Lurking Beneath: Beasts And Monsters Of The Sewers And Underground

By
Marcus Lowth
Published Date
November 14, 2021
Estimated Reading Time
13 min read
Posted in
Cryptozoology, Strange Beasts

Most of us have heard of strange creatures said to inhabit various cave systems around the world. And many of the underground network stations are also famously haunted. However, many of the tunnels of the sewer systems around the world are said to be home not to ghosts or otherworldly creatures, but to monstrous beasts.

A picture of a "monster" blurred into a sewer tunnel

Just what lurks beneath our feet?

Quite often, these strange and blood-curdling creatures share details and characteristics with each other. For example, many have glowing, piercing eyes and are around 10 feet tall, often covered with shaggy hair. Indeed, many of these creatures appear almost identical to a Bigfoot creature and very well may be.

While we do not have time or space to examine every single creature, legend, and encounter here, we will examine some of the most intriguing and alarming. What’s more, these accounts stretch back across the centuries, seemingly for as long as humanity has kept records of their encounters and exploits. Indeed, from gigantic animals to beast-like creatures and strange silver-suited figures, what lurks below our feet is perhaps stranger than we might imagine.

Before we examine some of the legends of apparent beasts in the sewers of the world, we will examine some of the very real and largely unharmful animals that also, on occasion, call these underground networks home.

“Home” To Very Real, And Unusual Animals

Perhaps it is worth our time briefly examining some of the very real animals that have been discovered in many of these underground systems. For example, most of us will know that any sewer system will contain rats and perhaps stray or a lost pet or two. There are, though many other animals that genuinely call these tunnel networks home. [1]

Many frogs, snakes, and lizards could (and sometimes do) happily survive in the tunnel networks of the world’s sewers. And many smaller animals such as ferrets, ducks, and raccoons can also be found there. Cats and dogs who have become lost have been discovered (and most often rescued) from the sewer systems. Even foxes have been known to use the sewer systems to navigate discreetly from one place to another.

A sewer tunnel

Many animals are found in sewers

Tales of alligators (“mutated” albino alligators from a lack of sunlight at that) living in many of sewer systems of large cities have been told for years. [2] The general accounts state that these alligators originate from being brought the city by people wanting them as pets (when they were babies) and then were said to be flushed down the toilets when the reality of the decision hit home a little more. From there, they lurked and bred in the sewer systems of New York City, living mostly on rats and stray animals, but would be more than happy to feed on a person if they were so unfortunate to run into them (we should stress there have been no claimed deaths of alligators attacking people in the New York sewers).

While several alligators have been discovered in the sewer networks under the city of New York over the years, these have by and large been ones that have only recently arrived there, with most thinking being that an alligator would not be able to survive the harsh New York winters.

The Merseyside Sewer Monster

Although the issue was an April Fool’s gag which, albeit briefly, had many investigators into the strange and unusual looking with intrigue at it, the case of the Merseyside Sewer Monster is also perhaps worthy of our time here, not least due to the point behind the orchestrated hoax. [3]

The alleged creature was first spotted by security staff at the United Utilities water company on their CCTV system – a creature that stood upright and was “far too big to be a rat”. What’s more, it was theorized that whatever it was it was likely sustaining itself from the fat deposits (sometimes referred to as fatbergs) that are prevalent in the sewer systems. One security operator, Ian Appleton claimed he “physically jumped” when he saw the creature on his screen.

A picture of a faked monster in the sewers

This “monster” turned out to be a publicity hoax

However, it would soon come to light that the creature had been organized by the company themselves as part of their What Not To Flush campaign, which features the tagline, “what you flush could come back to haunt you”. The campaign manager, Rose Francis, claimed that “the real monsters lurking in the sewers are the baby wipes, cotton buds, and nappies” which ultimately “clog pipes and cause flooding”. [4]

It should certainly make us think, though. If some kind of unknown creature did venture into the sewer networks, it might be that there is enough waste food and clogs of fat to keep them nourished and returning for the foreseeable – and consequently, much closer to us.

You can see that video footage below.

Many Strange Humanoids and Beast-Like Creatures

When we move on to cryptid creatures and monstrous beasts of these underground networks, there are quite simply ample accounts to choose from. Indeed, almost every city and town in the world will likely have its own unique urban legends. [5]

Perhaps one of the most intriguing and strange encounters in equal measure comes from Toronto in Canada, when in 1978 a bizarre humanoid creature was witnessed by a 51-year-old local man named Ernest. According to the witness report, Ernest had been searching the streets for a missing kitten when he came upon an entrance to an old tunnel. Thinking the kitten might have made its way inside the tunnel Ernest turned on his flashlight and proceeded inside.

