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The Wolves of Hexham

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At the turn of the 19th Century, Hexham, Northumberland, had a typically English countryside feel. Near to Hadrian's Wall, the busy market town prospered, and many people worked either on the land or at nearby factories. Around the town the wheels of progress were not yet in motion and the woodlands were still thick with trees. It was a place of scenic beauty and quaint rural happiness.

The Big Bad

But on 10 December, 1904 the town awoke to the local newspaper, the Hexham Courant, running the headline;

Wolf At Large In Allendale

Local farmers from the village of Allendale, very near to Hexham, had reported the loss of their livestock, so serious that many sheep were being stabled at night to protect them. A shepherd found two of his flock slaughtered, one with its entrails hanging out, and all that remained of the other was its head and horns. Many of the sheep had been bitten about the neck and the legs - common with an attack made by a wolf.

Hysteria soon set in. During the night, lanterns were kept burning to scare away the wolf, and women and children were ordered to keep to the busy roads and be home before dusk. The 'Hexham Wolf Committee' was soon set up to organise search parties and hunts to bring down the beast using specialised hunting dogs, the 'Haydon Hounds', but even they could not find the wolf. The Wolf Committee took the next step and hired Mr W. Briddick, a trained tracker. But he was also unsuccessful, despite searching the woods of Allendale and Wooley1.

Through December and over Christmas, the hunt for the wolf continued. Livestock was still being attacked, and on the 29 December the wolf was witnessed jumping a high wall. The next day it was seen running down and killing a black-faced ewe and apparently emboldened, the creature even got close enough to a group of local boys and young women, but it was frightened off by their shrill yelling and screaming.

Crying Wolf

Then, the body of a wolf was found on a railway line in Cumwinton, Cumbria, almost 30 miles (48km) west of Hexham. Had the Allendale wolf been found and killed? On 7 January, 1905 the Courant reported that the wolf on the railway line wasn't the one terrorising the Hexham and Allendale areas. The Wolf Committee had further evidence that there was a wolf still roaming around - with footprints, more carcasses and eyewitness accounts. Some locals believed that there wasn't just one wolf, but a whole pack living in the nearby woods. Further ideas suggested that the town had its very own werewolf!

However, come 21 January, 1905, the Courant was concentrating on the news of the Russian surrender to the Japanese at Port Arthur, during the Russo-Japanese War. The wolf was relegated to the back pages, with a description of a further hunt taking place with hounds, but later called off due to bad frost. And then, the attacks stopped. The sheep were safe, and although there were occasional reports of a large dog being seen in the woods, nothing more was said of the 'Wolf of Allendale' for decades to come. Until 1972.

The Hexham Heads

In February, 1972 the Robson boys were weeding their parent's garden not 10 minutes walk from where the 'Wolf of Allendale' stalked the woods. The pair soon unearthed two carved stone heads both about the size of tennis balls. A few nights after the discovery, neighbour Ellen Dodd was sitting up late with her daughter when both of them saw what they described as a 'half-man/half-beast' enter the bedroom. Although both mother and daughter screamed in terror, the creature seemed disinterested in them and walked off down the stairs. It was heard to be 'padding down the stairs as if on its hind legs', and the front door was later found open. It was assumed it had left the house in search of something else, but what no-one knew, or indeed was inclined to find out!2

Professional Interest

Soon, Dr Anne Ross took an interest in the apparently Celtic carved stone heads and took possession of the Hexham pair. She had several others that were similar and wanted to compare them, believing they were at least 2000 years old. Dr Ross lived and worked in Southampton at the time, and had heard nothing of the strange goings-on and apparent return of the 'Wolf of Allendale' associated with the carved heads. A few nights later at around 2.00am, she woke from sleep feeling cold and frightened. Looking up she saw a strange figure in the doorway of her bedroom;

It was about six feet high, slightly stooping, and it was black, against the white door, and it was half animal and half man. The upper part, I would have said, was a wolf, and the lower part was human and, I would have again said, that it was covered with a kind of black, very dark fur. It went out and I just saw it clearly, and then it disappeared, and something made me run after it, a thing I wouldn't normally have done, but I felt compelled to run after it. I got out of bed and I ran, and I could hear it going down the stairs, then it disappeared towards the back of the house.

Scared, but intrigued, Anne simply put the event down to a nightmare, but when she later returned home with her husband, archaeologist Richard Feacham, they found their teenage daughter, Berenice, distraught and in tears. After some coaxing she managed to explain the reason for her state, and Anne suddenly realised perhaps she had not been dreaming the night before. As Berenice later told, she had returned to the empty house at 4.00pm and opened the front door with her key. As it opened she saw a large shape rushing down the stairs toward her. Halfway down, the thing suddenly stopped and vaulted the banisters, landing with a soft thud like a heavy animal with thickly padded feet. Needless to say Berenice was terrified by the incident.

The End?

Eventually Anne Ross decided that the stone heads were the source of the problem, and promptly disposed of her whole collection. The Hexham finds were soon passed into the hands of other collectors, including the British Museum, where they were displayed to the public for a short time until reports of eerie occurrences forced them into storage. A dowser by the name of Frank Hyde attempted to find a paranormal link with the heads, and using copper mesh was able to apparently lessen their strange effects. Hyde later became uncontactable, and the 'Hexham Heads' fell out of favour.

Later on, there were claims that the heads were made in the late 1950s by the previous owner of the Robson's house in Hexham as toys, and had been lost in the garden - however the myth had taken root. They were also reportedly examined at Southampton and Newcastle Universities for proof of their age, but for now the artefacts have disappeared from public knowledge and their current whereabouts are unknown - just like that of the 'Wolf of Allendale' and the strange half-wolf/half-man.

1There were probably wolves in Hexham long before 1904, as Wooley itself means 'wolves' wood'!2Aside from TV series 'Nationwide' reporters in 1976.

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