In the heart of England, lies a forest spanning several hundred square kilometres. Hidden among the birch and bracken of Cannock Chase, are (among other, older things) a disused World War Two airfield, an abandoned 17th century village (complete with cottages, chapel, and a set of wooden stocks), and an unusually shaped rock formation known locally as the Moss-Firth Tower, which can be seen from several miles away.
There is no doubting the area’s natural beauty, though few locally venture into the woodlands by day, and all do their utmost to avoid the area entirely by night.
A legend attached to the Chase, tells the tale of a young girl, whom, pregnant and afraid, was driven from her home amidst accusations of witchcraft. With nowhere else to go, she gave birth in a secluded glade, far enough from the village so that the painful cries of childbirth would be swallowed by the forest.
The baby, cursed with Witch’s blood, was born hideously disfigured. Knowing the community would look upon her son as an omen of ill luck, the girl chose to abandon the child beneath the shadow of Moss-Firth Tower. Praying that the woodland spirits who dwelled there would accept her gift to them, she returned to the village to repent of her evil ways.
The following winter, the girl succumbed to a fever, taking the secret of her son’s fate to her grave.
It was around this time that stories of a fearsome creature began to spread throughout the village. Massive in size and with hideous, pig-like facial features, the beast had been seen skulking in the treeline, watching the children play.
Over the following months, several livestock were taken in the dead of night; their grisly remains found strewn across the ground.
There followed an unseasonably harsh winter, and amidst stories of children disappearing into the woodland never to return, the village was abandoned.
Centuries passed, and untouched by man, the forest grew dense and the secrets of the village and its surrounding area were buried beneath impenetrable brushwood. It remained unexplored until recently, when a group of scouts visited on retreat, with the intention of camping through the night. Of the fourteen boys that entered the forest, only one was to leave.
The surviving boy claimed that, after a day spent wading through streams, climbing trees, and making leaf rubbings, the group, in good spirits, pitched camp near to Moss-Firth Tower. As they settled around the campfire, enjoying their toasted marshmallows and a shared ghost story or two, talk turned to legends of the Chase. Arkela, having been born nearby, began to recount the tale of Pigman, known to all locally as a foul beast, born of the devil’s bride, abandoned and left to forage in the woodlands, several centuries ago.
Arkela stated that many believed Pigman to be responsible for numerous disappearances throughout the Chase’s history (disappearances that scarcely made the headlines, but were well documented in regional folklore) and that attempts to capture the creature had proven futile. He added that Pigman could be summoned by the recital of a rhyme popular in local playgrounds. So long as you were located somewhere within the confines of the Chase, and were sat near to an open fire, saying the rhyme aloud would coax Pigman from hiding.
As boys will be boys, they dared Arkela to recite the rhyme aloud:
“Pigman, you’ve no family,
None love you, that I can see,
Pigman, such a tragedy,
Won’t you come and play with me?”
According to the boy, there was a long silence, where only the crackle and spit of the fire could be heard. The boys looked at one another, nervously waiting for someone to speak, fearing something dreadful might happen if they did not.
It was then that a pitched squeal erupted from behind them, and from the shadows came a lumbering shape, its flesh slick with sweat, its pinprick eyes reflecting fury and fire, its snout-like nose, twitching, and its yellowed tusks dripping with saliva. It squealed a second time, flinging an upturned tree stump in the air as it did so, flinging lumps of damp soil this way and that.
The Scouts fled, scuttling off in all directions, but the boy, transfixed by terror, remained. The creature ignored him, its attention focused firmly on the fleeing scouts. To its left, one of the smaller scouts had fallen, his ankle caught among a tangle of shrubs. The creature lumbered towards him, and, with a sickening pop, brought a gargantuan fist crashing down onto his head.
It was at this point that the surviving member of the scouts passed out. When he came too, the camp was completely ransacked. Torn tents and a mix of personal belongings littered the clearing. Among them was a small, blue teddy bear, its seams split down one side, the exposed stuffing matted with blood.
It is said that Pigman’s squeals can still be heard echoing through the forest, should you pass their outer limits after sundown. Ask locally after the creature and many will laugh in your face, and call you a fool. Ask them to join with you on a walk through the forest, however, and they will quickly fall silent.
If you are to take away anything from this tale, heed this warning: if you feel eyes upon you while braving the woodland of Cannock Chase, if you hear a shrill squeal and a rustle of bushes, then, by all means, do be afraid. Tremble, cry, even close your eyes; but do not run, for those that do seldom survive the Pigman of The Chase.