The Saturday Strangeness

Dave Haste
By Dave Haste Last edited 124 months ago
The Saturday Strangeness
Beast

11. The Weirdest Creature!

It was a sunny day in October, the year 1878, when a naturalist and London Aquarium employee named Mr Davy exhibited his unusual beast, whilst on an afternoon stroll.

Many onlookers and passers by gasped at the bizarre form, a creature most certainly unknown to science and described at the time as, ‘a living cube’ – standing two-feet in height, being two-feet in length and bereft of abdomen, with its rear two legs almost situated directly behind its fore limbs. Its head was like that of a boar, as was the tail, and the body was covered in coarse hair. In Land and Water magazine at the time, editor Mr Buckland, who’d seen the traffic held up by the abomination, commented on the critter as a ‘demon’, or a gargoyle, although naturalist Thomas Worthington believed that such a beast might well have been the most unusual hyena.

Whatever the ‘animal’ was, it immediately caused outrage and hysteria. On one occasion, Mr Davy was so hounded and harassed that he fled into the bowels of an underground railway station to escape his pursuers. Mr Davy then boarded an underground train, hoping to strike fear into the hearts of the passengers. Mr Davy also terrified his own landlord with his new pet; the man was sent fleeing in horror from his home.

Whilst the beast never caused any harm, rumour had it that Mr Davy purchased the ‘exotic’ from some peasants whilst in southern France. Mr Davy told his friend, a Mr Leman, that he knew nothing of the language and so was unable to find out where the beast had come from or what exactly it was. However, in his fantastic chronicle of weird events, entitled Lo! (1932), author Charles Fort questions how such people managed to obtain such a ‘demon’, let alone a hyena! Nonetheless, between the years of 1764 and 1767, a bloodthirsty creature resembling a hyena went on the rampage in France, killing many women and children and evading capture.

Whilst no-one knows what happened to Mr Davy and his abominable pet, all this tale proves is that strange things have always been afoot in the capital.

By Neil Arnold

Sources: Charles Fort – Lo! (1932). Image taken (and cropped) from nedrichards’ Flickr photostream under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Last Updated 28 July 2007

siany

Saturday Strangeness is my favourite Londonist thing.