A Gryphon Newsletter

Volume 1, Number 3, Spring 2001

Special Spring Fever Issue

Winter is finally over! The sun actually shines! Spring fever is in the air, giving one energy and the urge to do something. I decided to channel this power into an interim issue of The Eyrie. The "real" next issue will come out this summer. In the meantime, read the amazing story of:


Michael D. Winkle

visit the breweryGryphons are handsome, powerful, and lordly, but they suffer the handicap of being mythical. In these modern times no one believes such creatures exist -- right?

In the London district of Brentford (northwest of Wimbledon) one can find the Griffin public house. Fuller's Griffin Brewery, with its griffin trademark, is located in nearby Chiswick. The Brentford Football Club plays at Griffin Park, and the coat of arms for Brentford and Chiswick consists of two griffins holding a shield. Is it any wonder, then, that the mysterious flying beast seen in Brentford in the 1980s was called a griffin? (I will use the "griffin" spelling throughout this article to hold down the confusion.)

In mid-1984, while walking along Braemar Road, one Kevin Chippendale spotted a creature flying near the roof of the Green Dragon [!] apartment building. "He described it as resembling a dog with wings, having a long muzzle [beak?] and four legs with what looked like paws." He saw the thing again in February 1985, on the same street, and he realized it resembled the griffin painted on the sign over the Griffin pub. "Mr. Chippendale then described his sightings to his colleagues, one of whom, Angela Keyhoe, said that she had seen, from a bus, a big, black, bird-like creature, perched on the top of the gasometer next to the Watermans Arts Centre. Other passengers also saw the creature." [1] The griffin was even seen by a psychologist, John Olssen, one morning while he was jogging beside the Thames. By March the griffin was mentioned frequently in the press and featured on London Weekend Television's The Six O'Clock Show.

Writer Andrew Collins, initially skeptical, interviewed Kevin Chippendale and came to believe in some of the reports. He ended up writing a pamphlet entitled The Brentford Griffin: The Truth Behind the Tales (Wickford: Earthquest Books, 1985).

There were a few tales containing little truth, however. Novelist Robert Rankin, who "spins weird yarns with tongue placed firmly in cheek," attached himself to the Brentford Griffin and its attendant publicity. In an interview ten years later Rankin said: "Nearly every sentence in his pamphlet is totally inaccurate -- people, locations, times all wrong. I didn't think for a minute that there was a griffin on the island in Brentford, but I thought it was a fine idea and did my best to help it along." According to Rankin, "When the TV crew came down, they brought people with them who didn't live in Brentford. They stood there and talked about the griffin they'd seen. It was priceless!" The locals, too, came up with griffin sightings -- when the cameras were pointed their way. [2]

Yet the Brentford Griffin was not entirely a joke. Andrew Collins, in a letter to the Fortean Times, writes: "The information and data used in the text was obtained directly from the people concerned and everything was carefully checked before publication." Also: "Rankin had no problems with The Brentford Griffin at the time, so his flippant, dismissive attitude 10 years later is difficult to understand." [3] Even Rankin admits: "We set up a Griffin Hot Line and people started ringing in; they'd seen it, their parents had seen it, someone had seen it at the end of the War rising like a phoenix. I thought: 'Hang on a minute, even if this thing had no reality at first, it has now.'"

Andrew Collins' explanation for it all? "I invoked a 'cosmic joker' turning myth into reality" which [or who] had "simply re-activated an archetype that had been in Brentford's popular consciousness (such as Fuller's Griffin brewery, the Griffin pub and the Griffin football ground) for centuries."

[1] McEwan, Graham J. Mystery Animals of Britain and Ireland. (London: Robert Hale, 1986), pp. 153-154.

[2] Coolie, Stuart. "To Brentford and Back." Fortean Times #80 (Apr.-May 1995), p. 28.

[3] Collins, Andrew. "The Brentford Griffin [letter]." Fortean Times #81 (June-July 1995), p. 57.

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