Owlman of Mawnan – folklore

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The Owlman, sometimes referred to as the Cornish Owlman, or the Owlman of Mawnan, is a purported cryptid that was supposedly sighted around mid-1976 in the village of Mawnan, Cornwall. The Owlman is sometimes compared to the Mothman, first seen in 1960’s America. Both, it must be said, straddle the tricky border of ‘inventive’ and ‘we’ve run out of spooky creatures’.

The rural town of Mawnan rests in the south of Cornwall in the south-west of England, an area of the country teeming with supernatural fare, from monstorus black dogs to sea serpents to devilish imps. A town notable for little else than a couple of churches it attracts a smattering of holiday-makers due to it being situated in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The first sightings of the owlman appear around April 1976, when Don Melling and his daughters June (12) and Vicky (9) had their Easter break rudely interrupted. Whilst walking through the woods near Mawnan church, they saw a large winged creature “like a big man with flapping wings” hovering above the church tower. The girls were frightened and immediately ran to tell their father, who, being a responsible parent, took them to the local police station but, rather confusingly, refused to allow them to be interviewed, instead instructing them to draw pictures of the beast, both of which were strikingly similar. So alarmed were the three holidaymakers that they cut short their break by a whole three days, returning to the safety of Lancashire.


In July of the same year, two fourteen year-old girls, Sally Chapman and Barbara Perry, camping in the vicinity of the church, also saw the owlman, describing it thus:

“It was like a big owl with pointed ears, as big as a man. The eyes were red and glowing. At first, I thought that it was someone dressed up, playing a joke, trying to scare us. I laughed at it, we both did, then it went up in the air and we both screamed. When it went up you could see its feet were like pincers”.

Paranormal researcher Tony “Doc” Shiels, again got the two girls to use their artistic skills to describe their sighting and again, the results were consistent with both each other and the earlier incident. Just a few days later, another girl witnessed to foul flying creature;

“It has red slanting eyes and a very large mouth. The feathers are silvery grey and so are his body and legs, the feet are like a big, black, crab’s claws. We were frightened at the time. It was so strange, like something out of a horror film. After the thing went up, there were crackling sounds in the tree-tops for ages. Our mother thinks we made it all up just because we read about these things, but that is not true. we really saw the bird-man, though it could have been someone playing a trick in a very good costume and make up. But how could it rise up like that? If we imagined it, then we both imagined it at the same time”.


Though sightings after this thinned out significantly, in 1986, Shiels was being accused of making up the accounts and in nearby Truro, the even headier charge of blasphemy, reportedly performing occult rituals, invoking the owlman on holy ground. In 1989 the owlman appeared once more, this time in an incident not linked to Shiels. A man named Gavin reported as seeing something “about five feet tall… The legs had high ankles and the feet were large and black with two huge ‘toes’ on the visible side. The creature was gray with brown and the eyes definitely glowed.” The most recent visitation by the owlman was reported in 1995 when a female tourist from Chicago sent a letter to the local newspaper, the Western Morning News in Truro.

“Dear Sir, I am a student of marine biology at the Field Museum, Chicago, on the last day of a summer vacation in England. Last Sunday evening I had a most unique and frightening experience in the wooded area near the old church at Mawnan, Cornwall. I experienced what I can only describe as ‘a vision from hell’. The time was fifteen minutes after nine, more or less, and I was walking along a narrow track through the trees. I was halted in my tracks when, about thirty metres ahead, I saw a monstrous man-bird ‘thing’. It was the size of a man, with a ghastly face, a wide mouth, glowing eyes and pointed ears. It had huge clawed wings, and was covered in feathers of silver/grey colour. The thing had long bird legs which terminated in large black claws. It saw me and arose, ‘floating’ towards me. I just screamed then turned and ran for my life.

“The whole experience was totally irrational and dreamlike (nightmare!). Friends tell me that there is a tradition of a phantom ‘owlman’ in that district. Now I know why. I have seen the phantom myself. “Please don’t publish my real name and address. This could adversely affect my career. Now I have to rethink my ‘world view’ entirely. Yours, very sincerely scared… ‘Eye Witness’.”

Several explanations for the monster have been proffered; the church reportedly sits on ley lines, a mystical power source linking ancient sites, the owlman being a manifestation of the energy bursting forth from the bowels of the Earth. Others suggest a huge eagle owl with fungus on it’s feathers causing a phosphorescent glow in the twilight. It may be related to a Phoenician owl god to whom infant sacrifices were often made. It might just be an owl.

Daz Lawrence, moviesandmania

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