I Thought I Saw A … Phew Not Going Nuts Then! 1997
Sally and l became good friends, she ran the exotic animal rescue centre in Market Deeping, Lincolnshire – and as l have said before some of my animal tales centre around there.
Following the incident at the ex butcher’s shop in November 1996, and the following day’s conversation with Sally, our first ever conversation in fact – we met up the following weekend to trade ‘tales of ghastly ‘ In those days l wasn’t an exotic animal broker myself – l was purely a commercial livestock breeder, the fancier title would not fall onto me until 2001, but it was in fact Sally’s centre that inspired me to desire a wish to work with more exotic species.
Ever since my first ABC sighting in 1993 [alien big cat] l had become incredibly fascinated with the whole saga of big cats roaming Lincolnshire fens and beyond. I mean how could you not be swept up by it all?
In 1997 as the example here in the post today, there were already reports of the Fiskerton Phantom in the papers – a large hairy creature with bear like paws roaming the countryside of Lincolnshire. Fiskerton as a village is roughly 50 miles away from Market Deeping, and what is now 23 years ago – there was more countryside for a large cat to roam around in, as opposed to more heavily suburbanised residences.
Last year, strangely enough, not far from my old stomping grounds in Lincolnshire – Whaplode Drove [just outside Spalding] – alien big cats were still being spotted. In 2014, whilst with Suze and Scrappy in Bourne Woods, just outside of Bourne, l came across a large cat paw in soft mud about a mile in from the road. Deer live in those woods, so it did not strike me as odd. In 2019 – a large cat, panther like was spotted in Fineshade Wood – north of Corby, south of Stamford and only 15 miles from Market Deeping. I am still totally fascinated by it all and try and keep regular with all the updates.
When Sally and l first started talking in November 1996 we were both quite excited by the fact that we had big cat sighting experience between us – we studied, talked at length and compared our moments with large cats. Her centre had lost animals to large cats, panther like beasts – mostly dark browns in colour – not specifically black, but assuredly darker skinned.
She had a pair of Lynx of her own on site which was my first introduction to large cats as in up close and personal within petting distance. You couldn’t pet her two, they had been rescues and they were not that friendly – they weren’t going to eat you – but you didn’t want to be inside their enclosure with them if you didn’t know them!
“Were your sightings like this cat Rory?” Sally asked of me when l first met her that weekend following my own incident. I studied that cat, watched them move, get up, walk and l could answer easily – “No, these are nothing like the cat l saw in either 93 or earlier this week, my cat looked like this.” I pointed to an image in the book l had brought with me … “It wasn’t jet black, but it wasn’t just beige brown either, it was darker brown.”
[13 Years later my time spent as a volunteer and friend to the rescue centre and working with their lynx would serve me well as l would be within spitting distance of one whilst walking two of my dogs late at night in summer…]
I have added a brown tint to the original image
Sally agreed with me, that she too had seen a dark brown large cat, bigger than the lynx roaming, prowling and stalking her grounds. The same night l had problems she had lost a sheep, and she knew of three sheep farmers in the area that had lost sheep and lambs, as well as numerous local residents who had lost cats. A gameskeeper she knew had found foxes, badgers, deer and sheep carcasses in the woods behind her. There were lakes behind the rescue centre.
Sally had taken to locking up all her livestock now and leaving nothing in the fields. She had several Rhodesian Ridgebacks as pets – a friendly but volatile dog to say the least! Most nights she said they would suddenly kick off, as indeed would most of the larger livestock in the centre become very unsettled. She said that in recent months she had started to feel vulnerable in the centre.
I could understand what she meant, she wasn’t married, in her fifties, her husband had sadly died, didn’t drive and her property was set back aways from the village itself and she didn’t have many close neighbours, she was on open fenland – outside Market Deeping, behind Northborough, not far from Crowland, Stamford and so on – all areas known to have not just one but potentially four large cats prowling. The River Welland was not far from her and farmers has reported seeing a large cat there the previous week bothering the cattle. Farmers had taken to making damn sure they carried their guns with them all the time now. So l could understand only too well, what she meant.
It was May 18th 1997 that Sally and l saw a large cat together, we were and are our own witnesses to our own sighting. There were others but they only heard it, didn’t see it … but we did, as clear as the noses on our faces. I had been working at the centre that Sunday, l remember it well because 1] it was only a few days after my 34th birthday and 2] it was only 5.50pm in the afternoon, so we had full light mostly for our sighting – typically what we didn’t have between us was a camera – but then why should we have had?
We were feeding animals. At the time Sally and l were perhaps twenty feet apart in two different enclosures. Other volunteers were scattered over the grounds involved in all sorts of activities. But Sally and l were although in separate primate enclosures were in the same block of those enclosures which is why when we heard the monkeys getting restless and going ape shit we looked up. There in front of us by about sixty feet and just outside the grounds of the centre on the edge of the field where the goats were we saw ‘our cat’ eyeing up ‘said goats’ who were at this time bleating wildly!”
We froze, but then Sally started hollering, she didn’t want any of her goats being taken – the cat looked up, saw us, starting to come out of the enclosures – once we could get past screeching marmosets and tamarins and took off across the field!
By the time the other volunteers had arrived to where we stood on the edge of the field, the cat was long gone. But as we all sat that afternoon into evening exchanging stories, l was astonished as indeed was Sally at just how many of the staff and volunteers had experiences with big cats. Finally , despite all our experiences, observations and researchings we could take a deep breath of relief and sigh out ‘phew, good to know we are not going nuts then, there is something out there!”
More soon in part 5, thanks for reading.