For decades, there have been reports of big cats in the Cannock Chase area.
There have also been sightings of kangaroos, wallabies and even Bigfoot. Strange noises in the night, including piercing howls, and mysterious paw prints in the snow have only created further speculation that something is lurking in this little corner of Staffordshire.
However, one must question where these animals originated from.
During the late 1800s, a resident doctor, renowned zoologist and recognised expert on big cats, lived in Cannock and housed a whole host of animals in his own back garden that stood on the grounds of Cannock’s police station. Dr John Butter was well known for his ‘lair of beasts’ which included giant snakes, elephants, emus, ostriches, a wild ocelot and even a life-sized giraffe which, some neighbours said, regularly peered at them over the garden fence. An obscure character, Butter established a wide reputation. He often made house calls to his patients whilst being carted around the town by a zebra. For those who made it to his surgery, they were greeted in the waiting room by his pet monkey, Antony.
But what became of these animals? Are these the ancestors of the strange beasts spotted on Cannock Chase?
The Boer War showed just how respected Butter was, as the whole town gathered to bid him farewell when he went to do battle. However, it is a well-known fact that during this time, some of his creatures simply disappeared from his home. Were they stolen or did they escape?
At the outbreak of the First World War, further animals appear to have vanished as food supplies became rationed. No records can be found of them being donated to local zoos, to a travelling circus or even being put to sleep. Could it be that the doctor himself released his beloved animals into the wild during the night when nobody was watching? And what became of Antony the monkey? No-one knows.
Perhaps what residents have been witnessing are descendants of the animals that Dr Butter cared for. However, it is also possible the animals found new homes and no documentation of the transactions were ever recorded.
Whatever happened to Butter’s magnificent menagerie, we will never know. The doctor died in April 1920 having suffered from a mystery illness for ten days. Whether he released his creatures into the wild or not, remains a mystery. He took his secrets to the grave.
One thing is for sure - almost 100 years ago, exceptional animals were kept not too far from Cannock Chase, a place where there have been countless reports and sightings of animals and strange creatures not at all native to Britain
This article is from 10-03-2011, and is probably about as close to the truth as were gonna find