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URECAT - UFO Related Entities Catalog

URECAT is a formal catalog of UFO related entities sightings reports with the goal of providing quality information for accurate studies of the topic. Additional information, corrections and reviews are welcome at patrick.gross@inbox.com, please state if you wish to be credited for your contribution or not. The main page of the URECAT catalog is here.


Brief summary of the event and follow-up:

Around Mawnan Old Church, Cornwall, U-K., sightings of what was then called the "Owlman" were reported mostly between 1976 and 1978. The witnesses were often young, and the publicity was given by one Tony "Doc" Shiels, a local character described in some sources as not exactly the most scientific mind.

One of these reported sightings goes as follows: "Doc" got a phone call from one Ken Opie who told him that his 16-year-old daughter had seen the owlman during the first week of June, saying it was a demon-like monster flying up through the trees near Mawnan Church.

There seems to be nothing more to it. However, numerous Fortean or cryptozoology books and articles appeared about the so-called Cornwall Owlman, only few of them mentioning that it was perhaps just an eagle owl. The sighting also appeared in at least one ufology catalogue, though no UFO was ever involved.

Basic information table:

Case number: URECAT-001037
Date of event: 1st week of June 1978
Earliest report of event: 1980
Delay of report: Weeks?
Witness reported via: Witness' father to local mystery monger.
First alleged record by: Local mystery monger.
First certain record by: Fortean book Lionel Fanthorpe and Patricia Fanthrope.
First alleged record type: Local mystery monger.
First certain record type: Fortean book.
This file created on: November 24, 2011
This file last updated on: November 24, 2011
Country of event: U-K.
State/Department: Cornwall
Type of location: Near old church and cemetery, with trees.
Lighting conditions: Not reported.
UFO observed: No
UFO arrival observed: N/A
UFO departure observed: N/A
UFO/Entity Relation: None
Witnesses numbers: 1
Witnesses ages: 16
Witnesses types: Not reported. Teenage girl.
Photograph(s): No.
Witnesses drawing: No.
Witnesses-approved drawing: No.
Number of entities: 1
Type of entities: Not reported
Entities height: Not reported
Entities outfit type: Not reported.
Entities outfit color: Not reported.
Entities skin color: Not reported.
Entities body: Not reported.
Entities head: Not reported.
Entities eyes: Not reported.
Entities mouth: Not reported.
Entities nose: Not reported.
Entities feet: Not reported.
Entities arms: Not reported.
Entities fingers: Not reported.
Entities fingers number: Not reported.
Entities hair: Not reported.
Entities voice: Not reported.
Entities actions: Flew up through the trees.
Entities/witness interactions: None.
Witness(es) reactions: Observed.
Witness(es) feelings: Not reported.
Witness(es) interpretation: Not reported.
Explanation category: Confusion, owl. Not UFO-related.
Explanation certainty: High.



The authors discuss the Cornwall Owlman sightings. They say that in 1978, sightings were investigated by Tony "Doc" Shiels,, described by US author Mark Chorvinsky as "a magical wolf amongst Foertean sheeps", a "truly wonderful character, a great showman, a musician, and well up in conjuring and wizardry.

They say "Doc" got a phone call from Ken Opie who told him that his teenage daughter had seen the owlman during the first week of June. She described it as a demon-like monster flying up through the trees near Mawman Church.

The authors suggest that the Owlman was rather a "phenomenalist entity" than a creature of flesh and blood, or poltergeist phenomena as it is often reported by teenagers, or that this could be "thoughts form like Madame Blavatski's tulpa."


George M. Eberhart discusses of the "dubious flying humanoid of Cornwall", England. He says it was described as covered in grey feathers, had an owl-like head, red glowing slanted eyes, pointed ears, humanlike legs but bent slightly backwards, black talons, and that it can rise vertically into the air.

He cites some significant sightings, not including the "Miss Opie" sighting, then proposes possible explanations as "much confusion", if not deliberate hoaxes, or an escaped Eurasian Eagle-owl (Bubo bubo), not normally seen in the British Isles. He says it is the world's largest owl, 4 feet 4 inches long, found in much of Europe, east to Siberia, and south to India and China.


The Owlman was seen during the years 1976 - 1978 in the county of Cornwall. More specifically, it was seen in the vicinity of the Mawnan Village. Some of the sightings were reported to the well-known cryptozoologist Tony "Doc" Shiels who reportedly coined the name "Owlman".


From June to August 1978 there were additional sightings in area of the church. In early August 1978 a sixteen-year-old girl, "Miss Opie", saw what she described as: "a monster, like a devil, flying up through the trees near old Mawnan Church."

And, on 2nd August, three young French girls, staying in Redruth while attending Camborne Technical College, now known as Cornwall College, told their landlady they’d seen something that was: "very big like a big furry bird with a gaping mouth and round eyes."

The report was made to Doc Shiels, a very well-known local character and someone who seems to figure somewhere in most of the Owlman reports.


