Paranormal researcher Deborah Hatswell traces her fascination with the uncanny to one bizarre experience she had as a young girl.
Despite a lifetime of research she still can’t say for certain whether what she saw was a real flesh and blood ape-man somehow surviving in the industrial north-west of England, a window through time to an earlier age, or a demon from Hell itself.
She says that at the time she had never heard of Bigfoot, or the Yeti, when a huge hairy ape-like beast thrust its face out of the bushes as she and a friend were walking in a garden in Pendleton, Salford.
She tells the Daily Star Online: “That’s why I started to search for others in my town who had seen something similar.
“I was very lucky that I did manage to find a number of people who also saw ‘him’ or something like him…”
Her bizarre encounter happened in on a warm, sunny afternoon in 1982. She added: “I was chatting and laughing with my friend when we both caught a very slight movement in the bushes and shadows.”
“The next moment,” Deborah continued, “a huge hairy gorilla ape-type face was thrust at us from the bushes.
“We both screamed while it just glared at us from within the bushes.
“It was a huge thing, it looked like a man and an ape had been pushed together. It definitely wasn’t a kid in a mask…”
Some years later, Deborah commissioned a police sketch artist to draw the face that she saw that day: “[the creature] was dark leathery skinned, he had amber dark eyes and his hair was really dark brown that it almost looked black, but it also had a redness to it.
“His jawline was thickly muscled and his mouth and teeth were like ours, his nose was flattish like a boxer’s.”
The 15-year-old Deborah was terrified. So terrified in fact, she confessed, that she pushed her friend over in her haste to get away from the terrifying beast: “I acted without thought, I was that traumatised,” she said.
“My dad was a big hefty man, he was a builder, loved his boxing and sports and was at his peak of fitness back in 82.
“This thing made my dad look tiny, he could of flicked my dad with one finger easily without any effort. I have never been so scared in my life.”
Whatever Deborah saw, her friend saw it too. The two spoke about it afterwards but while Deborah was inspired to learn more about the bizarre phenomenon, her friend just wanted to put the matter behind her. “We did keep in touch for a number of years afterwards,” Deborah told Daily Star Online, “In fact we went to each other’s weddings back in late 88.
“Sadly we are no longer in touch.”
Deborah said: “Over the years I have investigated possible the flesh and blood angle… a surviving prehistoric hominid, or wild human… but I have never been able to pin that down.”
“Now,” she says,”I wonder if it was a time-slip or a paranormal event.” There are multiple reports of people accidentally “time travelling” such as the two women walking in the palace of Versailles in 1901 that suddenly found themselves in 1792.
Over the years she has also wondered if there might be a possible connection to Elizabethan occultist John Dee.
Dee lived in Chetham’s School, then Christ’s College, around 10 minutes from where Deborah saw her strange apparition. He left the college in disgrace in 1603, surrounded by rumours that he had summoned Satan to “seek advice and wisdom.”
Perhaps, Deborah wonders, 400 years later the Dark Lord was till hanging around.
Whatever sprang out and frightened two Salford schoolgirls back in the days of Mrs Thatcher and the Falklands War, it hasn’t gone away.
“The reports still come in, almost weekly these days,” she says. She’s plotted the most convincing ones on a map.
From the tale of a woman in 1984 who saw a “podgy” caveman with unmistakably male genitals on display to a cyclist in 2012 who saw a “orangish hairy naked human like creature” she has collected dozens of accounts.
“I had no way of describing what I saw back then, but I knew other people must have seen them too,” says Deborah.
“Many years later I did find some similar looking ‘creatures’ in archives and books. In my head he is still the ape man, the popular name is British Bigfoot, Woodwose, Wildman.
“I wonder what he calls himself?” she says.