A typical sewer tunnel

What are people seeing in the sewer tunnels

After he had walked around 10 feet, however, he was suddenly confronted with a strange grey monkey-like creature with large, sharp teeth and eyes that almost appeared to glow an orange color. Even more unnerving, the creature could speak, spitting out the words “Go away! Go away!” at Ernest.

Ernest would later describe the creature as a “living nightmare”, claiming that after it had spoken to him, and ran into the deeper darkness of the tunnel. As it did so, Ernest turned and ran also, stating he was “shaking with fear”.

Several months after the incident, and after having been convinced to do so by a friend, Ernest would speak to the Toronto Sun of the incident, even returning with reporters to the entrance of the strange tunnel. And while they didn’t see the bizarre creature again, they did find the mangled remains of a dead cat that appeared to have been half-buried in the ground.

As the years went by the creature began to be referred to as the Cabbagetown Tunnel Monster and remains well-known today. Ernest himself was largely seen as a credible and honest witness, who had most certainly encountered something truly strange in the strange tunnel system.

What the creature might have been remains open to interpretation. Might it have been a homeless person who called the tunnels home? One who perhaps had been mistaken for a monkey-like creature in the darkness? Or might it be some kind of entirely new species, one that speaks, no less?

Orange Eyes Of Ohio

One of the most chilling creatures from the underground is that known as Orange Eyes who is said to roam around the tunnel systems of Ohio. [6] Reports of this apparent Bigfoot-like creature go back to the 1950s and continue to be spoken about today.

Those who have claimed encounters with this mysterious beast generally state it to be over 10 feet tall and weighing somewhere in the region of 70 stone. And, of course, as the name suggests, this creature has piercing, glowing, orange eyes. Perhaps even spookier is the apparent origins of Orange Eyes, with most accounts claiming the creature originally lurked in the tunnels beneath River Side Cemetery in Cleveland before construction work forced it from its home.

The first sighting of the beastly figure occurred in March 1959 when three teenagers saw it as they made their way home along a quiet road in Mansfield. From there, the reports of sightings of Orange Eyes continued throughout the 1960s, with many motorists even claiming the creature would leap out from the roadside and onto their cars. One particularly bizarre account occurred in 1968 when a group of school students claimed to have spotted the creature and even chased it before it disappeared.

A depiction of Orange Eyes

Orange Eyes is still spoken about in South Carolina

Interestingly, in some circles, Orange Eyes has been connected to UFO sightings in the state, particularly following a multi-witness UFO encounter involving the projection of a strange beam of light coming from the craft in 1973. Also of interest is 1973 saw a particularly high number of humanoid sightings connected to the reported UFO encounters.

The last recorded sighting of Orange Eyes unfolded in 1991 when two fishermen near Willis Creek caught sight of the monstrous creature. Although there have been no official sightings since that encounter, the presence of this beast-like creature remains in the collective fabric of Ohio.

The Beast Of The Cascade Tunnel

Another disturbing encounter, and very similar to the one above, is relayed in Real Monsters, Gruesome Critters, and Beasts from the Darkside by Brad Steiger. [7]. The incident occurred in the Cascade Mountains area of Skykomish in Washington, and more specifically, the abandoned Cascade (train) Tunnel.

According to the account, the witness – “Dave” – had heard reports of a huge, hairy beast with glowing yellow eyes and so made his way there to investigate for himself and to take photographs of the old rail tunnel. However, no sooner had he walked around 40 feet did he see the bright, yellow eyes described by others in front of him. They belonged to a beast-like creature that stood upright and was just short of 10 feet tall. He would further state that “no normal animal’s eyes” looked as this creature’s did.

A sewer tunnel

Legends of strange beasts are found around the world

Dave would quickly turn around and run to his truck outside the entrance to the tunnel. He was in motion immediately, but not before hearing a loud, metallic bang coming from the entrance of the tunnel. He would return to the site several days later – this time with several other people. Much to their amazement, they witnessed the creature with the yellow, glowing eyes for themselves.

There are perhaps several possibilities as to what Dave might have seen, ranging from the mundane to the (to some) outrageous. Was the creature seen merely a bear that was mistaken for something more otherworldly in the dark confines of the tunnel? Or might it be a Bigfoot-like creature that has made its home there? Might it even be some kind of reptilian creature?

The Third Eye Man Of South Carolina

Without a doubt one of the strangest and unnerving legends of subterranean creatures comes from South Carolina and specifically the tunnel systems that spread out from the University of South Carolina – the Third Eye Man. [8] And while rumors swirled of an apparent underground figure as back as the 1800s, the first sightings began on the mid-twentieth century.

The first recorded sighting occurred just before 10:45 pm on 12th November 1949 when two students were walking near the Longstreet Theatre. As they made their way along the street they were shocked to see a strange man wearing a silver suit pull open a manhole cover before disappearing into the tunnel systems below. Even stranger, as he did so, the man pulled back the manhole cover leaving it as if he had never been there.

