Deborah Hatswell wears many hats, very well. You could say, with aplomb. I am of course speaking figuratively, of the many roles that she fulfils on a weekly basis. Deborah is a phenomenonist, a writer, a podcaster and is the founder of BBR (the Being Believed Research and investigation group). She hails from Lancashire in the UK and is somewhat of a British doyenne when it comes to reporting and researching cryptid sightings. Her mission is simple;
“I set up BBR to help those people find somewhere they could report their [paranormal] experiences to and I encouraged them to investigate the cases and theories for themselves. Now it is time to bring all of the so-called ‘alternative subjects’ under the same roof and let’s share our knowledge bases in the hopes of answering some of the still unanswered questions”.
Deborah’s quest to help people to openly share their paranormal experiences began with her own incredible experience at age 15, whist bunking off school, when she came face-to-face with a creature that she described as, “looking like a man and an ape that was kind of pushed together somehow”. The meeting had such an effect on her that she has since made it her quest to find others who have had similar, incredible experiences and to document them.
Even as a fifteen year-old girl who had been scared out of her wits by the encounter, she had a tenacious streak and a will to solve the puzzle. Her enquiring mind led her to the main library in Manchester.
She says,” I went in and I said [to the librarian] ‘do you have any books on modern man or early man that would be living in modern day times?” And she said, “Oh, yeah, just wait a minute.”
‘Bingo! I thought, ‘fantastic. She’s gonna say it was this, and just don’t worry about it and go on with your life.’ She came back and she handed me Stig Of the Dump! (Which for anybody who doesn’t know is a children’s book about a young boy, who meets a caveman in a quarry). So I was absolutely fuming and walked out of the building. But I didn’t know what else to do. I just didn’t know where to go.”
It was not until years later that Deborah’s husband told her she needed to either forget about it or go and put all her effort into finding out what it was, as it was eating her up. She decided to do the latter and so began a life-long mission to record other people’s experiences and try to find out what people were seeing.
She started with the dozen reports she had already collected and one day, as she was researching, came across an image on the internet that knocked her literally, to the floor. It was a sketch made by a police artist from a report that a man had made in Sykesville, Maryland. That man turned out to be renowned cryptozoologist, Lon Strickler, and the report was one he had made himself in 1981; the reason he became a Fortean researcher, writer and radio host.
Deborah described the moment she saw the artist’s sketch; “I’m scanning along and, oh it was awful. It was like seeing him again. I threw the laptop on the floor. I was crying, I was sick. And it must have been maybe PTSD. Maybe that’s the wrong word. I don’t know. But I was right back there. I was right back there at that minute when I started. I was so upset and I was so angry. But I thought, ‘that’s it, that’s what I saw.”
The sketch turned out to be almost identical to a well-known sketch of early man by an artist called Zdenek Burian. Deborah thought that the images could be cousins, such was the similarity.
She began to collect reports from other people, as she was worried that there could possibly be thousands of people like herself, scared and confused about their sightings and worried about sharing them, in case they were labeled as crazy or unhinged. It turned out that she was right, even beyond her wildest imaginings, as the reports came flooding in.
To her amazement, people were reporting not only about encounters with giant cavemen-type creatures, but a whole plethora of paranormal entities and beasts; dog men, giant cats, pig men, demons, UFO’s, missing time incidents, wolf men- to name but a few). But what could she do with all of these reports, research and information? How could she make it meaningful? The answer was to start her own research group, so BBR was born. Initially, it stood for British Bigfoot Research, but as Deborah began to get reports about all types of phenomena, she changed it to Being Believed Research, which is apt.
Deborah says, “I watched people come back to life again. I’ve had emails from people who’ve said, ‘My marriage was over, I was so trapped in this cycle of fear that my marriage was almost over and my children were walking away from me. What I try and do is I try to say, well you’ve had that event, that event’s gone. And you have survived that and carried on. You’ve gone to school you’ve seen to your children, you’ve gone to work. So you’re far stronger than you realize. And could it be possible, that like me, you are fearing the fear? So you’re not thinking, if I go outside, then… For me it was going into the woods – it wasn’t the woods I was afraid of; I was frightened that I’d get frightened when I was in the woods.”
She realized this was the case for lots of people. So she started doing meet-ups in quite open places so that people could talk face-to-face about their experiences. A common theme is for people to be fearful of talking about their experiences as if by talking about them, it might encourage the experience to repeat itself. They project their fear into the future. This is a common theme in PTSD sufferers and in people who suffer from chronic anxiety.
Through chatting to people with similar experiences, Deborah says that her group members have told her that it has helped them immensely. The old saying of; ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, seems to be true in this case.
“Sometimes people just need to find their tribe,” she says.
Deborah is interested in the theory that ley lines and ancient burial sites (barrows) play a big part in the playing out of paranormal experiences. She ponders whether these experiences are accidental or whether they are meant? Could they be attracted by the energy given out by ley lines? She is interested in the possibility that paranormal experiences are meant for the people that they happen to. That they are planned and particularly meant for that person, at that time.
Many of the stories that people have reported to Deb have been given by people in highly respected or high-up jobs, such as; police officers, services personnel and high-ranking public servants or government officials. Some of the creatures they have claimed to see would turn your blood cold. She reports that there was one high-ranking public servant that claimed to have seen a man morph into a reptilian creature right before her eyes.
“So, how can these people talk about their findings? They can’t report it to their friends or doctor, as they’d get locked up or be carted off to the nearest psychiatric unit.”
Other people who make reports are very ordinary folk who would have no reason to report an incredible sighting. People who don’t want to bring attention to themselves. Deb herself has documented and researched over 3000 cases, and still they keep on flooding in. Such is the rate at which the stories are reported, that she has recruited a nationwide team of volunteer researchers who can be deployed at any time to investigate reports local to them.
So, what of the future? Deborah, not surprisingly, has a plan for that. She aims to kick down all the barriers that prevent people from reporting and talking about their experiences and put them all in a big ‘melting pot’. She is trying to create a central forum where anyone can feel safe to report their experience, no matter how outlandish it may seem. Where people are not allowed to tell people what they can or can’t have seen. She suggests that, if you believe you saw a pig man, then you have the right to own that experience. No-one has the right to tell you what you saw. You shouldn’t have to tick a box or fit into a particular hole. Your experience is your experience and no-one should try to belittle that or take it away from you.
A noble sentiment indeed.
Deborah has an energy about her that any person would be thankful to have, no matter what their age. She is a force of nature. I have no doubt at all that she will achieve her goal, and in the not-too-distant-future at that. Things happen around Deborah Hatswell, Watch this space. Literally!