Sunday 18 March 2007

The 'beast' of Blue Bell Hill.

The so called 'beast of Blue Bell Hill, was perfect headline fodder for the local press from 1998 onwards, despite sightings actually dating back to the 1500s!! Strange, large, pointed eared animals were documented by ramblers and the likes more than five-hundred years ago, and such mysterious creatures, sighted along the Pilgrim's Way and also rural towns such as Burham and Boxley, were, at the time called 'great dogg', but the behaviour of these animals seemed far more cat-like.
On many occasions local folk would encounter a hound-sized form which appeared to somehow slink in and out of view, appearing behind witnesses and then up ahead. On one occasion a local man was said to have been killed and buried where he perished. Although dogs do savage, it seems unlikely that such an animal would remain so elusive, and frequent the woods and be strong enough to bring a man down and kill him.
A local Reverend walking between Boxley and Burham (see my Monsters of Kent blogspot) also mentioned a large creature on the loose, all within a few miles of Blue Bell Hill.
Blue Bell Hill has become famous for its roadside apparitions. Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, you cannot deny the consistency of reports pertaining to local reports of phantom hitchhikers which go way beyond the realm of Friend Of A Friend tales and urban legends.
Blue Bell Hill is a strange, and ancient area plagued by various phenomena, so for the press the addition of a local 'big cat' provided more fuel to an already atmospheric fire of oddness.
Unfortunately, when the press released their appeals around 1998 all manner of people from varying Kentish towns were coming forward to speak of their sightings of leopard, lynx and puma and at the local papers, i.e. Kent Today were quick to tie all of these sightings to Blue Bell Hill, even though many were on the other side of the county! One such cat was photographed at Cooling, provoking the local paper to ask, "Is this the beast of Blue Bell Hill ?", despite the fact the picture clearly showed a small wild cat and not a leopard, and was also nowhere near Maidstone (see Caught On Film: The Cooling Cat).
The main species of cat seen at Blue Bell Hill is the black leopard. Several puma have also been sighted in the area and smaller cats which remain unidentified simply due to lack of reports.
During the early 1900s the Cobtree Manor Estate and its zoo housed several large cats and a variety of wildlife yet it seems unlikely that such a place could have been responsible for the cat sightings of the time despite some rumours that animals did escape. One particular leopard was allegedly flushed out and shot on the Downs but sightings persisted throughout Medway and Maidstone, up until the present day despite the lack of media interest.
Unfortunately, due to the reputation of the eerie hill, the animals which roam it will always be fogged by folklore and fantasy. In his exhaustive cryptozoology reference guide, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CRYPTOZOOLOGY, author Michael Newton, when speaking of KENT BIG CAT RESEARCH and its aims, wrote; "While KENT BIG CAT RESEARCH observes and films alien big cats, its website, operating in conjunction with a site on paranormal phenomena, appears to say that the animals may be something more than flesh and blood creatures."
This quote is absurd, as are some of the theories that these cats are either prehistoric survivors or phantom felids. The website focuses mainly on road apparitions around Blue Bell Hill, so it only made sense for the webmaster, Sean Tudor, to ask KENT BIG CAT RESEARCH to feature on there. Apart from that, any connections made, by researchers, between 'big cat' sightings and the paranormal is complete and utter rubbish.

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