7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 9 March 2008
In 'Mystery Big Cats', Merrily Harpur sets out the evidence for the presence of anomalous big cats in Britain. Quoting directly from dozens of fascinating witness reports, she paints a most convincing picture of a landscape inhabited by cats of panther, puma or lynx type, which, along with others that are more mysterious because less readily identifiable, are seen regularly by a wide range of surprised, horrified or delighted witnesses.
Step by step Merrily examines the various theories and themes of British big cat research: hard evidence (kills, footprints, bodies, skulls), photos and films, escapes, hybrids, hide-outs and so on. She then gives her own view on the origins of the cats, a view at once controversial and compelling.
Like all books from Heart of Albion Press, this is a quality publication, well-written, well researched, well-produced, an excellent introduction to the topic that will nevertheless take you deep into the complexities of Britsh big cat research.
Are they out there? Read the book, review the evidence, consider the theories, make up your own mind.
on 1 December 2012
The author of this book, Merrily Harpur, is the sister of Patrick Harpur, the author of "Daimonic Reality". It shows. In many ways, Merrily attempts to apply her brother's spiritual-philosophical insights on the strange phenomenon known as phantom cats, phantom panthers or ABCs (Alien or Anomalous Big Cats).
All across Britain, people are seeing anomalous, feline creatures which simply shouldn't be there. Often, they are described as "black panthers". Sceptics consider it a piece of modern folklore, perhaps triggered by misidentifications of real animals (large domestic cats or black dogs). The British black panther would therefore be something similar to a ghost, an UFO or Nessie, which sceptics don't believe in either. Escaped exotic pets or a relict population of an unknown feline species are other attempted explanations. The British authorities (in contrast to American and Australian ones) often take the reports of "black panthers" in the countryside seriously enough to organize search parties. Once, the Marines were sent to catch the elusive Beast of Exmoor! So far, no Alien Big Cat has ever been caught.
Merrily Harpur strongly doubts that ABCs are real, flesh-and-blood animals. She points out that most reports don't match a known species of big cat. For instance, the ABCs are often jet-black, but with no visible spots - on a real black panther (a melanistic leopard or jaguar), the spots (rosettes) are still visible. Even stranger, ABCs which aren't black can come in all shapes and sizes. One eye-witness saw an anomalous big cat which looked like an enormous Siamese! Another reported a creature similar to a King Cheetah, an obscure subspecies of the Cheetah, not likely to be on the loose in Britain, not even as an escaped pet. Harpur also notes that virtually no regular leopards have been reported by eye-witnesses. Yet, in real life, regular leopards are much more common than black panthers, including in zoos, circuses and menageries. If the ABCs are escaped exotics, England's greenest hills should be littered with leopards, not panthers... Another interesting fact is that most ABCs until the 1980's were tawny, with the black version becoming dominant afterwards. This suggests some kind of cultural process at work, not an actual population of escaped big cats. The author has even found consistent reports of big black cats on the small Isle of Mull west of Scotland, which takes over an hour to reach by ferry. How did the panthers get there and establish a breeding population?
Other things also suggest that the ABCs aren't physically real. They have an uncanny ability to appear and disappear at will, run incredibly fast, jump incredibly high, disappear with no problem trough the thickest bramble bushes, etc. People attacked by phantom cats do have scares, but they don't match those of an actual cougar or leopard. Indeed, the real thing would probably have killed the witnesses, or mauled them beyond recognition! Other animals react in unnatural ways towards ABCs. Several witnesses have seen black panthers strolling around sheep, with the sheep not noticing anything out of the ordinary. Conversely, dogs often react to an unseen presence before (or after) the phantom cat shows itself. The reactions of the human eye-witnesses are also peculiar. While many are scared, many others feel privileged and awed by the jet-blacks mega-cats, as if seeing a numinous being. The Oz effect has also been reported. Witnesses with cameras handy forget to use them, and most photos of the "panthers" seem to show domestic cats. (A few are harder to explain away, including a bizarre photo of a *White* big cat!)
