Through much of 1997 – now 25 years later – the skies of south Devon, England were filled with UFOs, bizarre aerial vehicles, and mystifying lights. Strange creatures – including large black cats resembling mountain-lions, flying beasts that had the appearance of huge jellyfish, and ghostly black dogs with blazing, hate-filled eyes – provoked terror in those that encountered them. Unidentified robed and hooded figures were seen prowling around local, dark woods by moonlight, seemingly engaging in infernal, occult-driven rites and rituals. Animals were found dead, and hideously mutilated, under mysterious circumstances. Trying to make some sense of all this high-strangeness were two dedicated investigators of all things paranormal, Nigel Wright and Jon Downes. Nigel is a well-known, long-time investigator of UFOs in England, while Jon is the director of the Devon-based Center for Fortean Zoology – one of the few groups that investigates reports of such anomalies as lake-monsters, Bigfoot, and the Chupacabra on a full-time basis. Such was the sheer scale of supernatural activity that descended on ancient Devon in that specific period, Jon and Nigel found themselves plunged into a dark and turbulent world, one which closely paralleled the menacing environment that threatened to swallow up John Keel, as he investigated the turbulent Point Pleasant, West Virginia Mothman: hang-up phone calls in the middle of the night and bizarre threats. Why, exactly, the pair never knew. As for the research of the two, it ultimately led to the publication of a book from Jon and Nigel on the 1997 wave. Its title, The Rising of the Moon. As an example of the research that went down when south Devon was blighted by dark forces, consider the following:

(Nick Redfern) Nigel Wright: A Terrible 25th Anniversary

Any mention of “animal mutilations” invariably, and quite understandably too, provokes imagery of the notorious “cattle-mutilation” events that reached their peak in the southwest regions of the United States in the mid to late 1970s. On the issue of whether or not the killing and mutilation of animals on a large scale was, and perhaps still is, the work of extraterrestrials, occult groups, government personnel engaged in biological warfare experimentation, scavengers, shadowy figures with concerns about exotic viruses entering the U.S. food-chain, or a combination of all the above, the jury is very much still out. But, less well known, is that such events are not limited solely to the United States. The U.K. has been hit hard, too. One particular case stands out for truly memorable and macabre reasons, as will now become apparent. Consider, below, the extract from one of Nigel Wright’s journals reveals: “Approximately three weeks ago two young men were swimming in Otter Cove [at Lyme Bay, Exmouth, England]. As darkness drew in, they decided to make for the shore and change to go home. As they got changed, one of them looked out to sea. He saw what he described as a ‘greenish’ light under the surface. He called to the other young man and they both watched as this light ‘rose’ to the surface of the water. The next thing they knew there was a very bright light shining into their faces. They turned the scene and fled.” Meanwhile, on the top of the cliffs, equally strange things were afoot. The two young men raced for the car of a relative and breathlessly explained what had happened. Incredibly, she, too, had seen something highly unusual in precisely the same time frame on the road leading to Otter Cove. It was a strange animal that she likened to “an enormous cat.” Whatever the origin of the cat-like beast, however, she was certain of one thing: it was, to quote her, “all lit up” – almost glowing, one might say.

(Nick Redfern) Jon Downes on expedition

On the following day, a dead whale was found washed upon a stretch of beach directly below the cliffs. This did not appear to have been merely a tragic accident, however. On receiving reports that a whale had been found in precisely the area that anomalous lights and a strange creature were seen, Wright quickly launched an investigation. “The first thing that struck me as I looked on at this scene,” recalls Nigel, “was how perfect the carcass was. There was no decay or huge chunks torn from it. Then, as I wandered around it, I noticed that there was only one external wound: in the area of the genitals a round incision, the size of a large dinner plate, was cut right into the internal organs of the mammal. The sides of this incision were perfectly formed, as if some giant apple-corer had been inserted and twisted around. From the wound hung some of the internal organs.” Nigel continues: “I quizzed the official from English Heritage, who was responsible for the disposal of the carcass. He informed me that no natural predator or boat strike would have caused this wound. As I looked at this sight, the first thing that came into my mind was how this looked just like the cattle mutilation cases of recent times.”

Nigel was also able to determine this was not the only time that unusual lights had been seen in the vicinity of Lyme Bay: “No precise date can be given for the evening when a fishing boat encountered a strange light over Lyme Bay,” he wrote, “but, since this was told to me by the skipper of the vessel concerned, I can vouch for its authenticity. The vessel in question was five miles off Budleigh Salterton. The crew became aware of a bright, white-blue light which hovered some distance from the boat. At first they thought it was a helicopter but they heard no engine sounds, nor saw any navigation lights.” Nigel was told by the captain of the vessel that the night had been “bright and clear” and that if the object had made any noise, it would certainly have been “audible for miles.” And: “The light remained stationary for about one and a half hours. Judging by the mast of their vessel, which is twenty-eight feet high, the crew estimated that the light was not much higher than that,” adds Wright. “It then very suddenly disappeared.” Thankfully, the madness and mayhem was then over.

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