Weird Suffolk: The Rendlesham Shug Monkey

Pic Simon Parker
Winter sunlight lights the trees through a tunnel of trees in Rend

EADT-Gallery Pic Simon Parker Winter sunlight lights the trees through a tunnel of trees in Rendlesham Forest.

In the dark, dark wood, there’s a dark, dark secret: a fantastical beast that’s part giant dog, part muscular bear and part enormous ape – is Suffolk home to the curious Shug Monkey?

Better known in neighbouring Cambridgeshire, the Shug Monkey is a supernatural creature said to frequent not only that county, but also Rendlesham Forest, a magnet for the unusual (albeit more famously for alien visitors).

In the Sandlings, something strange is said to stalk the forest floor.

In 1956, Sam Holland was taking a bracing January walk in the Suffolk countryside with his spaniel dog Harry when he spotted something unusual in the trees around 40ft in front of him.

There, in a thicket of trees, was a beast that Holland had never seen before, a kind of bizarre British bigfoot, a vast creature walking on four muscular legs (“like a lion’s”) covered in thick, glossy black fur. Easily 10ft in length, Holland struggled to place what the beast could be.

Panicking, his brain raced through the options, wondering whether he had stumbled across an escapee from the zoo or a private estate with its own menagerie: and then the creature turned towards his direction and stared directly at him.

As ice-cold terror crept over Holland, he was powerless but to stare back at the creature in horror: as it watched him and his whimpering dog, he saw that it had a dreadful, frowning face, similar to a silver-back gorilla.

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It possessed a thick neck, intelligent-looking, piercing eyes, wide and flared nostrils and terrifyingly huge jaws.

Man and beast stared at each other, one in abject terror, the other in what soon appeared to be utter nonchalance: after what seemed an eternity, the creature simply turned away and crept back into the dark forest.

When pushed, Holland said the beast had looked like a combination of an ape, a dog, a bear, a lion and a rhinoceros – he maintained his sighting had been genuine when questioned decades later, saying he believed the creature had been paranormal, rather than a natural wonder.

Seven years after Holland’s sighting, in the very same stretch of forest, a woman called Peggy Cushing saw an almost-identical sounding beast with one (fairly large) difference: as she stared at the beast in horror, it shimmered and then shifted its shape to become a winged gargoyle, taking flight into the darkness.

Jon Downes, director of the British-based Center for Fortean Zoology, has his own story about the creepy chimera from 1996: “An ex-girlfriend of mine – an East Anglian paranormal researcher – was in possession of some video-tape which showed the paw print of some huge animal like that of a cat or a dog, but far bigger and with strange flattened finger nails rather than claws,” he said.

“She thought that it was a print from an alien big cat of some description, but my immediate thought was of the semi-mystical Shug Monkey. When I later found that my friend and colleague, Jan Scarff, who was brought up in the vicinity of the air bases, also knew about the so-called Shug Monkey I became even more interested, and I have been collecting reports for some years.”

The Shug Monkey was first mentioned in print by local writer and broadcaster James Wentworth Day in his 1954 book, Here Are Ghosts and Witches.

A local Police Constable A. Taylor, who had heard the stories of the creature in his youth, described it to Wentworth Day as: “a cross between a big rough-coated dog and a monkey with big shining eyes. Sometimes it would shuffle along on its hind legs and at other times it would whiz past on all fours.”

The man also stated that after dark local children were warned to avoid the Shug Monkey’s favourite haunts, close to dark, dark forests.

The word ‘shug’ is believed to come from either the old English term ‘scucca’, which means demon, or a centuries-old local term, ‘shucky’, which means hairy or shaggy and is where East Anglia’s famous black dog takes its name. Are the pair related? Is the Shug Monkey, as some suggest, actually a werewolf? Or is it just one of Bigfoot’s stranger Uncles? Once again in Rendlesham Forest, the truth is out there.

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