose worshippers were known to sacrifice children as offerings.
The witnesses of the second sighting saw the Owlman standing on a branch in a large pine tree, believing it was a local playing a prank by dressing in a costume. They were shocked when the creature leaped into the air and flew away into the night. There was also crackling or static noise resonating through the woodland trees after it flew away. There have been numerous and varying sightings since, including strange red lights spotted above the church.
There is no doubt that encountering this creature invokes genuine fear. But can there be a rational explanation? Was it mass hysteria? Was it an escaped aviary bird rather than a supernatural humanoid? Some have also suggested that the whole Owlman story was a clever hoax created as a counterpart to The Mothman of Point Pleasant.
So does the Cornish Owlman exist? Whatever the answer I am very sure no one would offer to wait around in Mawnan Smith Churchyard woods after dark to find out.
NIA JONES is a freelance writer. She has written pieces for The Guardian Community Film Blog’s Clip Joint, Inside Media Track and Reader’s Panel. Follow her on Twitter @niaserenwib