Hooded Figures and the Grim Reaper

I read, with interest, the piece in the Independent [about Mark Chorvinsky's Grim Reaper research]. It reminded me of an experience my wife and I had a few years ago. About five years ago my wife, children and I were driving down the A1 on a dark winter's night, returning to our home in Hertfordshire after a weekend visit to my wife's parents in North Nottinghamshire. The children were asleep in the back of the car. Near Peterborough, at about 10 P.M. on a very empty road, we saw a dark cowled figure walking -- moving might be a better word -- north, on the very edge of the carriageway, towards us. We passed very close by this figure. It resembled a monk in full robes and hood made of some dark material. We did not really see the face, which seemed to be in shadow and indistinct. After passing it I looked in the rear view mirror, but could not see it again.

Both my wife and I felt a strange sense of unease and menace, and in fact my wife urged me not to look back. We discussed it -- only very briefly as we both felt disturbed by this figure, and we both felt it was not something totally natural. The obvious possibility was that it was a broken down motorist, but we had not, and did not, pass any stopped cars. This is a fairly lonely stretch of road and it is unlikely that any locals would be walking along it at that time of the night -- or at all as walking on the edge of what is one of the busiest and fastest dual carriageways in the country is not exactly encouraged. Also, there was the question of the figure's dress and the fact that I could not see it in the rearview mirror.

For some reason we never really discussed this in depth subsequently -- we did not feel inclined to -- and in fact never mentioned it until about a year ago, when, prompted by a TV program, our children asked us if we had ever seen a ghost. We told them we were not sure, but had seen this strange figure.... Also, by some sort of unspoken agreement, we always use the M1 now when returning from the north at night!

Name Withheld by Request

After your article "Encounters with the Grim Reaper" (Strange #18), I had an argument with an acquaintance about "cowled entities," though the cowled ones in question were supposed Satanists. I mentioned that I had met people who claimed to have seen mysterious characters in black hoods or cowls in woods or pastures surrounding Tulsa. My own brother, about ten years ago, drove down a dead-end road off 81st Street and Riverside Drive one night just to see where it went. (Back then the area was quiet and thick with trees, later the road "punched through" to 91st Street and became part of Riverside.) My brother Mark said he rolled a few hundred yards until he reached the end, a dirt turn-around surrounded by trees, several people in black, monklike cowls dashed out of the reach of his headlights as if taken by surprise.

The argument stemmed from my acquaintance's insistence that 1.) Satanic cults were the products of folklore or urban legend, therefore, 2.) there aren't really Satanists in black hoods out there, therefore 3.) my brother and other people didn't see anything. I held that, while there may not be Satanic cults, there may be hooded beings that people in these paranoid times interpret as Satanists. "Large, broad-shouldered men wearing capes and hoods have been seen all over the world, usually walking along desolate roads in thinly-populated areas," as John Keel mentions in Strange Creatures from Time and Space. In olden days, these characters were probably reported as ghostly monks, to the point that ghostly monks became cliché. The fixation with Satanists began, I think, after the Manson Family murders and the cattle mutilation scares of the '70s. Now Joseph Citro's excellent "Passing Strange" gives us an eerie "hooded entity" story, and he seems to believe it was the Grim Reaper, despite the fact that it was basically only a cowl creeping along someone's driveway -- no skull-face, no scythe. Perhaps the general perception of the hooded ones has shifted, and from here on they will be reported as "Grim Reapers." If so, Strange and Mark Chorvinsky may be partly responsible.

Michael D. Winkle
Broken Arrow, OK