(THE BIG GREY MAN)
There are many tales of Bigfoot type creatures all over the world that have been reported for centuries. Today I would like to give a version from Scotland’s Cairngorm Mountains. Specifically the summit of Ben Macdui.
This creature is reported to be between 10 and 20 feet tall. He is covered in thick short gray hair or fur. His head and neck are disproportionately large in comparison to the rest of his body. His ears are pointed. He has very long legs with extra long toes that end in sharp talons. The Grey Man walks erect, not slumped over like some reports of other Bigfoot type creatures. He is often semi shrouded in mist and is reported to have some type of psychic power which he uses to send people into a blind panic.
Most encounters with the Grey Man are more of a physical sensation rather than visual. Sensations of this type include vast, dark blurs which obscure the sky, strange crunching noises, footsteps which pursue the unlucky visitor, an icy feeling in the atmosphere, and a humming or “singing” sound. People are also reportedly gripped by feelings of absolute despair, fear and blind panic.
The first report of Fear Liath is from the late 1800s and comes from a prominent and respected scientist and mountaineer Professor J. Norman Collie. In 1925 he stood to give a speech at the 27th Annual General Meeting of the Cairngorm Club. He related this experience he had 34 years earlier in 1891:
“I was returning from the cairn on the summit in a mist when I began to think I heard something else than merely the noise of my own footsteps. For every few steps I took I heard a crunch, and then another crunch as if someone was walking after me but taking steps three or four times the length of my own. I said to myself, “This is all nonsense”. I listened and heard it again, but could see nothing in the mist. As I walked on and the eerie crunch, crunch, sounded behind me, I was seized with terror and took to my heels, staggering blindly among the boulders for four or five miles nearly down to Rothiemurchus Forest. Whatever you make of it, I do not know, but there is something very queer about the top of Ben MacDhui and I will not go back there again by myself I know”
His comments drew a lot of attention and soon other reports from hikers and climbers who had been to afraid of ridicule to come forward before came pouring in.
Alastair Borkwiths superb 1939 book about climbing in Scotland,”Always a Little Further” relates the accounts of two climbers he knew who had experienced what by then was becoming known as Am Fear Liath Mor or Ferlas Mor, or the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdui, because of its appearance when briefly glimpsed by a few of those who encountered it.
The first was alone, heading over MacDhui for Corrour on a night when the snow had a hard, crisp crust through which his boots broke at every step. He reached the summit and it was while he was descending the slopes which fall towards the Larig that he heard footsteps behind him, footsteps not in the rhythm of his own, but occurring only once for every three steps he took.
“I felt a queer crinkly feeling in the back of my neck,” he told me, “but I said to myself, ‘This is silly, there must be a reason for it.’ So I stopped, and the footsteps stopped, and I sat down and tried to reason it out. I could see nothing. There was a moon about somewhere, but the mist was fairly thick. The only thing I could make of it was that when my boots broke through the snow-crust they made some sort of echo. But then every step should have echoed, and not just this regular one-in-three. I was scared stiff. I got up, and walked on, trying hard not to look behind me. I got down all right – the footsteps stopped a thousand feet above the Larig – and I didn’t run. But if anything had so much as said ‘Boo!’ behind me, I’d have been down to Corrour like a streak of lightning!”
The second man’s experience was roughly similar. He was on MacDhui, and alone. He heard footsteps. He was climbing in daylight, in summer; but so dense was the mist that he was working by compass, and visibility was almost as poor as it would have been at night. The footsteps he heard were made by something or someone trudging up the fine screes which decorate the upper parts of the mountain, a thing not extraordinary in itself, though the steps were only a few yards behind him, but exceedingly odd when the mist suddenly cleared and he could see no living thing on the mountain, at that point devoid of cover of any kind.
“Did the steps follow yours exactly?” I asked him. “No,” he said. “That was the funny thing. They didn’t. They were regular all right; but the queer thing was that they seemed to come once for every two and a half steps I took.” He thought it queerer still when I told him the other man’s story. You see, he was long-legged and six feet tall, and the first man was only five-feet-seven.
A second hand account exists that the mountaineer Henry Kellas, and his brother witnessed a giant figure on the mountain around the turn of the 20th Century, which caused them to flee down Corrie Etchachan. This has never been verified as Henry Kellas died on the Everest reconnaissance mission of 1921, before Norman Collie’s speech to the Cairngorm Club.
In 1945 a climber named Peter Densham reported hearing footsteps and fleeing the mountain in panic. Peter was part of the team that was responsible for aeroplane rescue in the Cairngorms during the war.
Another witness encounter involved a friend of the author Richard Frere, who wished to remain anonymous. He was camping on top of the mountain when he saw a large brown creature swaggering away down the mountainside in the moonlight. He estimated the size of the figure at around twenty feet tall. Author Wendy Wood heard footsteps following her in the vicinity of the mountain, after hearing Gaelic music, and there have been other reports of phenomena on the mountain, from ghostly music, feelings of panic to the discovery of huge footprints in the 1940’s.
There are reported photographs of the footprints which like a lot of other things concerning the Fear Liath are unusual. The footprints are reported to be 19 inches long and almost as wide.
Reports are not wholly confined to Ben MacDhui either. One day during the early 1920s, while coming down alone from Braeraich in Glen Eanaich. which is close to Ben MacDhui. experienced mountaineer Tom Crowley heard footsteps behind him. When he looked around, he was horrified to see a huge grey mist shrouded figure with pointed ears, long legs and finger-like talons on its feet. He did not stay for a closer look.
There are many theories as to what is happening on Ben Macdui. Some believe it is as simple as a mixture of Brocken Spectre ( a phenomenon occasionally seen in mountains where a hugely magnified climber’s shadow is cast on a lower level of cloud through a particular combination of atmospheric conditions.) and ‘Mountain Panic’ which is basically a blind panic in wild places. Either as a feeling of a powerful presence, or just an overwhelming sense of fear about nature or something that lies behind nature. Others believe there are one or more Bigfoot type creatures guarding the summits of the Cairngorm.
With so many reports from respected mountaineers and naturalists there is obviously something going on in the Scottish Mountain Range. What it is remains to be seen.