Every town has its own local legends, stories of mysterious creatures that become the fodder for whispered conversations around campfires or barstools. Some, like the legend of the Jersey Devil, gain nationwide attention, while other tales, such as that of the Burlington Boogeyman, rarely leave the communities of their origins. One such local legend has long been a secret held by the town of Greenock, Scotland: the mysterious rat-eating Catman.
The scenic fishing town of Greenock, just 25 miles west of Glasgow, prides itself on its rich maritime history, its spot among Scotland’s top 50 walking trails, and its beautifully restored Victorian buildings. In fact, it’s long been considered one of the most lovely towns in the country. But when the sun sets and night has descended upon its shores, the residents of Greenock know that something is creeping in the darkness, watching them silently as they hurry back to their homes.
For many years, the only evidence of the Catman were second-hand tales of glowing eyes in the darkness, or a friend who swears he had seen the black figure crawl out of a drainage pipe, a dying rat dangling from its jaws. To some, the Catman was a cryptozoological beast, the last of its kind living on the edges of society. To others, the legend of the Catman was the work of local pranksters intent on scaring the drunks stumbling out of the pub at night. Even the police, who often fielded reports about Catman sightings, were unsure of what to make of the stories.
Then in the late 2000s, a pixelated video captured on a cell phone changed all that. The Catman was real.
The clip showed that Catman wasn’t some kind of undiscovered monster, but a human after all. As the cameraman spoke to him, Catman lifted a dead rat to his face, black with soot and dirt, and bit into it, the disturbing image somehow disarmed by Catman’s gleeful “thumbs up” gesture.
As you can imagine, the video was passed around between the youth of Greenock, becoming the hot topic of local discussion, before being uploaded to the internet where it quickly became the talk of message boards and email chains. The Greenock Social Work department even took notice of the video, telling the local papers that they’d sent one of their case workers out searching for him, though they wound up empty handed.
No one is quite sure how long the Catman has been lurking the alleys and tunnels of Greenock, but some of the earliest reports date back to the mid-70s. Some said that he was a Russian sailor that had been stranded in Scotland, forced to live off the streets. Others claimed he was the victim of a mob beating that had broken his legs and left him in hiding. Some reports stated that Catman was a crazed escapee from a local mental institute. Despite the wildly varying backgrounds, a few details always remained the same: Catman always crawled, rarely spoke, and was always eating rats.
One report from 2010 lends more credence to his cat-like traits:
Catman is definitely real. He gave me a hell of a fright. The first time I saw him it was just getting dark, and all I saw were his eyes. His face is totally black like in the video. He would lie at Scotts Lane path in the bushes behind the fence, pointing at cat meat that was left for cats, asking me to pass it through the fence. I think he was scared to go onto the path for it. I used to go buy donor kebabs for him when coming home from dancing. He hasnt been seen in ages now, since the council put corrugated iron up so he couldnt be fed.
He is definitely real, not a myth. I heard young boys gave him a heavy kicking. Young neds in Greenock are evil.
As the legend of the Catman grew more and more into a reality, the media began to take in interest in the story. In 2010 a local documentarian set out to uncover the truth about the local legend, but was met with roadblocks at every turn. No matter where he went, those who allegedly knew the true history of the Catman refused to speak on camera. What was supposed to be a feature length documentary ended up being a five minute segment that posed more questions than it answered.
To this day, it seems that no one knows, or will reveal, the true identity of Catman, where he’s from, or how he ended up living this way in the tunnels of Greenock. His survival for half a century is shocking enough, but maybe not as mysterious as one might think when considering the kindness the locals who’ve attempted to help the man throughout the years.
I live in Greenock and I can vouch the Catman exists. He has several spots he stays in, behind the shops at the bus station or around the abandoned warehouses. the local takeaways leave stuff out for him and every now and again you will find new blankets by one of his areas that someone has left for him. He was institutionalized once but Couldnt handle it. He doesn’t like people but the people here make sure he’s taken care of as much as he chooses to be. Cups of tea or soup will be left in certain spots, food. I know one woman who drops him off a meal every Saturday evening on her way to bingo and she makes sure he has a hat when it gets cold. I suppose its the true definition of care in the Community.
The Catman is still alive, if not well, with images of his blackened face surfacing as recently as April 2015, courtesy of his Facebook Fan Page. Yes, that’s right, he even has a Facebook page, one that, perhaps cruelly, classifies him as a pet. It’s the same page where, just days ago, it was reported that Catman was sent to the Ravenscraig Hospital.
After his first appearance in Greenock over four decades ago, perhaps the mystery of the Catman will finally be solved. Stay tuned.
Do you have a story about the Catman? Are there any local legends from your town that deserve to be shared with the world? We want to hear from you! Drop us a line on Facebook, tweet us @WeirdHQ, or leave your stories in the comments below!