The Cornish Owlman Mystery

On July 17, 2014 by Tim Newman

Owlman Mawnan Artists Impression

I’m a fan of owls as many of you may know. They’re mysterious, they can swoop through the air pretty much silently and they can catch a mouse in pitch black thanks to their amazing hearing. Owls have also got cool goggley eyes and and a ridiculously supple neck. Owls have got a lot going for them.

The other day a friend of mine told me about the mysterious Cornish Owlman, or the Owlman of Mawnan. Terrifying tales of a huge bird monster were too much for me to resist, so I got down to some in-depth, pithy research which lasted almost 7 minutes. It was worth it.

The first Owlman sighting comes to us from a chap called Tony “Doc” Shiels, a paranormal investigator (alarm bells) in 1976. He was told the Owlman story by a fella called Don Melling. Melling had been on holiday in Mawnan, Cornwall with his two daughters. These two girls of his, June and Vicky (12 and 9) were walking in the forest near the old Mawnan church when they got themselves an awful fright. They saw a huge winged figure flying above the spire of the church.

The girls were terrified, ran home and the family left to travel back home to Lancaster cutting their holiday short. Our heroic paranormal investigator, Shiels, published the story in a pamphlet and had the population of Cornwall intrigued and terrified. Here’s June’s sketch:

Owlman Cornwal Mawnan


Two months later in July of the same year the second sighting occurred. Sally Chapman (14) and Barbara Perry were camping in the woods near the church. Sally was stood outside of her tent in the sinister half-light when she heard a horrible hissing sound from behind. She flung herself round and was faced with a human sized figure in the shape of an owl, the Owlman had returned. The creature had red eyes and pointed ears, as it flew into the air it revealed huge black claws below its boat-like body.

Coincidentally, the two camping girls had recently read the pamphlet about the Melling girls’ experience… coincidence? Well our fearless paranormal investigator Tony “Doc” Shiels was no fool, so he asked the girls to draw the Owlman separately. He deemed their doodles to be similar enough to coroborate their stories but also different enough to rule out collusion. Phew, I’m glad Doc was on hand to check that out for us.


The Owlman sightings continued throughout the next day and there were a couple more in 1978, all within spitting distance of Mawnan church. But then the trail ran cold. Many thoughtful types considered it highly suspicious that this whimsical paranormal investigator with a passion for hoaxes had been involved in the first two major sightings. Many came to the conclusion that he was telling porky pies, or at the very least, stretching the story. Not so fast Doubting Thomas…

Owlman Mawnan Stage Fright

In 1989 Jonathan Downes, an independent researcher, interviewed a guy called Gavin who had witnessed the creature. He described the Owlman as being grey, about five foot tall and with two huge black toes. Oh, and glowing eyes of course.

Then again in 1995, a woman from Chicago that had been holidaying in Cornwall wrote to the Western Morning News in Truro about her sighting of this awful Owlman. She described it as a “man-bird… with a ghastly face, a wide mouth, glowing eyes and pointed ears” plus the addition of “clawed wings”… *Shudder*

Is there any way to explain these mysterious sightings without recounting tales of devils and demons? Well, yes…

Owlman Mawnan Mystery

So what to make of this Dawnan Owlman then? There are at least three worthy theories, one is mental and the other two are more likely, here they are:

#1 Ley Lines

Dawnan church is supposed to lie on an intersection of ley lines, and on a prehistoric earthwork. What does that mean? It means that massive bird like humans with glowing eyes are more likely to occur after dark and scare children. Hmmm…

#2 Tony “Doc” Shiels is mental and/or lying

Tony “Doc” Shiels is mental and/or lying. Possible.

#3 Eagle Owl

Owlman Cornwal Mawnan Eagle Owl 2

The awesome eagle owl (Bubo bubo) was at one point native to this fair isle, although vanishingly rare now. These zygodactyls have two toes that point forward and a six foot wingspan. If you came across one in the woods at night you probably would freak out a touch, especially if you were a young girl that didn’t know much about zygodactyls.

These owls can still be found in some northerly outposts of the UK and they’re certainly strong enough to fly across the channel if need be. In 2013 a 58-year-old man was knocked to the ground and hospitalised in Inverness by one of these eagle owls, he said it felt like being hit on the back of the head with a brick; so the young girls of Owlman fame were right to be scared, whether the beast was paranormal or just a massive owl.

Owlman Cornwal Mawnan Eagle Owl

Animal Collection

Interestingly there’s recently been talk of reintroducing eagle owls to Scotland. Humans don’t have a particularly good track record when it comes to introducing new animals to places they don’t live, so perhaps we shouldn’t dabble. But an influx of Bubo bubo may well get us a new spate of Owlman sightings which would be entertaining, don’t you think?





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