Here Be Dragons

This file was in quite bad shape when I found it, and I’d like to thank my good friend Alexander McCulloch for his help in restoring it to something resembling readable – C.R.

HBD1

Bodmin Moor is located in the north east of Cornwall. Roughly 200 square kilometres in size, the moor is home to dramatic granite tors and sizeable areas of marshland. Several Cornish rivers, including the Warleggen and the Tiddy, have their sources here, and its history is intertwined with local lore and mythology.

Indeed, when walking the windswept and lonely moorland, it is difficult not to feel the pull of what the famed English novelist Catherine Ann Crowe dubbed ‘the night side of nature’.

And it is not just ancient legend. In more recent times, strange happenings have occurred in and around the area.

In 1978, sightings of large, phantom wild cats began to be reported, alongside the occasional incident of mutilated livestock.

These sightings continued well in to the ’90s, and an official investigation was conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1995. This investigation concluded that there was ‘no verifiable evidence for the presence of a big cat or cats, and therefore there is no significant threat to livestock from said animals in the area’.

Yet still the sightings continued.

But it is not tales of a large and aggressive phantom cat that concern us today, rather the whispers of an all-together different beast abroad on the moor.

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8th February 2017

Geoffrey Rushton is a no-nonsense individual, a trait which seems native to the area. Although he could be described as elderly, he has the physique and appearance of someone who has spent much of his life facing the elements.

Apart from a spell in his early twenties when he was a sailor in the merchant navy, Mr Rushton has spent most of his life on the moor, first as a ranger, then as a guide for groups of ramblers.

We meet in the Blisland Inn, a local pub, and over a pint of stout he describes an incident that happened to him in the late ’80s.

‘I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of the so-called ‘Beast of Bodmin’? It was the peak period for that. We had reporters coming from all over the country, interviewing anyone who would give them a minute or two.

‘I didn’t have much time for it. If there was a big cat out there, it was going to be one of those pumas let loose by that bloody Chipperfield woman after the closure of Plymouth Zoo. And if it was one of those, I’m pretty certain the good ol’ Cornish weather would eventually be its undoing.

‘But it wasn’t a big cat that I bumped into that evening. I don’t know what it was.

‘Now I’m a simple man, Doctor Gotobed, a simple man with simple ideas. And I wouldn’t be telling you this if I there was even the slightest doubt in my mind that it actually happened.

‘I was out on the Moor quite late one night, taking my dog Anderson for a walk. Anderson was a good girl, a German shepherd. She looked mean, but she was a big softy at heart.

‘Now, the Tourist Board will tell you not to go walking on the moor in the dark. I’ll tell you the same. But I’ve been tramping around there since I was a boy, so I know my way around. There’s also something about a night time stroll, good for clearing the head. I used to do it quite a bit.

‘But that night felt different. I’m not sure of the best way to describe it. The air felt ‘thicker’ somehow, heavier almost.

‘I didn’t pay it much mind.

‘We, Anderson and I, we’d been walking for about three quarters of an hour, when I suddenly felt the urge to sit down. I found a big rock and plonked myself down on it.

‘I gave Anderson something to drink and then took a nip from my hip-flask. 

‘It was at that point that I thought I heard running water, and not quiet either. It sounded nearby. Now I know the moor like the back of my hand, and there are no streams near that point. Maybe I’d got lost? No, that couldn’t be right. I don’t get lost out there. 

‘An overwhelming sense of curiosity seemed to come over me. I just had to know where the sound was coming from. I remember getting up and walking towards it. It seemed to get alternately louder and softer, but always just out of reach. 

‘I just had to find it. Nothing else seemed to matter at that point in time.

‘I don’t know how long I walked for. I seemed to lose all track of time.’

He trails off for a second, narrowing his eyes.

‘It was Anderson’s barking that snapped me out of that reverie. She seemed to come running out of the dark, yapping away at the top of her voice.

‘I felt a brief moment of what I can only describe as intense fear. As if something… something very bad was close. 

‘I looked down. I was standing in the marsh, muddy water up to my knees.’

Mr Rushton goes on to relate how he struggled out of the marshland with great difficulty, following the sound of his trusty dog’s voice.

When he finally reached his home on the outskirts of Bodmin Moor, the sun was beginning to rise.

‘Whatever that something was, Doctor, I have no doubt in my mind that it meant some nasty fate for me that night.’ 

Those are his final words on the subject.

#

Mr Rushton’s account is indeed odd, especially when uttered from the mouth of one as practical and level-headed as he so obviously is. I include it only as an example of the strange occurrences that have been experienced out on the moor.

Taken on its own, it is no more than a curiosity.

Some ten years later, something altogether more disturbing takes place.

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10th February 2017

Albert Pattinson is a disarmingly friendly individual, with the voice and mannerisms of a supply teacher. Now retired, in 1997 he was the local librarian and leader of one of Bodmin’s many rambling associations.

He kindly invites me for lunch at his small cottage where he shares with me his memories of that summer.

‘It was a glorious morning, I remember that. The 14th of August, I believe. The sun was shining and not a cloud in the sky.

‘We set off at about ten, from Temple. We were planning on covering a lot of ground that day.

‘There were about fourteen of us, mostly friends from the church. There was a fellow with us by the name of John Fortune. He bought his son with him, little eight year old Clive.

‘I was a little concerned that the boy wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pace, but John assured me that it would be fine. He said he’d carry Clive if he started to slow us down.

‘I was suspicious. That kid was a handful at the best of times. Always running about and poking things he wasn’t supposed to.

‘Sure enough, the boy started to drag his heels. John had to keep dropping back and shooing him on. The lad kept going on about wanting to see ‘the dragon’. Heaven knows what he was talking about.

‘There were grumblings from certain other members of the group about the child slowing us down, but no-one directly said as much. But a lot of tutting and eye-rolling, that’s for sure.’

He smiles and sips from a cup of coffee.

‘We stopped for lunch by Siblyback Lake. Straight away I knew something was wrong, John and his boy were nowhere to be seen.  

‘You’ve been on the moor, Doctor. You know it’s not exactly littered with hiding places. In fact, climb up on one of the higher tors and you can see for miles. And there was no sign of them at all.

‘We waited by the lake for an hour or so, but the pair didn’t show. It was unlikely, but maybe they’d turned around and gone back home?

‘So we carried on.

‘It was only the next morning when we found out that they’d never returned home at all.’

#

A search is undertaken the next day by members of the local police force and a veritable army of volunteers.

No traces of Mr Fortune or his son are discovered.

After five days, the search is called off.

Almost two months later, Clive Fortune is found huddling against a rocky outcrop by a local Scout group out on an orienteering expedition.

The young boy is taken to Bodmin hospital where it is determined he is in good physical shape, showing no signs of exposure or malnutrition. If anything, he appears well fed.

When questioned by a social worker regarding his disappearance and the whereabouts of his father, the young boy mutters ‘the dragon’.

He never speaks again.

Clive Fortune lapses into a dissociative state and is transferred to nearby Longview House, a residential mental health clinic.

He resides there to this day.

Bodmin3

I make several attempts to arrange a visit to the now twenty eight year old Clive Fortune. Each time I am told by the staff that he is not up to receiving visitors, and will not be for the foreseeable future.

Against my better judgement, I contact Sandra Fortune, Clive’s mother. Through tears, she tells me that her adult son has not spoken or responded to any questions for the last two decades, from her or anyone else. He spends his time in his room drawing pictures of a strange beast, pictures that he titles ‘the dragon’.

She agrees to email me a few examples. I have attached them to this file. They are unsettling, to say the least.

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So what happened out on Bodmin Moor that fateful day in the summer of 1997? Did some unseen force snatch Clive Fortune and his father away? Why was only the son returned, appearing to be unaffected, at least physically, by being out in the open for so long? And finally, what is the nature of the creature that the young man now spends his time sketching?

The police theorise, officially at least, that someone snatched Clive and did away with his father, returning the boy when he or she was done with him, and that Clive’s drawings are no more than an attempt to rationalise his experiences.

But the boy was examined thoroughly. He showed no signs of physical or sexual abuse.

No suspects were ever named. According to the police reports, the investigation quickly ran out of steam for want of people to even question.

It is but speculation, but perhaps the Fortunes encountered the same compelling force as Mr Rushton a decade earlier.

HBD2

I cannot help but notice parallels between this case and the bizarre disappearances that have taken place in the national parks of America in the last two centuries, and possibly even before that. These cases have been investigated by one David Paulides since 2010. Whilst I do not always agree with his conclusions, I believe a closer look at his work may be warranted.

As for the case of Clive Fortune, I fear that without a change in his condition, I am at a loss to offer any definite explanation as to what occurred on that summer’s day in 1997.

I would like to add, for the record, how sorry I am for any distress I have caused Ms Fortune. It was not my intention to open old wounds. I hope this serves as a reminder that, in investigating such events, we must tread both carefully and respectfully.

Our actions, no matter how sincere, always have consequences.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

– Another report that was difficult to type up, partly due to the state of the file and partly due to the nature of its contents. I did some digging and couldn’t find a Longview House in Cornwall, but there is a mental health unit called Longreach House. I called them up but was told in no uncertain terms that they would not discuss residents and their cases over the phone. Another dead end, I guess.  

Oh, and those final two paragraphs? That make me wonder who on Earth these reports are actually supposed to be for – C.R.  

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The Gotobed Diaries

Curator of weird tales.

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