Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com/index.htm

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Sunday 11 March 2012


"Crouched upon the stair..." (Tim Morris)

It could have been a scene enacted from Dante's 'Inferno' - even the clouds seemed to be wreathed in flames as torrent after torrent of plummeting German bombs screamed through the darkened skies over south London, and danced a fiery tarantella of death upon its shuddering streets, like a flurry of shrieking souls in everlasting torment. And in the midst of this panorama of pandemonium was Howard Leland - one of many volunteers with the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) who had been boldly defying the deadly rain of missiles throughout that fearful evening in October 1943 in a desperate bid to minimise its malevolent effects. Little did Leland realise, however, that he would soon encounter something infinitely more sinister, and malign, than anything conjured forth by the wartime enemy.

As the ground reverberated from the intensity of yet another mighty explosion nearby, Leland ran into a deserted house to take shelter, until the immediate danger had passed. The building's interior was pitch-black, but with the aid of his torch he located a staircase, and rested on the bottom step for a while, waiting for this latest airborne assault to end.

Suddenly, a cold shadow of fear swept across him, for as he sat there he realised - indefinably but undeniably - that he was no longer alone in that house. Something - not someone - else was here too, close by, and watching him. Unbidden, his eyes gazed upwards, to the top of the stairs, and the feeling intensified. Surely there, concealed amid the stygian gloom, was the source of his fear - and now he would reveal its identity.

Leland switched on his torch again, directing its penetrating beam onto the topmost stair - and beheld a hellish sight that transfixed him with fear, expelling from his mind all of that evening's previous horrors in an instant. Crouched upon the stair was a huge hairy beast with tabby-like stripes of black and brown, clawed paws, and blazing eyes like glowed like twin infernos, mesmerising Leland with their incandescent gaze. It would have resembled a monstrous cat - had it not been for the pair of sharp pointed horns that protruded from its skull!

London's horned demon cat (Ben Male)

For almost a minute, Leland remained motionless, held in thrall by the cold aura of palpable evil that radiated inexorably from the beast's unblinking eyes - and then it moved! With a single colossal leap, it sprang from the stair, plunging down into the shadowy room - but before it reached the ground, it had vanished. Yet its presence had not entirely gone - for Leland could plainly hear a spine-chilling yowling cry, echoing in the empty room.

At that same instant, however, the sound of human footsteps came from the open front door - and the spell was broken. The eldritch cries ceased immediately, and through the door walked two of Leland's ARP comrades. Their reassuringly familiar forms and voices swiftly dispersed the shroud of terror that had encompassed Leland only moments before, and encouraged him to recount his chilling experience. Neither of his friends had heard anything when entering the house, however, so he did not expect them to treat his account seriously - which is why he was so surprised when they listened silently and with grave expressions throughout his story, making no attempt to scoff or scorn his words.

When Leland had finished, his friends informed him that he was not the first person to have spied the feline monster. On the contrary, it had been seen by many different eyewitnesses over a period of several years, and the sightings were always the same - an immense horned cat with demonic eyes, squatting at the top of the stairs.

Nevertheless, in the hope that a more straightforward explanation may be forthcoming, the three men walked up the stairs and searched everywhere thoroughly for any physical evidence of the creature's reality, but nothing was found.

Horned demon cat mask

Still disturbed by the memory of this grotesque entity but anxious to uncover its identity and possible significance, two days later Leland visited a renowned clairvoyant, John Pendragon, and recalled to him his encounter. After listening intently, Pendragon located the house on a large map of London, then placed a forefinger on the precise spot marking it.

At once, Pendragon's mind was filled with a whirling vista of cats - countless furry wraiths swirling all around at the top of the deserted house's stairs in a screeching, spitting vortex of feline fury, a mad maelstrom of undying hate. And at its very centre was something much larger, but it was not a cat - not even a horned demon cat. It was a man - haggard and despairing, with a noose in his hand, about to place it around his own neck.

After describing this vision to Leland, Pendragon asked him to make enquiries among the house's neighbours, to discover whether any details of its history and of its previous owners corresponded with those in his vision. A week later, Leland returned, bearing some extremely interesting (and vindicating) news.

One of the house's former inhabitants had been an ardent practitioner of the black arts, in the vain hope of improving what he had perceived to be a wretched, unfulfilled life. In accordance with one particularly grisly ritual, he had routinely slaughtered numerous cats for sacrifice upon an unholy altar. Ultimately, the balance of his mind had become totally unhinged, and he had committed suicide - hanging himself with a noose, suspended from the banister at the top of the stairs. Shortly afterwards, the great horned cat was seen there for the first time, and spectral yowling cries have often been heard since too.

