Legends of these ostensibly amphibious marine dragons date back to the middle ages and unsuspecting individuals have had terrifying encounters with a 30-foot long beast as recently as the 20th Century.
Surrounded by 60-foot cliffs, Filey Brigg is a lengthy rock ridge that juts nearly a mile into the North Sea. Frequented by fishermen from the nearby North Yorkshire village of Filey, the place has long been associated with inexplicable entities and even demonic beings.
Legends claim that the peninsula itself was created by the devil for the specific purpose of causing ship wrecks. Another fable contends that the Brigg was formed by nothing less than the skeleton of a huge dragon, which had been felled by a brave tailor with the questionable name of “Billy Biter.”
Whatever geological or mythical event it may have been that caused Filey Brigg to rise from the sea, there is no doubt that it is a place of great natural beauty, outstanding angling and mysterious monstrosities; specifically DRAGONS.
One such account, hailing from times of yore, concerns a scaly behemoth that used to lounge about in a tidal inlet, which was open to the sea and ran down the spine of the Brigg. The villagers of Filey referred to this inlet as the Gulley, and — as one might imagine — they were none too keen to have a dragon move in on their turf.
According to local historian, Kath Wilkie, the dragon was enticed to eat a great amount of “parkin” — essentially a Northern English form of gingerbread — which caused its maw to become so sticky that it leapt into the crashing waves and tried to use water to dislodge the sugary confection from its jaws. The intrepid villagers’ then seized the moment and were able to kill the saurian interloper.
Others suggest that the legend of Billy Biter and the that of the cake engorged monster might actually be one in the same. Records show that Ralph Parkin and Mary Brumfitt were married on August 10, 1794, at St. Oswald’s Church in Filey, but that is where official records end.
According to this version of the legend, the former Ms. Brumfitt would lure the local sea dragon away from the Brigg utilizing her famed sticky cake, which it apparently cherished. Unlike the more dramatic tale of the villagers attacking the creature in the sea, this story ends with the beast simply succumbing to too much unhealthy food and expiring. Needless to say the cake was thereafter called “parkin” to commemorate the rather anticlimactic event.
As entertaining as these stories are, there may well be kernels of biological truth buried in the more fanciful elements. The 20th Century chapter of this fascinating story begins at about the time as reports were starting to filter out of the Loch Ness region.
I first came across the more modern elements of this intriguing case in the pages of famed LOCH NESS MONSTER investigator and photographer, Tim Dinsdale’s extraordinary 1966 compendium of lake and SEA MONSTER reports titled: “The Leviathans”
In his book, Dinsdale related a news clipping that had been sent to him by Hope Smeeton of Crumlin, Ireland. The account had been published on March 1, 1934, in the Daily Telegraph. The headline read: “Coast Guard Meets Monster by Night — Eyes like saucers, two huge humps”
The titillating title only served to hint at the encounters it described. No less than two run-ins with a large, mysterious and possibly amphibious monster are included in the article. The first deals with four unnamed fishermen who had dealt with much skepticism after claiming to have seen the creature while in their (no doubt small by comparison) boat. From the original article:
“When fishermen told us a fortnight ago in Filey that they had seen a Monster of unclassified but awe-inspiring species, about three miles out to sea, we were skeptical. The fishermen, perhaps discouraged, said no more, and we concluded the Monster had gone off to the same retreat as its Loch Ness relative.”
Therein ends the commentary regarding the anglers’ odd encounter, but there were plenty of details revealed about the second reported sighting of what the Daily Telegraph writers presumed to be the same beast.
This time it was a member of the coastguard who claimed to have seen this LEVIATHAN while it lolled about the rocky coast of the Brigg on February 28, 1934.
What makes this case so special is the fact that the second sighting occurred on land. This is an almost unheard of event in annals of Sea Monster lore, wherein the bulk of the eyewitness encounters transpire in the deep oceans where water conceals some (if not most) of the usually large and decidedly anomalous animals that are seen.
The key (and apparently only) witness to the second event was a seasoned coastguard named Wilkinson Herbert. Herbert, who was taking a leisurely stroll on the night in question gave a full account of what he observed to the Daily Telegraph:
“Now, however, Mr. Wilkinson Herbert, a Filey coastguard, says he saw the thing on shore last night; a dark moonless night. He was walking along Filey Brigg, a long low spur of rocks running out to the sea, when: ‘Suddenly I heard a growling like a dozen dogs ahead, walking nearer I switched on my torch [flashlight], and was confronted by a huge neck, six yards ahead of me, rearing up 8 feet high!’”
Herbert went on to describe the visage of the monster that was staring at him on that isolated peninsula:
“The head was a startling sight — huge, tortoise eyes, like saucers, glaring at me, the creature’s mouth was a foot wide and its neck would be a yard around.”
Although the sea dragon could have easily dragged Herbert out to sea or even simply bitten him in half, it seemed as if — like so many cryptids — this burly beast was just as frightened by the coastguard as he was of it, which is interesting considering just how large it was:
“The monster appeared as startled as I was. Shining my torch along the ground, I saw a body about 30 feet. long.”
The considerable girth of the animal should have been enough to spook even the heartiest of souls, but Herbert was seemingly daring enough to attempt to provoke the creature:
“I thought ‘this was no place for me’ and from a distance I threw stones at the creature. It moved away growling fiercely, and I saw the huge black body had two humps on it and four short legs with huge flappers on them. I could not see any tail. It moved quickly, rolling from side to side, and went into the sea.”
It’s worth mentioning that Herbert’s overall description of this creature seems very similar to Nessie as well as many other freshwater plesiosaur-like LAKE MONSTERS seen throughout the world. As soon as the creature took to the sea, Herbert decided to climb one of the steep cliffs nearby to get a better vantage point:
“From the cliff top I looked down and saw two eyes like torch-lights shining out to sea 300 yards away. It was the most gruesome and thrilling experience. I have seen big animals abroad, but nothing like this.”
Is this creature, perhaps, a descendent of the dragon(s) that once terrified fishermen on the rocky shores of Filey Brigg? Or is it a heretofore UNCLASSIFIED marine animal that just happened upon the shallows near that notorious rocky outcropping?
Either way, each of us are now armed with one piece of essential knowledge: “dragons love cake.” It’s this kind of information that could come in handy if we ever happen to find ourselves besieged by a colossal, toothy monstrosity… and have access to a hand mixer, some cake mix and an oven.
Rob Morphy is an artist / journalist / filmmaker / designer / crypto chronicler / pod host / cult movie lover and co-founder of American Monsters.