Sinister sightings at a Hull beauty spot are sending chills up the spines of supernatural enthusiasts. Faye Preston talks to Mike Covell about the Beast of Barmston Drain. Many who grew up in Hull will have happy memories of whiling away the summer holidays along the banks of Barmston Drain. But a shadow is being cast over that idyllic scene by strange reports of a “half-man, half-dog” creature that has been spotted stalking through the grass and killing anything in its way.
One person claims to have seen the “tall and hairy” beast jump 8ft over a fence, carrying a German Shepherd in its jaw. Always one to keep an open mind, Hull historian Mike Covell even organised a “werewolf hunt” after more than seven people came to him claiming to have spotted the beast. Mr Covell said: “I get a lot of odd sightings and reports and try to research as many as possible. These might be ghost sightings, UFO reports, sea serpent sightings, but the latest one was possibly the strangest yet. “I was asked to research a werewolf sighting by a couple who had seen something that was tall and hairy, and was eating a German Shepherd dog by the side of the drain. They stopped to get a closer look and witnessed it jump 8ft over a fence, vanishing into the night, still carrying its prey.”
Mr Covell says another woman described seeing something bounding along the drain on all fours, then stopping and raising up onto its back legs, before running down the embankment towards the water, leaping over to the other side, and vanishing up the embankment and over a wall into some allotments. Another woman described seeing something “half-man, half-dog”, along the drain. “She was terrified, and her dog, which she was walking at the time, began shaking and would not go any further,” said Mr Covell. While the reports may seem far-fetched, Mr Covell, who “loves the unexplained”, says it is not the first strange sighting to be reported from along the drain. Over the years, visitors have claimed to have seen eerie sightings of black-eyed ghost children.
Intrigued, Mr Covell delved into the history of the drain, which is officially called Beverley and Barmston Drain, and built as part of a drainage scheme in 1798 to help drain the salt marshes and carrs. He has uncovered hundreds of tragedies, spanning the length of the 23-mile-long drain, the earliest being the death of 19-year-old Master Teesdale, who drowned in July 1824.
Mr Covell says more than 100 people have drowned in the drain, including a double suicide where two young lovers bound their hands together and jumped in. He said: “Master Teesdale was the first, but then men, women and children followed almost at a rate of one a year. The summer months were the worst, when children would swim in ‘Barmy Drain’ and it got so bad that Hull Corporation openly discussed paying for lifeguards to be stationed along the drain during the hotter months. “It has a very dark history but walking along it during the day, it is a peaceful oasis surrounded by heavy industry.”
The year 1892 was a particularly terrible one, when an unknown boy was pulled from the drain in May. In December of that same year, George Sowen killed his two children, aged four and six, and threw them in the drain before he jumped in himself and drowned.
Asked whether Mr Covell believed in the mythical creature, he said: “It was a bit strange but this couple, who I have known for years, are trustworthy and very sincere people. They were genuinely scared by something, I’m just not sure what. “If it was just these two people seeing something, I might start getting suspicious, but other people came forward with similar stories. “I have walked the drain a couple of times armed with recording equipment, during both day and night, but it’s not the kind of thing you can openly ask people to participate in – ‘would you like to come looking for werewolves with me?’ Even I think it sounds crazy. “But everyone who has reported sightings have been really down-to-earth people who are shaken by their ordeal.” Mr Covell, who has previously appeared on Most Haunted and Most Haunted Live, is unfazed by the recent sightings and has already arranged another nocturnal hunt for the creature along the drain.