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URECAT - UFO Related Entities Catalog

URECAT is a formal catalog of UFO related entities sightings reports with the goal of providing quality information for accurate studies of the topic. Additional information, corrections and reviews are welcome at patrick.gross@inbox.com, please state if you wish to be credited for your contribution or not. The main page of the URECAT catalog is here.

AUGUST 2, 1978, MAWNAN CHURCH, CORNWALL, U-K., THREE YOUNG STUDENTS:

Brief summary of the event and follow-up:

In the 1970's and 1980's, around the old church of Mawnan, Cornwall, England, the notion that people have repeatedly seen an "Owlman" appeared.

One of the sightings was on, or around, August 2, 1978 by three young unnamed French girls. No hour is given. The landlady of the boarding house in which they had been staying told Tony "Doc" Shiels, a local eccentric who was instrumental in getting such reports known, that the three girls had been frightened by something "very big, like a big, furry bird with a gaping mouth and round eyes."

This is all there was as of he sighting, the three girls did not tell more or did not want to tell more. Tony Shiels left a message for the girls to contact him, "but as always seems to be the case he never heard anything further."

Tony Shiels wrote to researcher Jonathan Downes in 1995 explaining how he had become involved: "The French girls were students (at Camborne Tech - now known as Cornwall College), lodging in Redruth. I think they were on some sort of 'summer school' course. Their landlady phoned me about this sighting."

Although no UFO is involved, although the girls said it was a bird, although several authors understood it was probably really an owl, the case was not just considered a fortean or cryptozoology topic, but also appeared, raw, without explanation, in a "humanoid encounters" catalogue.

Basic information table:

Case number: URECAT-001072
Date of event: August 2, 1978
Earliest report of event: August 2, 1978?
Delay of report: Hours, weeks?
Witness reported via: Told their landlady, who told local person, who talked about it.
First alleged record by: Eccentric local researcher Tony Shiels.
First certain record by: "Mysteries" book.
First alleged record type: Eccentric local researcher.
First certain record type: "Mysteries" book.
This file created on: December 17, 2011
This file last updated on: December 17, 2011
Country of event: U-K.
State/Department: Cornwall
Type of location: Near old church.
Lighting conditions: Not reported,
UFO observed: No
UFO arrival observed: N/A
UFO departure observed: N/A
UFO/Entity Relation: None
Witnesses numbers: 1 to 3
Witnesses ages: Not reported. Teenagers or young adults.
Witnesses types: Female students, French, from local technical college.
Photograph(s): No.
Witnesses drawing: No.
Witnesses-approved drawing: No.
Number of entities: 1
Type of entities: Bird
Entities height: Very tall
Entities outfit type: None.
Entities outfit color: N/A.
Entities skin color: Not reported.
Entities body: Not reported. Furry bird.
Entities head: Not reported.
Entities eyes: Round.
Entities mouth: Gaping.
Entities nose: Not reported.
Entities feet: Not reported.
Entities arms: Not reported.
Entities fingers: Not reported.
Entities fingers number: Not reported.
Entities hair: Not reported.
Entities voice: None heard.
Entities actions: Not reported.
Entities/witness interactions: Not reported.
Witness(es) reactions: Observed.
Witness(es) feelings: Not reported.
Witness(es) interpretation: Not reported.
Explanation category: Confusion, owl. Not UFO-related.
Explanation certainty: High.

Narratives:

[Ref. ff1:] LIONEL AND PATRICIA FARNTHROPE:

The authors report that in August 1978 three French young girls staying in a boarding house in Falmouth, Cornwall, U-K., reported to their landlady that they had seen something like "a very big furry bird with a gaping mouth and round eyes."

[Ref. ge1:] GEORGE EBERHART:

The author says the final "Owlman" sighting in Cornwall took place on August 2, 1978. Three French young girls saw a big furry bird with a gaping mouth and big eyes by the Mawman church.

The author says that possible explanations are an espaced Eurasian Eagle-Owl (Bubo Bubo) not normally seen in the British Isles, or much confusion, if not deliberate hoax.

[Ref. ad1:] "AUTUMN DAZE":

The website says that there was a sighting by a group of three young French girls who were staying at a boarding house and were students at what is now known as Cornwell College. The students would not give their names and did not want to talk about the sightings.

[Ref. gd1:] JONATHAN DOWNES:

Jonathan Downes says the "Owlman", (a term coined by Tony "Doc" Shiels in late 1976), was seen again on the 2nd August 1978 by three young unnamed French girls. The landlady of the boarding house in which they had been staying told Tony Shiels that the three girls had been frightened by something "very big, like a big, furry bird with a gaping mouth and round eyes."

This is all that the landlady told him, so so Tony Shiels left a message for the girls to contact him, "but as always seems to be the case he never heard anything further."

Jonathan Downes notes that many commentators on the case have questioned Tony's role in the affair. Investigator Mark Chorvinsky of Strange magazine even claimed that because so many of the sightings were connected with him, that Tony had made the whole thing up.

