Something strange is stalking Brighton and Hove and I’m not talking about Chris Eubank in his jodhpurs. From one side of the city to the other, locals have been spotting a large quadrupedal creature, which they describe as being either a big cat (such as a leopard) or a large canine (such as a wolf). Over the past 20 years this cryptid has attracted a variety of names in local press and online -the Portslade Panther, the Beast of Bevendean and the Hell Hound of Moulsecoomb. Whatever you chose to call the beast, one thing is absolutely certain, it is very out of place in the suburbs of Brighton and Hove.
The sightings started in the late 1990s. A number of people came forward to report having seen a large black cat, as big as a Labrador dog, in the Portslade and Hangleton areas of the city. Sightings were focused around West Hove Golf Club, but they were also made in more central locations. A milkman claimed to have seen the creature prowling through the streets near Portslade Station, whilst council workers reported seeing the beast skulking in the shadows at Hove Cemetery. The sightings continued for a period of several years, before petering out.
Some years after the Portslade Panther scare, local people in a different area of Brighton and Hove began seeing a similar creature. Bevendean, which is on the other side of the city to Hangleton and Portslade, was the location of a fresh spate of sightings. Several people in the area reported having seen the animal and one dog walker even alleged that it had attacked her pet, viciously scratching it. Members of the local community became so concerned that they organised into an action group.
Fear escalated within Brighton and Hove when, in 2009, the remains of a dead deer were found at Devils Dyke (north Brighton). The flesh had been entirely devoured, leaving a hollowed-out carcass of bone and skin. Wildlife experts argued that the responsible predator could not be indigenous to the United Kingdom. Whatever had killed this poor deer was very large, very powerful and very, very hungry.
Stories of big cats and other non-indiginous carnivores proliferate in Brighton & Hove folklore. The city borders the South Downs National Park to the north and to the east. This rolling expanse of countryside stretches for almost 100 miles and includes some very remote and wild places. The environment offers the perfect location for a large non-native carnivore to live and evade human detection. The park is also heavily populated with Fallow Deer, rabbits and game birds, providing a ready food source for a meat-eating predator.
However, it is not just big cats that the good folk of Brighton and Hove need to watch out for. Moulescoomb, which is a large residential area in the city, is said to be plighted by a hell-hound, much like that described in the legend of Black Shuck . For the past 30 years, reports have been made of a huge wolf-like creature within the vicinity of Moulescoomb Station. Lone commuters leaving the station at night report hearing the terrifying howls of the beast, which is said to stalk them from the shadows. There is some debate over whether this creature is connected to the big cat spotted in Portslade and Bevendean or whether it is an entirely different cryptid. Some even suggest that it is a ghost animal, rather than a living creature.
Discussing big cats on a paranormal website like this can feel discordant. After all, there is nothing paranormal about a panther or puma, even if it is spotted padding through an English park. However, until an official explanation is provided for why so many people across the country seem to see these creatures, they feel like fair game to me. The obvious explanation for the Portslade Panther / Beast of Bevendean is that it is a big cat that has somehow come to be living in the UK. Whether that is the result of escape, release or wild breeding is up for question.
Disregarding for a moment the obvious explanations for how a big cat might come to be living near Brighton and Hove, some paranormal theorist have provided an altogether more “out-there” reason. According to some, the big cats being spotted across the UK are present not because of escape, release or wild breeding, but because they have wandered through a space/time vortex that connects our reality either to the past or to a parallel universe. This explanation is also used in relation to human disappearances in national parks (they go the other way through the vortex). Could the Portslade Panther or Beast of Bevendean actually be an interdimensional time traveler? I’m not so sure, but it’s a fun idea to end on.
Photo of jaguar by Colin M.L. Burnett and used under the following license – Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)