Merrily Harpur eventually reaches the conclusion that the phenomenon is paranormal or "daimonic", to use her terminology (borrowed from Patrick Harpur's book). After painstakingly looking for some kind of pattern in the ABC sightings, Merrily Harpur believes that the mystery cats are associated with railways, ditches, caves and golf courses (sic). She speculates that these places radiate yin energy, somehow represented by the cats (by contrast, mystery dogs are yang and associated with rivers). However, in a later chapter it seems that Harpur gives up all attempts to classify the phenomenon, with the argument that the daimonic cannot be classified in the first place. The Anomalous Big Cats are products of the World Soul standing in between Man and the Divine, challenging our Imagination. They are both objective (out there) and subjective (in our minds). Indeed, the daimons are, in a sense, real creatures inside us... At this point, the book becomes about as difficult to understand as Patrick's "Daimonic Reality". Merrily is sure of one thing, though. By repressing the daimonic inside us, it will simply become more robust and perhaps more threatening on the outside. She ends by pointing out that mysterious black felines have been spotted in Germany, Netherlands, Sweden...
The daimonic reality is bursting through. Where it will all end, remains to be seen.
"Mystery Big Cats" is a good read, and recommended to cryptozoologists, folklorists, monster-hunters of all persuasions and even New Age believers.
on 13 March 2015
This is a truly magical book! I know that the word magical is thrown around a lot but let me explain exactly what I mean by that: it casts a spell all of its own, beginning with careful and diligent compiling of the evidence, but with each chapter ratcheting up a magnificent sense of paradox and weirdness, so that by the end one is left with a feeling that something truly extraordinary is going on here. But at the same time, the author does this in a non-sensationalist, calm and balanced way. As with all daimonic phenomena, it shows what happens when someone intelligent, literate and open minded takes the trouble to carry out an in-depth study of the subject. If you want your sense of enchantment and mystery enhanced and Blakean 'double vision' restored, then this book is for you! And remember to check out brother Patrick's magnificent oeuvres too! These Harpurs know their stuff alright and write beautifully! We should cherish them!!
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2006
The Anomalous Big Cat phenomena is world wide. Here across the pond, they share the stage with kangaroos, alligators and sasquatch. Merrily deals mostly with the British sightings with only brief mention of the vast number of incidents around the world. Those she does cite are very special and relate directly to her working theory. The book is very readable and great fun as well. It should be an instant classic. It's witty and charming like the author herself and as scholarly it needs to be. Her brother needs to look to his laurels; this book is going to wow the Forteans and the Cryptozoologist's as well.
Her use of extensive photographs and her cartoonists' sense of the essence of things,make this a clear,incisive,and entertaining study of a very confusing and disquieting field. The quality of humor is essential to fortean philosophy and the new lady has it down pat.
5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 30 July 2008
Apart from Karl Shuker's 'Mystery Cats Of The World' and the more recent Marcus Matthews offering, 'Big Cats: Loose In Britain', the so-called mystery of exotic felids prowling the UK wilds has been given a bad deal with regards to books on the situation. This is no exception. Of course, if you're a Fortean easily lead/pleased by relations of big cats to UFOs, demonic entities and the likes, then this book is for you, otherwise, read one of the two already mentioned. Large cats in the UK are no mystery at all, but all the while books sucha s this emerge then these animals will continue to inhabit the murky depths of folklore and forever remain the stuff of newspaper headline.
Marcus matthews impressive tome takes us back to the good old days when research was exciting and animals such as the Beast of Bodmin, Exmoor and Surrey Puma were being reported, but nowadays there are too many theories which are more wild than the animals themselves. Merrily Harpur is a good writer, but logging reports and creating foggy mysteries beyond the realm of a situation which is centuries old, doesn't do the 'British big cat' situation any good.