In Alien Animals (1985), British paranormal researchers Janet and Colin Bord pointed out that Mawnan church is built in the middle of a prehistoric earthwork. They suggest that the church may be built on a ley line (a straight line that passes through and links several ancient sites), and speculate that the appearance of the Owlman may be a manifestation of earth energy in this place.

A more straightforward explanation may be that the Owlman sightings were of an escaped eagle owl (Bubo bubo), a species that can grow more than two feet long, with a wingspan of nearly six feet.

Perhaps the most comprehensive study into the Owlman was undertaken by Jonathan Downes, the founder of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, (the worlds largest cryptozoological organisation) in his book 'The Owlman and Others'(1997).


Albert Rosales indicates in his catalogue that in Mawnan Church, Cornwall, England, on June 1978, at an unknown time, a sixteen-year-old girl saw a large humanoid resembling a leathery owl with claws flying through the trees near the church. It reportedly had large round red eyes and a gaping mouth. No other information.

Albert Rosales indicates that the source is "Graham J McEwan, Mystery Animals of Britain and Ireland."


The author discusses the Cornwall "Owlman", described as of human size with fiery red eyes and huge black claws but able to fly, making a hissing sound as it flies.

Among several sightings, she says in was seen in July and August 1978 around the churchyard of Mawman Old Church, according to "Owlman and Others", by J. Downes and G. Davies, Corby, Domra publications, U-K., 1998.

She gives her opinion that an huge eagle owl does "not quite explain the sightings" and that it could nbe a "modern myth" or "something more."


In another sighting, two people saw it standing in a large tree, near the Mawnan church. At first the witnesses thought someone was playing a trick on them by being dressed in a costume. But as they observed the creature, it flew up into the air, and away from the area. After it flew away, there was a crackling or static noise heard in the trees for some time.


Two years later [than 1976], a young lady called 'Miss Opie' saw 'A monster, like a devil, flying up through the trees near old Mawnan Church'. A few days later Tony Shiels wrote to Janet and Colin Bord of the Fortean Picture Library: "The owlman is certainly back in business, it seems. I poked around his area, around Old Mawnan Church, a couple of days ago, and the atmosphere was positively crackling with 'odd presences', if you know what I mean.

Points to consider:

Owlman 1976 Owlman 1976

However, it is perhaps not useless to show sketches from the Owlman sightings in 1976 - left.

It is rather clear that what is shown here is an owl, not terribly exaggerated into an abnormal creature.

There are numerous other references in the cryptozoology litterature about the so-called Cornwall Owlman. As most do not mention the particular sighting by "Miss Opie", I omit these from this file.

Mawnan Old church

Left: Mawnan Old church.

The tall trees that an owl may appreciate are visible.

The cemetery certainly added much scary atmos in the minds of the teenagers reporting the "Owlman".

To a teenager, from a perhaps important distance - the distance is not given which tells a lot of the lack of serious in this matter - this creature, not very ordinary there, with its light-reflecting eyes, its big size, could appear quite impressive.

Left: Red eyes.

The Eurasian eagle owl is a large owl with large tufts of ear and luminous orange eyes. The tufts of the males' ears are more straight than those of the females. The chin, the throat and the chest are white. The rest of the feathers are gray, with different nuances depending on subspecies. Their claws are large and black. It can direct its legs ahead or backwards when it flies.

The first explanation of puzzling entities as owls appeared in Charles Fort's 1919 book. It is thus quite ironic that so many Fortean researchers do not consider this possible explanation for such cases, preferring outlandish "explanations" such as "thoughts forms" etc.

In ufology, it was with the infamous Sutton case that former Major Donald Keyhoe, a proponent of the thesis of the alien visitors, proposed that the creature might have been some owl nested in a tree and not an extraterrestrial monster, his opinion being quoted later by Joe Nickell of the skeptic group CSICOP.

Joe Nickell made the explanation his own for this same case, as well as for the case of Kelly in 1955, and according to Joe Nickell, it was then shared by skeptic ufologist Renaud Leclet, France, who then started to look for others such cases where this explanation can apply. I was the only French ufologist to my knowledge not to react to the explanation by useless scoffing, the way it was generally was welcomed in France and also in the United States.

Related sightings:

August 2, 1978, Mawnan Church, Cornwall, U-K., three young tourists.

List of issues:

Id: Topic: Severity: Date noted: Raised by: Noted by: Description: Proposal: Status:


Confusion, owl. Not UFO-related.

Sources references:

* = Source I checked.
? = Source I am told about but could not check yet. Help appreciated.

Document history:


Main Author: Patrick Gross
Contributors: None
Reviewers: None
Editor: Patrick Gross

Changes history

Version: Created/Changed By: Date: Change Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross November 24, 2011 Creation, [fa1], [ge1], [tm1], [kk1], [um1], [ar1], [ce1], [pm1].
1.0 Patrick Gross November 24, 2011 First published.

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This page was last updated on November 24, 2011