The Owlman, sometimes referred to as the Cornish Owlman, or the Owlman of Mawnan, is a purportedly mysterious owl-like creature that, according to local folklore, was sighted around mid-1976 in the village of Mawnan, Cornwall, England. The Owlman is sometimes compared to America's Mothman, however a giant eagle owl is likely the source of the legend.
The story originated when paranormal researcher Tony "Doc" Shiels claimed to have investigated a report of two young girls on holiday in Mawnan who saw a large winged creature hovering above the church tower on April 17, 1976. According to most versions of the story, the girls, identified as June and Vicky Melling, were so frightened by the sight of a large "feathered bird-man" that their father Don immediately cut short their family holiday after hearing their tale. According to Sheils, one of the girls provided him with a drawing of the creature, which he dubbed "Owlman".
The story was subsequently related in a pamphlet entitled Morgawr: The Monster of Falmouth Bay by Anthony Mawnan-Peller, which circulated throughout Cornwall in 1976. According to Shiels, "Owlman" was reported again on July 3 by two 14-year-old girls identified as Sally Chapman and Barbara Perry, who were aware of the "Owlman" tale. According to the story, the two girls were camping when they were confronted by "a big owl with pointed ears, as big as a man" with glowing eyes and black, pincer-like claws.
Sporadic claims of "Owlman" sightings in the vicinity of the church circulated in 1978, 1979, 1989, and 1995, and according to legend, a "loud, owl-like sound" could be heard at night in the Mullion church yard during the year 2000.
According to author Joe Nickell, church towers are common nesting places for barn owls, which were likely the source of the sightings. In Modern Mysteries of the World (1989) British paranormal writers Janet and Colin Bord stated that they believed that the sightings were probably of an escaped aviary bird, and suggested that the whole thing may have been a hoax by Shiels, who was considered to be an "arch-hoaxer". Author and Fortean TV presenter Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe also identifies the sighting of a giant eagle owl as a likely source of the legend.
In popular culture
- The Owlman is a central character and in some respects the main antagonist in the 2013 Scottish horror film Lord of Tears.
- Tony Deane; Tony Shaw (1 March 2009). Folklore of Cornwall. History Press. pp. 109–. ISBN 978-0-7509-5652-9.
- "The Owlman of Mawnan: elaborate hoax or unsolved mystery?", Western Morning News, February 23, 2012, http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Owlman-Mawnan-elaborate-hoax-unsolved-mystery/story-15296864-detail/story.html
- Joe Nickell (29 September 2010). The Mystery Chronicles: More Real-Life X-Files. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 57–. ISBN 0-8131-3707-1.
- "This Spectred Isle - The Owlman of Mawnan Wood". Countryfile Magazine. BBC. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
- Peter Grego (15 July 2013). Cornwall's Strangest Tales: Extraordinary but true stories. Pavilion Books. pp. 139–. ISBN 978-1-909396-43-2.
- Janet Bord; Colin Bord (1980). Alien Animals. Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-0088-7.
- "This Spectred Isle - The Owlman of Mawnan Wood". BBC.
- Bord, Janet; Bord, Colin (1990). Alien Animals. Granada. (pp135–139, 141)
- Downes, Jonathan (1997). The Owlman and Others. Corby: Domra Publications. p. 239. ISBN 0-9524417-6-4.
- McEwan, Graham J. (1986). Mystery Animals of Britain and Ireland. London: Robert Hale. p. 224. ISBN 0-7090-2801-6. (pp150–153)