A manhole cover

Just what disappeared into the sewers in South Carolina

One of the two witnesses, Christopher Nichols, happened to be a journalist with the university’s newspaper (the Gamecock) and he consequently wrote a report for publication upon returning to the school. In it, he dubbed the strange figure The Sewer Man, leading to an intense if temporary interest in the mysterious man by the surrounding communities. By spring the following year, however, this interest had died down somewhat. That was about to change.

On the evening of 7th April 1950, a local policeman was patrolling the grounds of the university when he came across the slaughtered remains of two chickens on the street near the loading docks (again near the Longstreet Theatre). He walked the short distance to his patrol car in order to report the find in case a group of teenagers was distributing other such remains around the area. When he returned to the location of his discovery, though, his evening was about to take a very surreal turn.

There, in front of him was a strange man dressed in a silver suit looking down at the lifeless bodies of the dead birds below. Instinctively, the policeman reached for his flashlight and shined it directly at the mystery man. When he did so, he was temporarily startled at what he saw. The man had a silver-grey color to his skin and his face appeared to be disfigured somewhat. Even more bizarre, in the middle of his head was a third eye. At this point, the policeman turned and ran back to his patrol car in order to request back-up.

A depiction of the Third Eye Man

Who or what was the The Third Eye Man?

He remained with his car until the backup arrived. When they walked over to the scene where the strange man had been stood only minutes later all that awaited them was a few stray feathers and random bones. Although the policemen who arrived after the sighting believed their colleague had seen something, they put his description down to him simply hallucinating through fright.

There were no further sightings – at least officially – for almost two decades, although accounts and claims persistently circulated around the university campus.

In October one evening in the late 1960s, however, the mystery man returned. On this occasion, there were several witnesses – a group of male students who had made their way to the steam tunnels around the university to take part in a fraternity initiation ritual. However, before they could put the ritual in motion, they were confronted by the silver-suited man who seemed to appear out of nowhere from the shadows. Even more concerning, in one of his hands, he held what appeared to be a lead pipe.

Then, the man charged toward the group of students. In turn, they turned and ran as fast as they could to the nearby tunnel entrance. However, one of the students was horrified when he realized the silver-suited man had a hold of his leg. He would suffer several cuts and scratches to his face and hands but was ultimately able to escape.

The students reported the encounter to the local police. And whether they believed them or not, a short time later each of the entrances to the steam tunnels were sealed up. According to a one-time student of the University of South Carolina, Marc Minsker, it is, in part, because of this sealing up of the tunnels that sightings of the silver-suited man have become few and far between in recent decades. Not only are local law enforcement seemingly wary of entering the steam tunnels, but any student who is caught doing so also faces suspension from the school.

Might the strange, silver-suited man still lurk in the tunnels under the University of South Carolina? It is an intriguing and unnerving thought.

The Ferocious Black Swine Of The Sewers Of London

As we might expect, London is home to all manner of strange goings-on, and that is certainly the case with the legends of the Big Smoke’s sewer systems. And perhaps one of the most intriguing are those of the gigantic black swine. [9]

According to researcher and writer, Brent Swancer, many of the accounts of these creatures came from those who explored the systems in search of tossed away valuables – such things as odd coins, silver cutlery, and other bits of metal. By the mid-nineteenth century, this practice was made illegal, although many such hunters still ventured down into the sewer systems. Illegal or not, it was from these searches that stories of the mysterious Black Swine came.

A typical Victorian Sewer tunnel

A typical Victorian Sewer tunnel

According to many accounts, these huge black swine would roam the tunnel systems of the sewer, nosing through the castaway food and offal as they did so. And, for the most part, these tales were taken rather seriously.

The general thinking of the time stated that the start of these wild, giant hogs likely occurred when a pregnant sow somehow became lost in the sewer systems. After she gave birth, they would have gone on to breed among themselves, and it was this inbreeding that eventually led to the abnormally large swine that seemingly roamed the sewer systems under the city of London. What’s more, as well as their gigantic size, they were seemingly “ferocious” if encountered.

The accounts circulated around London’s communities for years, eventually reaching the press. One article that appeared in 10th October 1859 edition of the Daily Telegraph stated that “London is an amalgam of worlds within worlds”, adding that among the many legends and stories the “Hampstead sewers shelter a monstrous breed of black swine, which have propagated and run wild among the slimy feculence” and “whose ferocious snouts will one day up-root Highgate archway”.

At one point, these stories were so rampant that something close to hysteria overtook them. By the time the sewer system was renovated and updated at the end of the 1850s, the accounts began to take on more of a folklore feel to them but reports of the strange beasts still continued. Perhaps they remain down on the sewer systems still today?

Strange Underground Creatures Of Ancient Rome

If we go back even further, we can find tales of underground monsters in ancient Rome. In the 2nd Century book, De Natura Antimalium we can find accounts of a giant octopus lurking in the tunnel systems under the city.