Was the horned demon cat an elemental? (Ben Male)

When Leland asked his opinion as to this monster's precise nature, Pendragon suggested that it was probably an elemental spirit - one whose feline appearance and vitriolic hatred had been created by the restless ghosts of the departed sorcerer's many feline victims, and which would linger indefinitely in the grim locality where they had all met their terrible deaths.

Although the vast majority of Britain's mystery cats are unquestionably exotic non-native cats that have escaped or have been deliberately released from captivity, or are simple misidentifications of common animals, some investigators have speculated whether a few of them may in reality be paranormal (zooform) entities 'disguised' as big cats – as would certainly seem to have been the case with London’s horned demon cat of World War Two.

Incidentally, it should be noted here that although the original source of this case was John Pendragon’s autobiography, Pendragon (1968), which was written in collaboration with paranormal mysteries writer-investigator Brad Steiger, it only contained a fairly brief account of events. However, Steiger’s own book, Bizarre Cats (1993), included a much more detailed, greatly expanded version as related to him by Pendragon, which not only emphasised the entity’s feline nature but also incorporated other noteworthy additional information - such as the full name of the eyewitness (merely referred to by his initials in Pendragon’s book), and the hideous cat-slaying rituals performed by the man who had subsequently committed suicide in the house where the horned demon cat was later seen.

This ShukerNature post is excerpted from my forthcoming book, Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery, to be published by CFZ Press later this year.


  1. Mention of the black arts, resulted in my recalling of a modern magician mentioning of a so called "dead cat ritual" from a well known medieval Grimoire. What's done is gruesome and would certainly kill a living cat, but there would appear to be no intrinsic reason why the cat needs to be "obtained" alive. Maybe actively killing a cat for it would be a mistake/trapdoor.
    Could well be a variant on the use of toads.

  2. The should set a black shuck on it. That would sort it out!

  3. Have the cats still been reported to this day? What's your opinion on the devil cats?

  4. Laurence Crossen12 March 2012 at 20:18

    What relationship does this book have to your classic, "Mystery cats of the world : from blue tigers to Exmoor beasts" c.1989?

  5. None - this new book is completely separate from Mystery Cats of the World.

  6. sounds like this maniac was trying to perform the Taigheirm.

    One version of the ritual was said to summon a demonic cat called Big Ears, who would grant the summoners answers to their questions, and fulfill their wishes. The ritual included roasting cats alive, one after the other, for several days, without tasting food. This supposedly summoned a legion of devils in the guise of black cats, all screeching away until their master appeared.

    a full account can be found here

  7. Yes, in my new cat book, the very next section following the horned demon cat account excerpted in this ShukerNature post deals with Big Ears and Taghairm on Mull.

  8. I'm a dog person. Never completely comfortable with cats. They usually have a bit o the devil about them. This is the first large horned cat vision that I am aware of. Yes, I have a feeling ole Black Shuck would give it a run for its money up the nearest tree. Seriously though, I learned some years ago, not to discount such stories; for such usually have a grain of fact, in whatever guise of the truth.

  9. Your opinion on this incident would be of great value to us, Dr. Shuker.

    All the best, Matt

  10. I found this article most interesting and believe there are many creatures like this. I felt sad for the beautiful souls of the cats slaughtered by this maniac. Why do people practice the "Black arts" as they are called, they only lead to misery and madness. This is proof positive of this. Thank you for sharing this.

  11. So much about this story doesn't sit right.
    For a start, why no precise address, why no name of the black magician who killed himself and most importantly, who would run INTO a house during an air raid?
    You're much safer out in the street. If you're in a house when a bomb hits it, it's pretty much goodnight Vienna.

    1. It's possible that, being an ARP warden, Leland was actually running into the house to see if there was anyone there who needed saving, rather than merely running in there for shelter. That may have been something that Steiger simply added for effect, or possibly without realising what an ARP warden's role was in Britain in WW2. Equally, there may well have been additional details that either Steiger never made public (perhaps in response to a request by Pendragon) or that Pendragon never made available to him anyway. Without seeing what data on this case Pendragon may have retained on file, there is sadly no way of knowing the full details behind this intriguing case.

  12. I know this is an old post, but I’ve seen this thing....sort of. I’m agnostic and lean towards more rational and scientific thinking.
    One night my partner and I were vacationing in a small town in the Rocky Mountains called Ouray, CO. 90% of it is surrounded by tall mountains and has caves and canyons and hot springs and it’s beautiful.
    One night as we shut off the lamps and went to sleep, I saw a vision in my mind of this same animal and then felt it’s presence rush through the walls and run right at me. My partner, who I thought was asleep, quickly grabbed me and turned on the light in a panic. She said she felt something demonic and animal like cone after me RIGHT as I saw it come towards me in my mind. How can two people with two separate minds who never even knew or saw or heard of such a creature see the same thing? We slept with the lights on for the rest of the night.