sjhstrangetales

THE WANTAGE MONSTER

Posted on: April 18, 2017

Several years ago, back in the 1990s, I was contacted by a reader of one of my ghost books, asking if I’d heard of the Wantage Monster.  By then I’d been living near Wantage, in south Oxfordshire, for a few years, but I had to confess I’d never heard of this strange character.  My correspondent sent me some fascinating old press cuttings about the case, dating back to the early 1970s, which were certainly an eyebrow-raiser.   It would seem that sleepy old Wantage had had its very own Yeti, or Mothman!

Anyway, life rumbled on, and I didn’t come across any mention of the Monster again until I read about it in one of John Hanson’s Haunted Skies books.   So I did a bit more digging around, and I came across a local news article from 2014, in which a journalist was trying to trace the eyewitnesses to the creature, but whether he had any success I couldn’t discover.  Forty years is a long time after all.  I even quizzed my elderly neighbour about it, who has lived in the area for over 50 years, but she said she’d never heard of it.

Here then are the few known facts about this intriguing case:

At 5:30 AM on the morning of 25 September 1971 Herbert Halstead of the newly-built Stockham Park housing estate, on the outskirts of the town, was driving to work, when his car headlights picked out a strange creature.  He described as having “a big white head which appeared to have two large eyes”.

This weird thing was also seen by 18-year-old Linda Milne, who said she saw a tall hairy creature with broad shoulders and large glowing red eyes, going into the woods near the old Wantage canal.  She said it moved very quickly.  Linda was quoted as saying she had no idea what it could have been, only that it had left her feeling very frightened.

A more detailed sighting was made by two 14-year-old boys, who said they were chased by it on the Stockham Park estate.  They described it as “8 ft tall, off-white in colour with furry skin, large eyes a foot apart and with horns and a pointed beard”.  The boys scaled a fence and the creature did likewise.  One boy, Derek Bull, said he was so frightened by the thing that he crashed his bike into a tree.   The police searched the area but found nothing.

To add even more strangeness to the case, the boys added that they had seen a disc-shaped object take off from a nearby field.  Apparently there were many reports of UFOs in the area.   Scrolling through a list of of UFO sightings for that year, I found a very intriguing case from around this time in Banbury, north Oxfordshire.

On 27 September, 2 days after the sightings of the Wantage Monster,  Len Delman, a lorry driver, was driving onto the new Bodycote flyover, when he saw what he thought was a man in a white suit, standing in the road directly ahead of his vehicle.  He hit the brakes, coming to a halt, fearing he may have run over the man.  He jumped out and went behind his lorry, but found no one there. Coming back around the front, he saw in the headlights what he described as a “spaceman”, 7-8ft tall, with big, staring eyes, and a pack on his back from which two tubes led to the head.

Len sounded his horn repeatedly, and the strange apparition jumped 3ft in the air, ran across the road, and leapt over the hedge.  Two other lorry drivers arrived upon the scene, and Delman watched a disc-shaped object take off from the field where the figure had disappeared.

There is a mysterious epilogue to this story, because Len Delman disappeared.  Police attempted to find him, but with no luck. His flat was left abandoned with everything in it, and his lorry was parked in the company bay with his personal items still in it.  He was never seen again, and his family speculated that he had been taken by aliens.  Though a local news story I read simply recorded him as having “gone underground” – possibly to escape journalists and UFO investigators.

When I read compendiums of British paranormal happenings, Oxfordshire tends to get dominated by Oxford University ghosts (ad nauseum), and yet it has plenty of other weird happenings.  The problem is that Oxfordshire can be a bit of a tight-lipped county, and they don’t get recorded that much.  The Wantage Monster is a case in point.   And yet, when I recently did a YouTube search for the area where I live (which is only a mile-or-two from Wantage), one of the first vids to come up …  was about a UFO sighted in the sky here in January 2012.  I hope it didn’t bash into any of the military helicopters which we have constantly circling around.

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