The Essex Lion (It’s a real thing…Possibly)

27 Aug


There’s definitely possibly a lion on loose in Essex. Of this possible supposition we can be (un)certain…

I have been a long time reader of the brilliant Fortean Times and have always enjoyed the sections of the magazine on Cryptozoology and Out-of-Place animals and the works of Loren Coleman and Karl Shuker. From the minute I read about the Essex Lion story, I made this prediction:

I still stand by it (although the Guardian have already run the story). There is just too much about the story that makes it fit very nicely with other unexplained sightings of big cats across the UK (and beyond). Here are my thoughts following some good discussions and arguments with friends last night and this morning on all things unexplained and cat like:

Ah but there’s a picture this time

Pictures of Alien Big Cats (ABC), so-called because they are alien to their environment and not actually extraterrestrial, are common in the UK and have been for a long time. Since the age of the camera, there have been many pictures reporting to show large cats wild in just about every part of country.

Here’s our friend the Essex Lion:

And here’s The beast of Bodmin:

So pictures are not uncommon, what is uncommon are follow-up sightings in the same location after the initial hype. I’m not doubting that the picture is indeed of a Lion and was taken in Essex and not forged, that seems to have been independently verified*, but ABC sightings seem to be of a far stranger breed.


There was a picture verified, but the picture I used above seems to have been one of the many fakes and not the picture that was shown to experts at the local Zoo…In fact, I am at a bit of a loss to track down exactly which photo experts at the Zoo were shown that made them so adamant that a Lion was loose in Essex. I think it was this one:


Which, okay, could be a Lion…possibly. It’s incredibly hazy and hard to get a sense of perspective, but it has a mane. More on this photo later.

But the police are taking it seriously…

Yeah. It’s a picture of a Lion…you’d kind hope they would. It’s definitely a case of ‘better safe than sorry’ when it comes to making sure no one gets eaten by a Lion. But I remain convinced that nothing will be found.

It’s all a bit hazy…

The reporting of anomalous events is an interesting one. Look at UFO sightings with multiple witnesses and the range of accounts that end up getting reported especially with the passage of time during a ‘hype’. As The Guardian’s Jonathan Haynes has already noted:

And accounts are only likely to get more outlandish; part wilful exaggeration, part mild mass hysteria seems, often, to account for this. Already, various versions of the Lion photograph seem to be in circulation, all reporting to be ‘real’.

Even after the search had been called-off and, a rather sheepish, Essex police admitted that what had been seen was probably a domestic cat (I’ve yet to ever drink the required amount that domestic cats, start looking like Lions) the statement of the first witnessed still has the distinct ring of the Fortean to it:

“I was looking out of the window and we saw smoke – it looked like there had been a bit of a bonfire,” she said. “When the smoke cleared I could see this shape in the field, so I got the binoculars out. We had a look and it looked like a lion.” – Guardian Source

Though no expert on Big Cats, I haven’t come across many accounts of them appearing from fire. The witness account is peculiar if you think of it in relation to the photograph. The witness was observing the cat through binoculars, it’s easy enough to misinterpret the photograph as showing a Lion, I’m not convinced how easy it would be to make the same mistake looking through binoculars which would have a higher level of magnification than the camera.

Things get stranger with one witness account disagreeing on the Lion description and suggesting the big cat was, in fact, more Sphinx-like.

It is currently unknown if Essex police will begin hunting for Sphinx’s in the countryside. Possibly not as one local resident believes it was her cat, the Brilliantly-named, Teddy Bear, who was responsible for the sighting.

Anyone missing a lion?

It is not common for ABC sightings to be linked to the loss of animals from captivity, most big cat sightings are of Melanistic leopards and not of lions.  Lions are pretty big, you would be acutely aware of the fact if you owned one. There are no accidental Lion owners out there and no one in or around Essex had reported losing a Lion. There was a circus nearby, but that had been two weeks before the first sighting and they had not reported losing a Lion (I have to hope anyone who owned a Lion and subsequently lost it would have the decency to report it).

Essex Lion Gets in on Twitter

The Essex Lion is the first ABC I recall to have it’s own Twitter account though and some of it’s tweets have made me chuckle:

The Lion

So, is there a Lion currently on the loose in Essex? I have to say, probably not.

Was a Lion pictured in Essex at all? Possibly.

Then, where did it go?

As with many a cryptid before it, it vanished from whence it came. With little more than the movement of air announcing it’s departure, it has slipped seamlessly back into the lining of the pockets of the Cosmic Trickster.

Read More 

Possible Origins of the Big Cat Legend: Spectral Black Dogs

British Big Cat Attacks

The Fortean Times: Cryptozoology

The Fortean Times: Alien Big cats 2003 – 2006

The British Big Cat Society

Big Cat Sightings



2 Responses to “The Essex Lion (It’s a real thing…Possibly)”

  1. CarrieVS August 27, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    They found the photo of a lion in Africa that was shopped into an Essex background.


    • paulcoxon81 August 27, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

      Really? If that’s the case someone is going to be done for wasting a lot of police time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: