If you go down to the Chase today...
It may be Britain's smallest official 'beauty spot' but it also has one of the country's biggest reputations – as a hotbed for paranormal happenings.
Big cats, pig men, werewolves, unidentified flying objects – and now black-eyed children – are said to roam around the pine forests and heathland of Cannock Chase, whose 26 square miles make it the smallest designated area of natural beauty on mainland Britain.
Now the spectral spotlight is on the Chase again after reports of the resurgence of an eerie figure known as the 'black-eyed child'.
Local paranormal researcher Lee Brickley has been collecting stories about new sightings of the girl, said to have 'coal-black pits for eye sockets', over the past 18 months – some 30 years after she was first spotted.
For the 26-year-old, who is the author of 'UFOs Werewolves & The Pig-Man: Exposing England's Strangest Location – Cannock Chase', the place is special.
"There have been hundreds of reports of UFOs and big cats on the Chase over the years. I don't know what it is about the place. There 's an iron-age hill fort site, Castle Ring, at its highest point which is thought to have been occupied around AD 50 by the Celtic Cornovii tribe who are supposed to have carried out satanic rituals and human sacrifices there.
"It's where I choose to stand when I go UFO-spotting. Maybe it's got something to do with the ancient vibes.
"I don't try and present my findings in any way as though people should believe in these sightings. I just do the research, try and sift out the cranks and then put it out there for people to make up their own minds."
Since his book was published in July last year, which included one report of a black-eyed girl sighting, Lee has been contacted about claims of similar appearances.
The latest account to land on his desk was received last month. The report read: "On Saturday 13th September, my wife and I were walking though Cannock Chase near to Stile Cop with our dog. Once we had entered the woodland, and the road was no longer visible, we started to hear the giggling noise of a little girl.
"To our amazement, a child, no taller than one metre in height appeared as if out of nowhere further up the path in front of us. We stopped dead in our tracks after noticing her eyes had no colour. Her head was tilted to the side in much the same way it would appear if she had been hung.
"She stared at us for around five minutes before running away into a densely grouped area of trees. My wife wanted to follow her, but I was having none of it."
Lee , who works as a commercial blog writer, describes it as typical of the sightings that have been told to him.
He said: "It's mostly people walking their dogs, it's usually in the daytime and they are alerted by giggling, the girl appears about 100 metres in front and if they try and move towards her, she runs off into the trees or, in a couple of cases, disappears in front of them.
"It's good to get couples contacting me because it means they can corroborate each other's sighting."
The account in his book which sparked the flurry of emails on the black-eyed child to his website was by his aunt in 1982, when she was 18.
Lee, of Rumer Hill, Cannock, says: "There are people out there who sound trustworthy enough in emails but when you go to interview them it's clear they're just having a laugh.
"But after a while you build up a file of genuine research, and it makes you wonder."
But it's not all about the paranormal. Lee ventures a rational explanation for apparent sightings of puma-like cats on the Chase, which have received more press than any other phenomena reported in the area.
He believes the 1976 Dangerous Animals Act, which made it illegal to keep fierce and predatory creatures as pets without a licence, may have prompted some people to release their wild beasts into countryside locations.
Although many would have struggled to survive unaided, he speculates whether some species might have been more suited to the English climate than others and been breeding secretly for the last 40 years.
He cites the discovery in 1989 of the body of an Asian jungle cat in Ludlow, around 25 miles from Cannock Chase, which some believe could have mated with local domestic cats, creating a race of super-moggies, although he notes the 'serious research community' are notably divided on the issue.
In 2009 the Express & Star reported that an expert who had been advising the police about the existence of big cats in England's woodlands believed pumas have been breeding on Cannock Chase since the 1940s, dubbing the area a 'hotspot'. Only weeks previously, a deer had been found dead with two puncture holes to the neck,trademark signs of a big cat attack.
Another man, from Norton Canes, had stumbled upon, and taken photographs of, a paw-print measuring 5in x 6in within a couple of weeks of the deer death.
Other reported paranormal visitors include a pig-man – half-man, half-swine – said to have been roaming the woodland since the 1940s, and werewolves.
One of Lee's theories on the black-eyed child is that it is 'some kind of demon'.
He said: "Almost all the reports involve the child leading people towards potentially dangerous situations. I've received several accounts in the last 18 months – nine that I've investigated – from seemingly credible witnesses, and they've all been very similar."
He is appealing for more eye-witness accounts on the black-eyed child or any other paranormal activity on the Chase. Anyone with information is asked to contact him at leebrickley.weebly.com/
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