The Legend Of Scotland's Big Grey Man Explained

From Sasquatch allegedly spotted in the Pacific Northwest region and other areas on the North American continent, to the yeti purportedly living high up in the Himalayas, sightings of mysterious, humanoid creatures emerge from every corner of the planet. One such phenomenon occurs near the desolate summit of the United Kingdom's second-highest peak, Ben MacDhui, in the Cairngorms mountain range in the eastern Scottish highlands. As far as "cryptids," or mythical creatures like Sasquatch, Scotland is much better known for the Loch Ness Monster. Nevertheless, the legend of Am Fear Liath Mhor, as the locals call it, or the Big Grey Man, is both a fascinating and terrifying lesson about the risks of venturing too far into the unknown, (via Spooky Isles.)

The very first report of the Big Grey Man originates from the late 19th century, although the first public mention of the mysterious creature dates from about a quarter-century later. In 1925, Professor J. Norman Collie described his experience in 1891, near the summit of Ben MacDhui, speaking to the General Meeting of the Cairngorm Club in Aberdeen. "I was returning from the cairn on the summit in a mist when I began to think I heard something else," he said. "Every few steps I took I heard a crunch, then another crunch as if someone was walking after me ... I listened and heard it again but could see nothing in the mist ... there is something very queer about the top of Ben MacDhui," he said, (via the City University of New York.)

The man emerges

Collie's was just the first of many reported sightings of a man-like creature tormenting adventurers near the top of the Ben MacDhui summit. According to Reader's Digest, most describe the Big Grey Man as more than 10-feet tall and solidly built, with short arms. Others say it has pointy ears, long legs, and talons, (via The Scotsman.) Most often, witnesses describe a feeling of being watched or followed as well as the sound of crunching gravel, like footsteps close behind, as Undiscovered Scotland reports. Similar instances of humanoid cryptid sightings are often ascribed to bears, but in the case of the Big Grey Man, physical descriptions don't match that of any bear living in the area, so that theory is most often discounted (per Reader's Digest.) 

Wilder still, some describe the Big Grey Man as wearing a top hat, singing, and laughing, as The Scotsman reports. So what's going on in the Scottish highlands? One theory is that climbers are actually experiencing Brocken Spectres, a common atmospheric phenomenon that distorts shadows at high elevations, and possibly the shadows of the hikers themselves, (via Undiscovered Scotland.) Or maybe instead the Big Grey Man is an evolutionary relic, the lone survivor, or among the few remaining living members of a humanoid species thought long ago to have gone extinct. We'll likely never know for certain.