A search of this site reveals no mentions of the Brentford Griffin, possibly the most ridiculous cryptid ever taken halfway seriously by anybody (except Mothman, obviously). So I thought I’d better tell you about it.
In 1985, rumors arose in the obscure London borough of Brentford that there had been a number of sightings of a griffin. Rather a small one, about the size of a large dog, but still a griffin. It’s worth noting that the coat of arms of Brentford features a griffin, so there’s a lot of griffin symbolism in and around Brentford - the first sighting, which allegedly took place in 1984, and was reported by one Kevin Chippendale (who was responsible for most of the other eye-witness accounts too) was in Braemar Road, which has at its corner a pub called the Griffin, with a sign depicting a creature absolutely identical to the one he saw. Which, by the way, was flying past a tower-block called Green Dragon Apartments.
Several other locals confirmed that the creature existed, and somehow the detail was added that it had a nest in one of two locations: either a gas storage facility (since demolished) next to Waterman’s Arts Center, or a tiny island in the River Thames officially known as Brentford Eyot or Brentford Ait, but unofficially known as Cider Island, due to its use by underage drinkers, or, more recently, Griffin Island. Which is next to Waterman’s Arts Center - can you see a pattern developing here?
It quickly became apparent that it was all a stunt to drum up publicity for a Fortean convention being hosted by the humorous author Robert Rankin at - well, do I really need to tell you where it was taking place? But by that time, the TV cameras had already shown up, and it made the national news. The interesting thing is that, as Robert Rankin himself states, he’d planted several well-rehearsed friends to recount their sightings to the press, but they never got a chance to, because the moment the cameras arrived, people who had nothing to do with him popped up and claimed to have seen it, some of them apparently in all seriousness.
Andrew Collins, who subsequently wrote many, many books about the wilder aspects of the paranormal but was at the time utterly obscure, turned up and wrote the only published work entirely about the Brentford Griffin, a slim pamphlet which is now extremely collectible. He has since claimed that, even though Robert Rankin admits that he made it up, the fact that independent witnesses came forward proves that it was in some way made real by collective belief, and it wasn’t silly of him to write a booklet implying that he believed in it. A thinly-disguised but clearly identifiable version of Andrew Collins called Danbury Collins has appeared in many of Robert Rankin’s novels - he’s a failed psychic with severely limited intelligence and an uncontrollable compulsion to play with himself in public. Interestingly, the early part of Andrew Collins’ writing career consists almost entirely of people with blatantly fake psychic powers revealing amazing but totally made-up things in the hope that he’d write a book about them, and him actually doing so. This resulted in the creation of the Black Alchemist, an occult supervillain who has subsequently had his ass kicked by both Lara Croft and Green Arrow, but poor Andy can’t claim any royalties because the two books in which this guy originally appeared were supposed to be non-fiction.
In 1998, the story was revitalized when somebody called “Martin Collins” (bit of a coincidence, that) sent a letter to Fortean Times revealing that long before 1985, legends existed in Brentford about a pair of griffins that had been presented to Nell Gwynn by Charles II and housed in the pagoda at Kew Gardens (just across the Thames from Brentford). This amazing tale goes into a lot of detail and was subsequently confirmed by several other people, but needless to say, no mention of it exists anywhere prior to 1998.
In recent years, celebrity Brentford resident Rat Scabies, former drummer with the Damned, has claimed that be had a brief glimpse of something which might possibly have been the Brentford Griffin. By the way, his parents are prominent members of a tiny, mad cult which worships a Frenchman who is the self-proclaimed direct descendent and second coming of Jesus Christ. And they meet in the upstairs room at the Griffin.
Now how’s that for a nested set of hoaxes and general weirdness?