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100 Ghosts: The Owlman of Mawnan

Apart from having a name which looks like an anagram of itself, I was totally intrigued by this ‘legend’ from the minute I was made aware of its existence by MJ Wayland over on Twitter. The more I read about it, the more I loved the story, probably for all the wrong reasons. There had been reports of a very large angry bird type thing in the churchyard as far back as the 1920s, whose reputation was enough to attract the attention of loved up Surrealists Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst who allegedly performed rituals to try to summon the beast in 1937. But the most famous sighting of the Owlman occurred in 1976 - whilst holidaying in Cornwall, two (probably v bored) young girls caught sight of what they described as a very large bird with glowing red eyes and claws like blacksmith’s pincers hovering over the church, as reported to monster investigator, storyteller, magician and all round character Tony ‘Doc’ Shiels. A number of other sightings were sporadically recorded but dismissed as having been engineered by Shiels, who had a bit of a reputation as a hoaxer. It’s all so obviously utter nonsense, and easily explained away (er, it’s a big owl) but there’s something about it which has captured the imagination of fans of the unexplained / Surrealist painters for decades. The idea itself is terrifying, the environs evocative and a bit spooky and the name of the place is a gift, like something out of Lord of the Rings. I based this picture on an old postcard of the churchyard, and for some reason decided the Owlman should be wearing a cable knit jumper, a pair of jeans and some brogue style boots, inspired as I was by the ones my friend Ruth was wearing yesterday when we met up for a walk.

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