html> Mystery Big Cats

by Merrily Harpur

'An absolute masterpiece...Beautifully, wittily, informatively written. An exemplary classic on a subject of extreme interest...'  John Michell

In the past twenty years every county in Britain, from Caithness to Cornwall, has had recurrent sightings of 'big cats' described as being like pumas or panthers. These anomalous big cats sightings are now running at an estimated 1,200 a year.

Farmers, gamekeepers, ornithologists, policemen and even parents on the school run have all been thrilled or terrified to see what they assume is a big cat escaped from a zoo. Yet these big cats are neither escapees from zoos nor, as this book conclusively argues, the descendants of pets released into the countryside by their owners in 1976 when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act made it too expensive to keep big cats.

The questions therefore remain, what are they and where have they come from? With the orthodox explanations overturned, Merrily Harpur searches for clues in the cultures of other times and places. She discovers our mystery felines have been with us for longer than we imagine, and throws unexpected light on the way Western civilisation looks at the world.

Mystery Big Cats is the first serious and comprehensive book on the subject. From the drama of eyewitnesses' verbatim accounts to the excitement of new perspectives and insights into a strange and often terrifying experience it gets to grips with what is now the commonest encounter with the unknown in Britain.


Read reviews below....

  ISBN 978 1872 883 922. 2006.
245 x 175 mm, 242 + viii pages, 55 b&w photographs, paperback.


Order it from  
phone 01509 880725
  '... This is a great book, a rare, ready-made fortean classic.'
John Michell Fortean Times

Merrily Harpur '... leads the reader on an unusual, intriguing and often amusing journey.'
Penelope Bennett The Oldie

'Highly recommended'
Michael Howard The Cauldron

'This book leaves the reader in no doubt that ABCs are real enough, but what is real? The scope of the inquiry here is learned, exhaustive and entertaining, non-academic and easily digestible [...] Brilliantly evoked, enchantingly explained.'
Paul Screeton Folklore Frontiers

'This is a publication that is all things: informative, insightful, thought-provoking, and written by someone who has a keen appreciation, awareness and knowledge of her subject matter. [...] This is a truly excellent piece of work that does not shy away from controversy... '
From Nick Redfern's online review - read more below...

IMystery Big Cats - A Review  by Nick Redfern, author, cryptozoologist and writer of the official blog for the North American office of the Center for Fortean Zoology

 'I was recently sent a review copy of Merrily Harpur's book, Mystery Big Cats. I had heard very good things about this title, but had yet to read it - until last weekend. I've digested a good many published works (books, self-published papers, magazine articles, etc.) on sightings of unidentified Big Cats in the UK, and the problem that I had with many of them was that, frankly, they were deathly boring.... Thankfully, Merrily's book inhabits very different territory.  

'This is a publication that is all things: informative, insightful, thought-provoking, and written by someone who has a keen appreciation, awareness and knowledge of her subject matter; as well as a fine understanding of British folklore, history, mythology, and the complex mysteries inherent in the conundrum that has come to be known as the British Big Cat. Mystery Big Cats is essential reading for anyone wanting to develop a good understanding of the subject, and what may very possibly lie at its heart.

'Many readers of this blog will be aware of the longstanding theories that suggest Britain's Big Cats are all escapees from private zoos, traveling circuses, and the descendants of exotic pets released into the wild when the British Government's Dangerous Wild Animals Act was passed in 1976. However, as Merrily expertly demonstrates, that theory is very much an article of faith. Indeed, she reveals how, upon rigorous scrutiny, and as a catch-all theory, it quickly falls down. So what are these mysterious beasts then, and where did they come from? Theories pertaining to indigenous Big Cats are discussed, as are the parallels (and differences) between the Big Cats and the Phantom Black Dogs of British folklore. But, again, although some students of the phenomena have made a connection between the two -- with the Big Cat being seen as the modern day equivalent of the Black Dog -- the evidence is highly controversial, and the similarities tenuous. Nevertheless, people are clearly seeing something. And Merrily makes this very obvious, too. It is to the reader's advantage that Merrily is a skilled writer - the result of which is that even though the book relates the details of numerous Big Cat encounters spanning countless decades, her style is neither boring nor repetitive. 

'And this is made all the more apparent when she digs deep into problematic issues surrounding (A) physical evidence for the presence of flesh-and-blood creatures in our midst; (B) photographic and film-based data; (C) the intriguing ability of the beasts to avoid capture or killing; and (D) why, curiously, so many of these animals are - time and again - seen near railway tracks and other specific locations. 

'So, what is it that people are seeing? Well, this is where Merrily's research really comes to the fore. It would not be fair of me to reveal to those that wish to read Mystery Big Cats for themselves the intricacies of Merrily's theory. I can say, however, that this book will likely polarize readers into one of two camps: those that see merit in the theory, and those that are determined to look elsewhere. I will also say that Merrily's theories move [......] into the world of ancient British folklore, and the nature of what reality is (or is not!), how we perceive that same reality, and what the presence of the Big Cats really means to us as a species. 

'This is a truly excellent piece of work that does not shy away from controversy - and, to me, that is a good thing. Merrily has produced a first-class piece of work that will enlighten, entertain, and lead to much musing and pondering with respect to her conclusions.'

~, May 24, 2007


  Order it from  
phone 01509 880725

Merrily Harpur home page  I