The supernatural will one day become the natural. As scientific understanding expands further and further and humanity’s comprehension of the universe continues to strengthen, it is my firm conviction that the paranormal annuls of the past will take on an altogether different tone and become illustrative of a primitive understanding based in ignorance. I often wonder how many infamous ghost stories and paranormal tales will one day be viewed through the prism of modern science and seen as no more than components of the natural order.
The Copper Man of Portsmouth may not be infamous, but it certainly falls into the category of paranormal tales that may soon be explained by modern scientific understanding. First reported in the late 18th Century, sightings reoccurred into the start of the 19th Century. Today, information on the Copper Man is sparse to say least. We at British Paranormal first became aware of this unusual entity in 2015 when a Portsmouth-based reader contacted us with details of some local archival research he had undertaken. He had initially been looking for information relating to the parish of Farlington (now part of Portsmouth), but in doing so, he turned up some very curious information indeed.
Following inquiries, a number of primary resources were made available to the researcher through various channels, including a diary belonging to Henry Albert Brand, a bookbinder, who had lived and worked in Hampshire in the late 18th Century. The diary kept record of Brand’s various trips in and around the county, as well as chronicling personal history and local stories of interest. On 6th September 1798, an entry in the diary made reference to a tale that left the researcher dumbfounded. A human with metal skin had apparently been sighted by a local vicar, whilst walking the country lanes near Farington. The vicar claimed that the man was no more that 4 feet in height, with a sturdy, muscular body and a large bulky head. His eyes were described as being like brightly polished shillings, “glistering” in the midday sun. He had no mouth, no nose and no ears and he wore no clothes.
Brand provided a lengthy and highly detailed account of the panic this creature caused in the surrounding environs. He noted in a later entry that the creature had been spotted again, near the now reclaimed land of Tipner Lake. A young farmer’s maid had been harvesting wild fennel when she beheld a man “of metal flesh” arise from the waters of the bay and walk several meters, before retracing his footsteps and submerging beneath the still surface again.
Initially, the researcher who was inspecting Brand’s private diary assuaged his feelings of confusion by reckoning that the ancient bookbinder was insane and the script that he now read was no more than the ramblings of a deluded and unwell mind. However, this comfort was soon swept aside when a second source emerged that proved that Brand had been anything but a lunatic. A letter, written by Dr Geoffrey Bramwell, attested to another panic in Portsmouth that focused on a flying metal man.
In 1801, a group of a dozen or so Portsmouth townsfolk gathered at an open air location near Portsmouth city center to exchange goods and produce. No sooner than the wares had been carefully laid out, a local candle-maker let out a shriek of fear so loud it made a hat maker fall giddy to the ground. The shriek was in response to a “grim ghoul” of “terrible countenance” replete with a skin of copper. The bizarre creature emerged from a nearby copse, then launched itself, like a golden bird, into the sky, where it soon disappeared out of sight.
So what was behind the Copper Man sightings of Portsmouth more than 200 years ago? In the absence of any simple explanation, our thoughts must surely turn to the possibility of an extraterrestrial being. The sightings took place during the Napoleonic era in an area close to the UK’s premier naval base during the height of the British Empire, so could it be that the Copper Man was surveying the state of humanity’s weaponry? Was it an alien, an interdimensional being or something worse? Unfortunately, the truth behind the Copper Man is lost to history
Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-13018 / CC-BY-SA 3.0