Jonathan Downes disagrees with this, opposing that the reticence of the Cornish people would not have made anything public and that Tony Shiels' role was only to have made the sightings known outside the places.

He says Tony Shiels wrote to him in 1995 explaining how he had become involved: "The French girls were students (at Camborne Tech - now known as Cornwall College), lodging in Redruth. I think they were on some sort of 'summer school' course. Their landlady phoned me about this sighting."

[Ref. ki1:] "KITHRA'S KRYSTAL KAVE" WEBSITE:

The website says that on August 2, 1978, in the area of Mawman Church, three young French girls staying in Redruth while attenting Camborne Technical college, now known as Cornwall college, told their landlady that they had seen somehting "very big like a big furry bird with a gaping mouth and round eyes."

The report was made to Doc Shiels, very well known local "character" who seems to figure somewhere in most "Owlman" reports from the area.

[Ref. ar1:] ALBERT ROSALES:

Albert Rosales indicates in his catalogue that in Mawman Church, Cornwall, England, on August 2, 1978, at night, three young French tourists watched a large leathery furry owl-like creature flying over the woods, it had large claws, red round eyes, and a large gaping mouth. No other information.

Albert Rosales indicates that the source is "Graham MacEwan, Mystery Animals Of Britain and Ireland."

[Ref. wi1:] WIKIPEDIA EN:

[...]

Because both of the 1970s sightings involved "Doc" Shiels, an eccentric with a fondness for hoaxes, researcher Jonathan Downes acknowledges that Shiels could have invented the Owlman. However, Downes claims to have interviewed a young man, whom he calls "Gavin", who encountered the Owlman in 1989, independently of Shiels. [...]

[...]

An Eagle Owl?

A more straightforward explanation may be that the Owlman sightings were of an escaped eagle owl (Bubo bubo), a species that can grow more than two feet long, with a wingspan of nearly six feet. This is supported by a report by Karl Shuker of a late 1980s sighting of the Owlman. The witness described it as four feet high, with two large toes on the front of each foot. It ducked down and forwards before it took off. Shuker states that this "calls to mind a very large owl". The structure of the feet is also consistent with an owl identity, as owls have an arrangement of the toes known as zygodactyly, in which two toes point forwards and two backwards. A colony of eagle owls exists in North Yorkshire, and the bird is reportedly capable of crossing the English Channel.

Points to consider:

Owlman 1976 Owlman 1976

However, it is perhaps not useless to show sketches from the Owlman sightings in 1976 - left.

It is rather clear that what is shown here is an owl, not terribly exaggerated into an abnormal creature.

There are numerous other references in the cryptozoology litterature about the so-called Cornwall Owlman. As most do not mention the particular sighting by "Miss Opie", I omit these from this file.

Mawman Old church

Left: Mawman Old church.

The tall trees that an owl may appreciate are visible.

The cemetery certainly added much scary atmos in the minds of the teenagers reporting the "Owlman".

To teen students, maybe in the night - no hour is given - from a perhaps important distance - the distance is not given which tells a lot of the lack of serious in this matter - this creature, not very ordinary there, with its light-reflecting eyes, its big size, could appear quite impressive.

Left: Red eyes.

The Eurasian eagle owl is a large owl with large tufts of ear and luminous orange eyes. The tufts of the males' ears are more straight than those of the females. The chin, the throat and the chest are white. The rest of the feathers are gray, with different nuances depending on subspecies. Their claws are large and black. It can direct its legs ahead or backwards when it flies.

The first explanation of puzzling entities as owls appeared in Charles Fort's 1919 book. It is thus quite ironic that so many Fortean researchers do not consider this possible explanation for such cases, preferring outlandish "explanations" such as "thoughts forms" etc.

In ufology, it was with the infamous Sutton case that former Major Donald Keyhoe, a proponent of the thesis of the alien visitors, proposed that the creature might have been some owl nested in a tree and not an extraterrestrial monster, his opinion being quoted later by Joe Nickell of the skeptic group CSICOP.

Joe Nickell made the explanation his own for this same case, as well as for the case of Kelly in 1955, and according to Joe Nickell, it was then shared by skeptic ufologist Renaud Leclet, France, who then started to look for others such cases where this explanation can apply. I was the only French ufologist to my knowledge not to react to the explanation by useless scoffing, the way it was generally was welcomed in France and also in the United States.

Related sightings:

June 1978, Mawnan Church, Cornwall, U-K., Miss Opie.

List of issues:

Id: Topic: Severity: Date noted: Raised by: Noted by: Description: Proposal: Status:
None.

Evaluation:

Confusion, owl. Not UFO-related.

Sources references:

* = Source I checked.
? = Source I am told about but could not check yet. Help appreciated.

Document history:

Authoring

Main Author: Patrick Gross
Contributors: None
Reviewers: None
Editor: Patrick Gross

Changes history

Version: Created/Changed By: Date: Change Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross December 17, 2011 Creation, [1].
1.0 Patrick Gross December 17, 2011 First published.

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This page was last updated on December 17, 2011