According to the account, the giant octopus had made its way through the tunnels of the sewer systems, eventually coming to a house that resided near the coast. In this house – which was the residence of Iberian merchants – the gigantic octopus discovered a stash of jars (the merchants’ cargo), each filled with pickled fish. It used its tentacles to grab the jars before squeezing them until they broke open. It would gorge itself on its catch before leaving the house and making its way back to the open waters via the same sewer tunnels.

When the owners of the house awoke, they were beyond confused as to what had happened to their cargo. Much as they were by the broken pieces of pottery on the floor or the fact that none of the locks had been damaged or tampered with.

According to the account, the men waited in wait the next evening, shocked when they witnessed the giant octopus appear in the property again. They then waited in wait for a third evening, this time with many more men at the ready. When it appeared on this occasion, the group went about hacking at the octopus until it was dead.

Legends Throughout The Ages

Indeed, there are many strange legends of strange and sometimes chilling underground entities throughout history. For example, in the regions of Wales, Cornwall, and Devon, there are legends of the Knockers. These strange creatures are said to be barely two feet tall and live under the ground, often near the coal or tin mines. In fact, they would often be blamed for a miner’s work tools being misplaced or even missing entirely.

A sewer tunnel

Legends from the sewers and underground tunnels have been around for centuries

Their name comes from the fact that there was often a knocking sound on the walls of the mines shortly before a cave-in. Some miners believed these knocking noises were a warning for the miners to get out before they were hurt. Others, though, believed that the knocks were the potential cause of the subsequent collapses. Whatever the truth, miners in the mines would save the last corner of their food (often a pasty) and toss it to the floor for a Knocker to collect and eat.

Perhaps it is also worth examining legends of the Boggart, a strange creature said to largely reside under bridges throughout England. The creature is perhaps similar to a hairy troll, with one description from Yorkshire stating it was “a fearsome creature” that was around the “size of a calf” and had “long, shaggy hair and eyes like saucers”. What’s more, this strange beast carried a chain with it which it dragged along the ground as it walked.  Many accounts even tell of these strange creatures of kidnapping people.

Just What Lurks Below Us?

We have examined only a small number of the strange creatures said to reside in the tunnel networks that run under our towns and cities. It is clear, however, that the notion of the mysterious figures navigating their way around the tunnel systems below us is prevalent in most parts of the world.

Are these creatures nothing but mistaken sightings of nothing more than well-known animals whose features have become confused in the dark and then distorted through fear? Or might there indeed be an element of the paranormal to such encounters? Might there be a clashing of worlds between that of folklore and reality?

What if we consider the notion that at least some of these strange creatures are indeed an unknown indigenous species? Perhaps our collective expansion into otherwise untouched areas has driven this potential species underground, and even into the sewer systems. As outrageous as it is to some, if an alien – or small group of aliens – happened to crash land on Earth, they very well might find the underground networks a useful way of moving around while remaining out of sight.

Whether they are real, imagined or a combination of both, sightings of strange creatures seemingly living an existence in the tunnels that unwind under every town and city in the world will be circulating as long as civilization is here. Perhaps one day we might have proof of what these creatures might be, where they originate from, and where they fit into the big picture of our collective reality.

The short video below examines some of the legends and folklore of the tunnel networks.

References

References
1 Animals found in drains and sewers around the world, UK DN Waterflow https://ukdnwaterflow.co.uk/animals-found-drains-sewers-around-world/
2 Sewer Monsters: From New York City to Ancient Rome, Mythcrafts https://mythcrafts.com/2018/06/14/sewer-monsters-from-new-york-city-to-ancient-rome/
3 Merseyside sewer monster hunt, after mysterious beast seen on CCTV, Liverpool Echo, April 1st, 2011 https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/merseyside-sewer-monster-hunt-after-3376207
4 United Utilities’ sewer monster April Fool gag goes down the drain, Manchester Evening News, April 1st, 2011 https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/business/business-news/united-utilities-sewer-monster-april-857606
5 Creepy Encounters With Underground Humanoid Monsters, Brent Swancer, Mysterious Universe, October 24th, 2018 https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2018/10/creepy-encounters-with-underground-humanoid-monsters/
6 Orange Eyes, The Confessionals Podcast https://www.theconfessionalspodcast.com/the-blog/2019/4/16/creature-feature-friday-orange-eyes
7 Real Monsters, Gruesome Critters, and Beasts from the Darkside, Brad Steiger, ISBN 9781578 592203
8 Haunted South Carolina: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Palmetto State, Alan Brown, ISBN 9780811 740777 (page 9-11)
9 The Mysterious Monster Black Swine of London’s Sewers, Brent Swancer, Mysterious Universe, November 22nd 2019 https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2019/11/the-mysterious-monster-black-swine-of-londons-sewers/

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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